The major story of last year’s series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was the other guys, the players not named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who carried the Penguins to victory. Guys like Patric Hornqvist.
On Wednesday in the last full practice before Game 1, Hornqvist practiced on the top line with Sidney Crosby and rookie Jake Guentzel. That’s a lot of skill on one line. What does Hornqvist add? Net-front presence.
“He's relentless,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said. “He's fearless.”
Trotz would know. Hornqvist spent the first six seasons of his NHL career in Nashville playing under Trotz.
It's not always easy being a net-front guy. It takes a willingness to face slap shots from your teammates. The opposing defense will also do everything they can to muscle you out of your spot. None of that seems to matter to Hornqvist.
Trotz illustrated Hornqvist's willingness to get to the front of the net during his time in Nashville.
“When I had [Pekka Rinne], [Hornqvist] would line up in front of Pekka and we would do one-timers with Shea Weber and that's what he practiced every day. He would be standing there.”
Weber is now a three-time winner for the hardest shot in the NHL. If that is not enough to scare you from standing in front of the net, nothing is.
Getting good net-front presence, however, is about more than just standing in front of the net. Hornqvist is a guy who understands all the nuances of that role and that’s what makes him such a dangerous player.
“He conveniently will fall on your goalie many times," Trotz said, "But he's a hungry athlete in that area and he understands his role and that's what makes him special in that area.”
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