In Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blue Jackets played a smart, simple game in their defensive end. They limited turnovers and cleared the puck into the neutral zone when pressed into a dangerous play. The Tampa Bay Lightning were befuddled, largely unable to force Columbus into making catastrophic turnovers.
The Boston Bruins had no such problem with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto's defense, long considered the chink in the armor of the offensively-gifted Maple Leafs, gave the puck away like it was a Papa John's promotion at Nationwide Arena.
For this edition of Film Session, we're trying something a bit different. Rather than time stamping the video (i.e., "watch at the 0:08 mark, when...), we've decided to class things up a bit.
The Bruins' suffocating forecheck may look familiar. The Blue Jackets' forecheck gave the Lightning fits all series long. It would be too simplistic to say that whichever team limits defensive zone turnovers will win the series, but it's a heck of a place to start.
The term "forecheck" is a bit of a misnomer, so let's define it for those unfamiliar. A forecheck is a system or strategy designed to gain back possession of the puck. When a team has possession of the puck in their own defensive zone, an effective forecheck will force that team into a turnover.
In this first video, Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner is forced into a turnover in his own zone. Seconds later, the Bruins are celebrating a goal.
The next three videos all come from Game 2. This clip shows the Bruins' aggressive line of Danton Heinen, David Backes, and Charlie Coyle engaged in a forecheck, where a Nikita Zaitsev turnover led to as Coyle goal from the slot.
This video shows how opportunistic the Bruins can be, especially with their top scorers. Here, a Jake Muzzin miscue led to a 2-on-1, where David Pastrnak fed Brad Marchand for a slick goal.
Finally, the granddaddy of them all. Heinen scores the easiest goal of his life after William Nylander fumbles the puck in a worst-case scenario play for the Maple Leafs.
The Bruins are a scary team when they're able to force their opponent into making mistakes. They have plenty of skill throughout their lineup as is, much less when teams make more or less "unforced" errors. Simply put, the Blue Jackets will need to play smart in their own zone. The team will need to be patient, making sure that pucks get out of their end zone and being okay with living to fight another day as opposed to making the high-risk/high-reward play.