Author: Jason Brough

John Carlson, Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, Jason Demers

On the importance of an active defense


The next time you hear somebody complain about the Norris Trophy going to high-scoring defensemen like Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban, feel free to refer them to Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden.

Reirden was hired in the summer of 2014 to help turn Washington’s blue line into an attacking force.

Per CSN Washington, here’s how Reirden sees it:

“If you’re (an opposing) defenseman, because the game is so fast, if they’re seeing four players come at them instead of three, it causes them to defend differently. You might back up a step to assess and now all of a sudden Nick Backstrom gets an extra second when he enters the zone because of the appearance of four guys on the attack.”

Even Karl Alzner, the prototypical stay-at-home blue-liner, knows that defensemen can’t solely worry about their own end. Not in a league where scoring has become so difficult. The more passing options, the better.

“You need to have the attack from all five guys,” said Alzner. “You can’t just let your forwards do it.”

Meanwhile, in Nashville, here’s what Predators coach Peter Laviolette said the other day:

“Anytime your defensemen can activate in the offensive zone on cycles and down the wall or down the middle, in zone plays, it presents a different set of challenges. The coverage becomes less simple. It creates more holes not only for them but for others.”

Look, nobody’s saying that defensemen don’t have to play defense. They obviously have to play defense. That’s why teams with two-way forces like Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara have won Stanley Cups. The fact Doughty has yet to win the Norris is unfortunate, because he’s a far better player now than he was in 2009-10 when he racked up a career-best 59 points.

So no, points aren’t everything.

But remember, this was the goal that won the Cup last year:

If Duncan Keith doesn’t jump into the attack and provide a passing option, Patrick Kane probably just throws it down into the corner, lest he turn it over at the blue line.

Keith was the Blackhawks’ most important player in the playoffs. He was the undisputed pick for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“The teams with the best records are the ones with defensemen getting up in the play and contributing to the offense,” Alzner said.

Related: Nobody’s got a better blue line than Nashville

Burakovsky is ‘overthinking things,’ will be healthy scratch again

Andre Burakovsky
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Andre Burakovsky is only 20 years old. The fact he’s already played 71 games in the NHL is pretty impressive, considering the three players chosen before him in the 2013 draft have combined for just six.

But right now, Burakovsky’s having a bit of a struggle. Tonight against the Oilers, he’ll be a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

“He’s just got to clear his mind,” coach Barry Trotz told the Washington Post. “He’s a young guy who’s thinking about a lot of things. I just talked to him about just worrying about his own game and not worrying about all the other stuff. He’s getting frustrated over things he doesn’t need to get frustrated over. He’s overthinking things, and what he needs to do is just concentrate on his own game.”

Stanislav Galiev, meanwhile, will remain in the lineup. The 23-year-old winger earned kudos from Trotz for his “pretty productive” performance in Saturday’s 7-3 win over Colorado. While Galiev didn’t score, he did have “some good looks,” according to his coach.

Prior to that, Galiev had been — for lack of a better term — “stuck” in the NHL, not quite good enough to crack the Caps’ lineup, but too valuable a prospect to risk losing on waivers.

Related: ‘You’ve got to remember, Bo’s 20’

Bolland to be healthy scratch versus Kings

Dave Bolland, Ryan O'Reilly

Remember when Dave Bolland was a hot commodity on the free-agent market? It wasn’t that long ago, so you should.

To refresh your memory, the Maple Leafs wanted to keep him, but, ultimately, they couldn’t match the Panthers’ five-year, $27.5 million offer.

Bolland signed with Florida on July 1, 2014.

Tonight, he’ll be a healthy scratch versus the Kings.

Bolland played a season-low 10:58 in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers. The 29-year-old center has just one goal and four assists in 18 games. He’s also struggled at faceoffs, winning just 45.8 percent of the 275 draws he’s taken.

Oh, and against the Rangers, there was this:

The Sharks ‘really are out to prove something’


When Pete DeBoer was introduced as the new head coach in San Jose, he predicted a “big bounce-back” from the Sharks.

His reasoning?

“You’ve got a lot of proud people here that aren’t too happy about where they were sitting at the end of last season,” DeBoer said. “My history with that is, if you’ve got character and you’ve been through that, you’re ready to push back. And I think we’re going to see that.”

Fast forward to today and the Sharks are coming off a perfect six-game road trip, one that wrapped up Sunday with an impressive come-from-behind win in Columbus. San Jose trailed the Blue Jackets 3-1 in the third period; four unanswered goals made the final, 5-3.

“It’s a fantastic group of men in there that really are out to prove something,” DeBoer said, per CSN Bay Area. “It’s nice to be a part of what we just witnessed here.”

The Sharks returned home with a 13-8-0 record, good for first place in the Pacific Division.

On top of that, they should get Logan Couture back soon. That should help the depth issues, no?

Now, granted, it’s not all roses. Without goalie Martin Jones, there’s little chance that trip would’ve been so successful. The 25-year-old has arguably been the team’s MVP. Puck-possession wise, the Sharks still have some work to do. On the trip, they beat Detroit, Philly, and Pittsburgh despite getting outshot by a combined 101-64.

But hey, kudos to GM Doug Wilson for addressing the goaltending. The position was a weakness last year; now, it seems to be a strength.

The Sharks host the Blackhawks Wednesday. The game can be seen on NBCSN.

No, Marko Dano has not been sent back to Rockford

Jonathan Quick, Marko Dano
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Marko Dano has not been sent to Rockford, and Bryan Bickell has not been called back up to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Not yet anyway.

Dano’s simply not feeling very well. That’s why he was missing from Chicago’s morning skate in Calgary. He’ll sit out tonight’s game versus the Flames, but could play tomorrow in Vancouver, according to coach Joel Quenneville.

You certainly can’t fault those who wondered if Dano had been demoted to the AHL. The 20-year-old hasn’t made much of an impact since being called up at the beginning of the month. In eight games, he has just one goal and one assist, despite skating a decent amount with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Meanwhile, Bickell has four goals and four assists in just five games for the IceHogs.