effective fore-checking serves as the backbone for any NHL team’s offensive
When one thinks of
the ideal NHL player that fills the role of a great fore-checker, big bodies
like the Coyotes 6-foot-one 223 pound Shane Doan or the Ducks’
six-foot-two-inch, 208 pound Ryan Kesler come to mind. Physical forwards like Kesler and Doan mostly
utilize their sheer strength and ability to use their large bodies to control the
boards when the puck is in the attacking third of the ice.
However, when it
comes to those players who fly under the radar as providing a solid fore-check
presence, few may fly so low as the Rangers’ Martin St. Louis, a forgetfulness that
St. Louis makes a living off.
5-foot-eight-inches, St. Louis has never intimidated defenseman with his
physical presence. However, the Quebec
native uses every inch of his frame to size up larger defenders when they are
playing with their heads in the boards.
Although St. Louis will not regularly stand up defenders, a strategy
regularly employed by larger forwards, he will instead use his lower center of
gravity and quick hands to attack the defender inside their arms, making it
very difficult for the defender to stay on top of the puck.
fore-checkers will often focus on causing their opponent to lose possession of
the puck, which results in a 50/50 battle ensuing between the forward and the
defender. For St. Louis, his focus falls
more on gaining possession of the puck as a direct result of his
fore-check. This approach has led to
numerous scoring opportunities for St. Louis and his teammates, as their
defense transitions to offense almost instantaneously from when the puck first
touches St. Louis’ stick.
Through 49 games
played this year, it is apparent that St. Louis’ style of play has stood the
test of time. At the ripe age of 39, St.
Louis has scored 14 goals and dished out 23 assists, putting him on a pace that
could result in his ninth 40-plus assist regular season in his 17 year NHL
As the Rangers
march toward the playoffs for a fifth straight season, there is no question as
to St. Louis value. This value was no
more apparent than in the Rangers 2014 run to the Stanley Cup Finals after rallying
from two games down to the Pittsburgh Penguins to win in seven games. The turning point for the inspiring play of
the Rangers was fueled by the team rallying around St. Louis after his mother
passed away, a tribute to what St. Louis means to the team after joining the
Rangers just prior to the trade deadline in 2014.
As all teams and
fans know, all it may take for a team to turn a mediocre season into one filled
with Stanley’s glory is a spark at just the right time. For the Rangers, this spark can be found
every time they dump the puck into the offensive zone and St. Louis begins his
Labels: Evan Chadwick