PostHeaderIcon Chicago Wolves Game Changer

Hockey Stop Magazine article

By Paul O’Donnell

One of the things I enjoy most about writing this new hockey column is the ability to acknowledge excellence whenever it presents itself; but, when that excellence is performed by one of Chicagoland’s local hockey success stories, it’s even better.  For Forest Park native Tim Stapleton, his Game Changing moment came during a power-play, while his team was down a goal, late in the third period.

Usually a forward during even-man situations, Tim wears a second hat as an effective point man on the Wolves’ power play. As the current number three point producer for the Wolves this year, with 50 points, Tim is a formidable opponent during any game situation; but it’s Stapleton’s game awareness, combined with his Bobby Orr like rushing ability that makes him such a valuable asset to have on the Wolves’ top power play line.

The game changing moment begins late in the third period following a rink long puck clearing effort by the man-down Bulldogs, which travels deep into the Wolves’ end.  As the puck takes a hard bounce off the back wall in Tim’s general direction, he quickly angles towards the puck and gains control.  Curling towards the middle of the ice, Stapleton begins to gather his speed. Even before he completes his turn he realizes he can easily beat the only opposition forechecker and accelerates out of the zone at maximum speed.

With more than enough time and space to weigh his options as he approaches the redline, number 23 quickly scans the three remaining penalty killers in front of him and starts angling towards the weakest link in the chain, Bulldog forward Ryan Russell.

As our Game Changer begins his approach on the outmatched forward, he chooses to attack his adversary at the best possible offensive zone entry point (just inside the neutral zone face-off dot) that will give him the most offensive options following his move on Russell. Immediately inside his enemies’ blue line, Tim quickly turns-the-corner on Russell with a quick deke to the outside and accelerates around his weaker opponent while shielding the puck on his backhand. Unfortunately for Stapleton his one-handed pass towards the slot is deflected before it reaches its intended target.

Tim quickly skates back to his temporary position of right side point man, while the Wolves top power play unit begins to hammer the man-down Bulldogs, deep in their own zone.

Eight seconds after his errant passing attempt, Stapleton receives a pass back to the point from the right corner..  As soon as he gets control of the puck, he immediately starts paralleling the blueline towards the middle of the ice. Before reaching the prime shooting areas just inside the blueline our temporary defenseman spins around and begins dragging the puck backwards, looking for a clean shot on net; at the same time taking notice of his defensive partner Nathan Oystrick changing places with him on the point.

Noticing that his defensive partner was moving into good position for a one-timer Tim pulls-up on the shot, spins to his right and places the perfect setup pass that Oystrick crushes into the back of the net.

Stapleton’s view of the play

“Hamilton likes to play a 1-3 defense on their penalty kill. But, because they bring that first guy down so low (into our zone) I’ll usually fake, like I’m just going to just pick up the puck; but most of the time , with teams that play this type of defense, I can usually take a quick first-step and be past him before I’ve reached the top of the face-off circle.”

“After I had beaten that first guy, it was just me and the three guys standing-up at the blueline. If I can see all three guys ahead if me I’ll always pick whichever side the forward is on and try to abuse that side of the ice, taking advantage of the mismatch, knowing that they aren’t as good at pivoting or taking-the-angle, the way normal defensemen can.”

“When I knew it was Russell (a forward) I was going up against I got really excited because I always believe I can take it to the net in situations like this. Unfortunately, he backed into the zone a little too deeply and by the time I got around him the only option I had was to no-look-it (the puck) into the middle knowing that some of our guys would be going to the net. Nothing really came of it so I just went back to my position on the point.”

“When the puck came back to me at the point, I remember dragging it (to the middle) and faking the shot. It was Russell again, in front of me and I froze him and maybe the goaltender as well. But it was Oystrick who had a big part in the play. When I backed up and we switched he was able to get open in a shooting lane. I don’t think he (Russell) was even in the right shooting lane when Oystrick finally took the shot.”

Coach Wilson’s taken the play

“Tim does everything well: he’s on the power play, he’s on the penalty kill and he’s on one of our top lines. He also has NHL speed as well as a great shot. When Hamilton let us walk across the top (by the blueline), we took what they gave us. Tim moved across (towards the middle) and Oystrick switched with him. Oystrick has a heck of a one-timer.  They gave it to us, so we took. We did a good job of getting the screen during that play, but they did a great job, all game, of getting in front of the shooting lanes.”

Tim Stapleton’s advice to young players

“Try to do everything with your head up. When you see a guy like Nicklas Lidstrom, dragging the puck to the middle and shooting, without ever looking down at the puck, it’s amazing.

Coach Wilson’s advice to young players

You want to take what they (the defense) give you. Earlier in the game we were trying to go down low in their zone and they were clogging the slot. When it’s not there, why force it? You want to go to your strength and Oystrick has a big shot. Good luck to anyone who wants to stand in front of that.

One Response to “Chicago Wolves Game Changer”

  • Kasey says:

    I read a lot of interesting articles here. Probably you spend a lot of time writing, i know
    how to save you a lot of time, there is an online tool that creates
    readable, google friendly posts in seconds, just search in google – laranitas free content source

Leave a Reply