Jeff Jackson looks for what he calls “competitiveness” in players he recruits for Notre Dame, and more than a decade after recruiting Anders Lee, he still says the Islanders winger exemplifies that.
Lee faces a tall 6-foot-3. He takes up space when entering a room and, more importantly, when he’s on the ice. But size, while helpful, isn’t what makes him such a weapon for the Islanders in the crease, where the bulk of his goals – 25 this season, 11 in the month of March for Thursday’s game – come from.
That’s instead equal parts brains and brawn, the kind of competitive intangibles Jackson saw when he recruited Lee for Notre Dame years ago.
“The first key is not to be afraid,” Jackson told the Post. “Because it’s an area where you’ll be screened, you’ll be slashed at the back of the ankles. It’s a high traffic area and not every player is willing to stand in that area or get into that area.”
The Islanders-Rangers rivalry, which will be renewed at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, features two of the league’s best forwards when it comes to getting into the dirty areas and scoring goals. Across from Lee, Chris Kreider is third in the league with 46 goals, and his 24 power play goals — the most from his pre-keeper stint — lead the NHL.
Like his counterpart, Kreider is 6-3, and like Lee, it’s about more than sheer size.
“You don’t have to be six feet tall and weigh 220 pounds to go in front of the net,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “Anyone – [5-9, 184-pound] Brendan Gallagher [in] Montreal, a guy I coached before – it just takes a lot of character to go there.
At a younger age, Kreider scored most of his goals from rush, utilizing skating and skills that outweighed his high school peers. It wasn’t until he arrived at Boston College that he began to position himself in front of the net.
Much of anyone’s success there depends on hockey wits as much as anything physical. A slight change in position can mean the difference between being in the right position for a rebound and missing an opportunity. Knowing where the goalie’s eyes are – and being able to get in front of them – also creates goals.
“The shoulder control to see where the goalie’s line of sight is and also the other part of that, especially with a guy like Anders, it helps to have good hands,” Jackson said. “It helps to have good skills on the net front as far as your puck skills go. For puck retrieval, puck lifting or deflecting pucks. It’s not just rebounds, it’s tips, it’s distractions. And sometimes pucks even go inside your body.
“First you have to be there, second you have to be able to manipulate your position to not only determine where the puck is, but where it could be next [moment], after the passport. So it’s all about recovering your position as the puck moves on the outside of the ice.”
In college, Lee watched cutups from Tomas Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Red Wings, and mainly paid attention to how he was constantly restoring his position, checking where the goaltender’s eyes were and getting into his line of sight.
By doing so, he maximized his chances of catching rebounds and tipping pucks, both skills Lee now excels at.
“He understands time and space,” said Islanders coach Barrydiot. “He understands a bit of geometry, where he is, how to get pucks up. The timing of “You’re next to me, how do I break up?” ”
Kreider’s hand-eye coordination — and with it his ability to flip pucks — has always been there. Bill Blackwell, his coach at Masconomet (Mass.) Regional High School, recalls hearing about his skills in lacrosse and baseball when he was young. Its positioning is also excellent.
“You’re watching all the time, when the puck goes sideways you always want to take the goalie’s gaze away,” Blackwell said. “And he’s doing great. He’s just always following the puck, he’s always at the top of the crease and he’s always following where the puck is going.”
When recently asked about Lee,dios pointed to a goal he scored against – who else – Rangers. Near the end of a power play a couple of weeks ago, Lee found the moment to go from the crease to the low slot without a defender following him and scored a one-timer from Mathew Barzal.
“He had to time it, if you go there immediately they have you covered,”diot said. “He almost had to have this instinct, ‘I’m going to push off, I just need a couple of yards and time and then the puck is there.’
“He sort of developed his own style that works for him in the interior. He’s difficult to move. Of course, with the goalkeepers being so good, his presence on the net is invaluable.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/31/anders-lee-chris-kreider-showdown-highlight-of-islanders-rangers-matchup/ Anders Lee, Chris Kreider Matchup Islanders Ranger Showdown Highlight