What Makes Martin St. Louis So Effective?

Aggressive and effective fore-checking serves as the backbone for any NHL team’s offensive success.

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.

At 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.

Large 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 career.

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 chase.