The Return of Gap Control & Defensive Aggression
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01-23-2013, 06:39 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Originally Posted by
I applaud the effort Cole, but this is way too early. Personally I don't think anything has changed structurally. We are just seeing players so far executing a lot better when defending against rushes than what was the case at the end of last season, and there is less freelancing from forwards (ie. less of a gap between D and Fs).
The number of 2 on 1s against we saw last season were terrifying.
I put the disclaimer that it's early, but we did not see this defense last year. I was complaining about it from day 1. I'd take that as a positive.
Originally Posted by
Cole, here is an article breaking down just the Martin-Orpik pairing. I thought that you would enjoy what they had to say:
Last season we discussed how Orpik’s defense-first mentality allowed Kris Letang to wander in the offensive end and do what he does best. Those roles rarely allowed Orpik to step up on forwards and use his body though. That’s exactly what he’s able to do alongside Martin.
“I really haven’t played with Paulie much the last couple years,” Orpik said this weekend. “They threw us together this week and I think we both communicate and read off each other well. For only practicing together for a week I felt really comfortable playing with him. Hopefully as we go on that gets better and better.”
In order to make the combination work, Martin had to switch from left defense to right defense. This may not seem like a big adjustment, but from a defenseman’s perspective it makes a world of difference.
Both Martin and Orpik are left-handed. This means they carry their sticks in their right hands. When players come up the ice on Orpik, he’ll probably tend to steer them towards the boards where he can quickly swing into a hipcheck. For Martin, it’s the opposite. His stick is closer to the boards and it’s easier for him to steer players towards the middle of the ice…and right into Brooks Orpik.
It’s more challenging for Martin on breakouts though. Coming up the right boards from behind the goal line, his stick is closer to the middle of the ice and more likely have an opposing player’s stick in his passing lane. At times this might force him to make a pass on his backhand, but Martin is far more likely to make an accurate backhand pass on the breakout than Orpik. I think the tradeoff makes sense.
Where I also think this pairing works well is how effectively they read off each other. Most of their breakouts were seamless this weekend which is surprising for a duo that hasn’t really played together. Perhaps it’s simply due to communication, as Orpik alluded to above.
Let’s look at an example. Penguins defensive coach Todd Reirden likely wants all of his defensemen to be aggressive at their own blueline. Once forwards can “gain the blueline” — as you’ll hear commentators refer to it — a ton of new options open up. In both Orpik photos above and below, you’ll notice him within a sticklength of the other player, denying him space in that area of the ice.
What you may or may not be able to see is Orpik is also focused on the chest of the opposing player, not mesmerized by the puck or some nifty stickhandling move. Orpik’s goal is to not let the opponent around him and force him to dump the puck.
Seeing that Orpik is playing tight defense at the blueline, most forwards will softly chip the puck into his corner. Martin’s job is to retrieve the dump and either bring it back up the boards on Orpik’s side or skate around the net and bring it up the right side. Since he’ll typically have his back to the Flyers’ forecheck, it’s important for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to tell Martin which way to go.
Great article. I didn't know websites talked about that type of stuff. You can tell Orpik is loving the ability to step up. He's lights out right now.
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