Attacking strengths not backward logic
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | 05:55 PM ET
I just wanted to address a couple comments that have come up from my entry on the Detroit Red Wings.
Chad, in response to your comments where you say: “You can't attack a strength. That's why it’s a strength. This article is full of backwards logic.”
I would be interested in knowing what level of experience you have as a player or a coach. In preparing a game plan for an opponent, one of the first things you have to do is identify the team’s strengths and create ways that your team can counteract them. You also look at what they don’t do well and find ways to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses, but you have to be able to identify and attack their strengths if you are going to beat them.
If you ignore and accept the things they do well, and only focus on the things they don’t do well, inevitably those strengths are going to find a way to beat you. That’s what attacking their strengths means, and I will give you a couple of examples.
In 1990 in the Stanley Cup finals versus Boston, we went into the series against the Bruins knowing that the strength of their team lay in two places: Ray Bourque’s ability to make plays and carry the puck up ice (despite the fact that he played almost 30 minutes a game), and that the main source of their offence came from the tandem of Craig Janney and Cam Neely. Neely had 12 goals in 16 games coming into the finals and it was Janney who carried the puck and made all the plays to Neely.
Our game plan was to attack their two strengths.
Instead of keeping the puck away from Bourque, we dumped it in his corner every single chance we got, and the first forechecker’s job was to take his body, and force him to move the puck. The end result was that by Game 4, Bourque was exhausted and had been hit more than any other player on the ice. We were able to take the puck out of his hands by checking him in the corner and forcing him to move the puck to his partner, instead of keeping the puck away from him and allowing him to get the puck from his partner with open ice in front of him. By attacking his strength, we limited his effectiveness.
With Janney and Neely, we knew we wouldn’t be able keep both of them off the scoresheet, but knew that Neely’s strength was his size and ability to get open and pound the puck. Janney was the one who could carry the puck and make the perfect passes to Neely in front. Instead of trying to out-battle Neely, we hounded the smaller Janney.
Esa Tikkanen shadowed Janney every time he got on the ice, and never let him have any time and space with the puck. In fact, in Game 1 that went to triple overtime, Tikkanen had worn him out so much that Janney had to leave the game and go to the hospital with dehydration. In the end, Neely had zero goals in the final and we won the Cup.
That is how you can effectively attack a team’s strength to beat them.
This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.
Post a Comment
About the Author
Former NHL player, coach and broadcaster Craig Simpson brings over 18 years of expertise to his analyst role on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. Craig played 10 years in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Edmonton, capturing two Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1988 and 1990. He continues to hold the distinction of being the last Oiler to score 50 goals in one season (56 goals in 1987-88).
Injuries cut his playing career short in 1995, but the native of London, Ont., didn’t stray far from the game. Simpson worked for eight seasons as a hockey commentator with TSN, FoxSportsNet and Rogers Sportsnet and was an assistant coach with the Oilers organization for the past four years (2003-07) before joining CBC.
Simpson lives in Edmonton with his wife and three children. Viewers can catch Craig on Saturday nights providing analysis and commentary during the second game on HNIC. His blog appears every Tuesday on CBCSports.ca.
- The NHL’s best two teams face off
- Wednesday, May 21, 2008
- It's down to the final four
- Tuesday, May 6, 2008
- On To Round Two
- Friday, April 25, 2008
- Round One Begins
- Wednesday, April 9, 2008
- Was Playfair really the problem?
- Tuesday, April 1, 2008
- Subscribe to Simpson on Hockey