I’ve been watching Brian Campbell closely and I plan to share here what I have found. I was going to do one huge post, but it will be best to split this into three sections.
Volume 1: I’ll show how great Brian Campbell is at moving or transitioning the puck through the neutral zone leading to offensive zone entries.
Volume 2: Brian Campbell is playing the right side consistently for what I believe is the first time in his career. In this section, I’ll explain why it’s a hindrance for left shot defensemen to play the right side.
Volume 3: The final piece of this series will illustrate how Brian Campbell is adjusting so he can be more effective as a right side defenseman.
All volumes will include multiple videos of Brian Campbell plays. Hopefully these gifs turn out well. I’m using a free trial of some expensive gif software for these posts. The problem is my computer is pretty old, so they didn’t come out as good as I wanted them to. I’m saving up money for a Mac Book Pro and will use donations to purchase software for the site. So eventually, I’ll be able to bring you more high definition gifs.
That probably does it for an introduction to the Brian Campbell series, so lets talk about the player.
Brian Campbell is one of the better defensemen in the NHL. He doesn’t do it with elite goal or assist numbers. He doesn’t have shutdown defensive skills. The area of the game Brian Campbell excels at is transition offense and creating offensive zone entries with his awareness, skating, and passing skill.
This is the type of play Campbell usually makes. He gets the puck in the defensive zone, skates up the ice, and hits the forward with the puck in stride. That forward is thus able to easily enter the offensive zone and set up shop. I’ve already written a post about the importance of controlled zone entries over dump-ins. Good neutral zone play leads to controlled entries which leads to offense. This is how Brian Campbell impacts the Blackhawks the most. He starts everything by making a smooth, accurate, and perfectly timed pass that creates an offensive zone entry.
Lets take a look at some plays he has made while playing on the left side.
Above, Brian Campbell gets the puck in the left corner of the defensive zone. The Blackhawks forwards are changing, so he patiently circles around the net. With Calgary’s defense not guarding the blue line, Campbell skates into the offensive zone. He then makes a forehand pass towards the slot and it looks like the goaltender Brian Elliott gets a stick on the puck. Still, it was close to being a very good scoring chance.
Campbell was able to create offense by going coast-to-coast for the easy zone entry. Instead of lazily dumping the puck in, he made the smart play and it almost led to a goal.
Here Campbell is playing the left side paired with Hjalmarsson. He again gets the puck in the corner and skates around the net. A Calgary forward applies pressure. Campbell easily skates around the pressure and hits Nick Schmaltz with a great forehand pass that Schmaltz receives in stride. Schmaltz is able to enter the offensive zone with speed and make a pass to Ryan Hartman for a scoring chance.
While watching this live, one might only notice the Schmaltz pass and the Hartman shot, but the whole play began with Brian Campbell. He secured the puck, skated up the ice, avoided pressure, and hit the forward in stride. These zone entries look like Chicago is on the power play, but no, this is 5-on-5 play.
Brian Campbell has the puck on the left side of the ice. He skates up patiently, waiting for a forward to get open for a pass. There is good coverage and no play to make. Time to dump the puck in deep right? Nope, Brian Campbell makes an incredible little forehand flip pass that lands right in front of Ryan Hartman. Chicago has an offensive zone entry and the Blackhawks can go to work, all started by Brian Campbell.
Brian Campbell skates up the left side. Pressure comes and he skate towards the right side of the ice. This moves the New Jersey players toward the right side. Campbell then passes back to Panarin who is able to hit Toews for the offensive zone entry. Campbell might not have done the heavy lifting on this zone entry, but he did help create offense.
That is it for volume 1. I will go into more detail in the later volumes, but I wanted you to get a sense of what Brian Campbell does on the ice.
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