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.
We’ve seen how Brian Campbell does a good job of generating offense from the left side, and runs into trouble sometimes when playing on the right side. So how is he adjusting?
The answer is pretty simple, when he has the puck, he has been switching spots with his defensive partner. Playing with Duncan Keith has allowed Brian Campbell to rotate from the right side to the left side to make a play. Lets take a look at some video so you can see what I’m talking about.
We start with a simple one. If Brian Campbell skates up the right side, he wont be able to use the forehand pass as documented in volume 2. In the above gif, Campbell receives the puck near the right faceoff dot and skates toward the middle of the ice. Campbell then sends a FOREHAND pass hitting Artem Anisimov in stride for an offensive zone entry. If he skated up the right side, he would have likely been forced to use a weak backhand pass. Going to the middle of the ice gives Campbell more options to make a successful pass for a zone entry.
The only problem is there isn’t always enough time to get to the middle depending on how fast the play develops and the pressure being applied by the opposition. However, it is more effective than simply skating up the right side.
Here we see Duncan Keith along the left side boards waiting for a pass. Brian Campbell takes the puck from behind the net and skates up the left side, almost stealing Keith’s area of the ice. This forces Keith to rotate to the right side to cover for Campbell.
Brian Campbell is able to carve his way through the neutral zone and carries the blue line and sends a FOREHAND pass to Patrick Kane.
Campbell was playing the right side defenseman position on this play, but that didn’t stop him from taking the left side and creating offense.
To save time, I cut this one short as one can see Campbell and Keith have already rotated positions. Duncan Keith is playing the right side and Campbell is on the left side. They have already rotated previously in this shift allowing Campbell to make the long pass to Toews, hitting the captain with a FOREHAND pass in stride for an offensive zone entry.
Oh, but we aren’t done yet. Campbell jumps in on the play at the end of this clip for a shot attempt. He sets up this play with the great pass through the neutral zone and finishes it with the shot attempt. It didn’t lead to a goal, but one can see how much of an impact Campbell’s neutral zone passing can have on generating easy offensive zone entries and thus generating offense.
When playing on the right side, Campbell is forced to use the backhand pass more. To compensate for this hindrance, he is simply skating to the middle or taking the left side of the ice from Duncan Keith. In doing this, Campbell is able to use his elite forehand pass. The Blackhawks are then able to generate more offense and create more shots.
I’m not sure if Campbell switched as often at the beginning of the year. This may be due to the fact he was paired with 20-year-old rookie defensemen Gustav Forsling. I imagine Coach Quenneville wouldn’t want to complicate things for the rookie by allowing Campbell to roam around the ice. Q would probably want Campbell to play a more structured game when paired with Forsling. I haven’t studied the tapes of the Forsling – Campbell pairing yet, so this is just a theory.
By being paired with Duncan Keith, the mobile Brian Campbell should have more freedom to roam around and make plays as there is a former Norris trophy winner by his side. This is how Campbell has been able to adjust to playing the right side. Statistically, Forsling – Campbell produced poor results while Keith – Campbell has produced pretty good results early on.
Still, I must say that Campbell would still play better if he was a full time left side defensemen.
Also, a question one should ponder about pairing together the two best puck moving defenseman on the team, is the effect it has on the other pairings. Is it more effective to load Campbell and Keith up together, or split them up to balance out the puck movement ability of the defensive pairings?
So is the current Keith – Campbell & Hjalmarsson – Seabrook the best way to go? Would Keith – Hjalmarsson & Campbell (able to play the left side)- Seabrook be more effective?
Either way, its nice to know that Campbell can now effectively play the right side when paired with Duncan Keith.