It wasn’t that long ago that just hearing the word forecheck made my head spin. It’s one of those words the high brow hockey fan uses just to prove they are smarter than you. Believe me, I’ve done it myself at times to test people. But the team you cheer for (I’m assuming since you are reading this right now) is so good at forechecking that it’s time you man up, stop being scared of this terrifying word, and enlighten yourself to how and why the Vegas Golden Knights are so darn good at it.
Forechecking simply means playing aggressive defense in your own attacking zone. In other words, when the Golden Knights are near the goal they want to score on, but do not have the puck, they play ferocious defense to try and get it back before the opposing team breaks out. Watch, here’s an example from the last game.
Jonathan Marchessault (#81) carries it into the zone. He takes a shot and then there’s a bit of a scramble for the rebound. Vegas does not get possession of the puck, but William Karlsson (#71) and Marchessault are relentless to get it back. The puck ends up being kicked out to Reilly Smith (#19) who gets a shot on goal.
Forcing the action in the opposing zone makes it very difficult to get the puck out of the zone. It forces turnovers, icings, delay of game penalties, and sometimes, frustration. Here’s another example.
Oscar Lindberg (#24) goes behind the net and makes life very difficult on the Stars defenseman. Stefan Matteau (#25) pinches down to help with the forecheck. The puck slips off the defenseman’s stick, Matteau has a great chance and Lindberg gets a rebound chance.
The steal and shots make it look easy and almost like a mistake by Dallas. But watch it again, look at where Bellemare (#41) and Matteau are when the defenseman begins to take the puck from behind the goal. Bellemare takes away the forehand pass and Lindberg forces him to his backhand, Matteau pinches down to take away space from the guy up by the Lexus logo. So, the defenseman turns around and starts getting hounded by Linberg. The rest is history.
The Golden Knights have been described as quick, fast, hard-working, balanced, and relentless. They are all qualities of a team that forechecks. When Matt Murray said, “they are like a dog and a bone” he’s talking about rebounds, which often turn to forechecking when the other team gets there first. Vegas makes you work for every inch of ice to get out of your own zone, and many teams, including the best team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning, can’t handle it.
When it turns into icings, you can see some slamming sticks along the boards and you can definitely see the frustration. –Shea Theodore
It’s a team effort and it takes a ridiculous amount of energy to get it done. This is where time on ice comes in. Vegas truly does use all four lines and they balance the minutes more evenly than any other team in the league. Becuase of the balance, every forward has the stamina to give it everything they’ve got, even when they don’t have the puck. Successful forechecking also causes long shifts for the opponent which often leads to purposeful forfeiture of possession to change lines when they finally do get the puck out.
It’s part of our game. When we put pressure on their D we get turnovers and we create chances. When we are intense and quick on the puck pursuit we get turnovers. When we do that, we have success. -Jonathan Marchessault
Watch the next game, because it will be especially important against the Capitals. When the Golden Knights lose their puck in the offensive zone, they are like bees to honey or Jason to a can of Squirt trying to get it back.
If the Golden Knights want to continue what they’ve done to this point, a lot of it is going to depend on the forecheck. Lucky for fans, they are well aware of it, and they appear to all be willing to do it.
Viva la forecheck. Viva VGK.