In NHL Playoffs, Stopping Superstars Is Paramount – New York Times


Anytime Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby goes over the boards, everyone in the arena waits for something special to happen.

From the opposing bench, tireless efforts have gone into preventing just that.

Nobody gets more attention in the Stanley Cup playoffs than a superstar, from the likes of McDavid, Ovechkin and Crosby to the rookie of the year front-runner Auston Matthews and the game-changing defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. Slowing them down to prevent them from taking over a game or a series takes days of preparation and scouting, the right strategy and a village of players on the ice.

“Those guys are difference-makers in the game,” said San Jose Coach Peter DeBoer, whose Sharks have held McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers to two points in four games. “When you look at the analytics and the percentage of the offense he’s involved with with their team, it’s something you’d be crazy not to pay attention to.”

There’s a reason lesser-known players Zack Kassian, Bobby Ryan, Jaden Schwartz and Jake Guentzel lead the playoffs in game-winning goals, with so much attention devoted to bottling up and frustrating the stars.

As Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov put it: “Everybody probably more focused in the D-zone and everywhere and try to be smart all three zones. Nobody wants to lose. Just kind of simple things defensively, but it’s not always easy to do.”

Some consider hockey the ultimate team sport because of how hard it is for an individual player to make a significant impact on the game. But the process of stopping a star may be more complex.

“You can’t map it out like football, where you have a 3-4 defense,” Columbus Blue Jackets Coach John Tortorella said.

In a basketball comparison, Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said it’s unrealistic to try something like a box

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