Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy more active offensively
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter December 29, 2013 7:24PM
Nick Leddy has taken a more aggressive offensive mentality this season. | John Russell/Getty Images
The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: December 29, 2013 9:51PM
Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy and Wayne Gretzky were in the same building Saturday in St. Louis — Leddy as a visiting player, Gretzky as a visiting alumnus. And while Leddy is a bit behind in the goals department — he has 18 in his career, Gretzky had 894 — he is trying to adopt The Great One’s goal-scoring philosophy.
‘‘He said, ‘Every shot you don’t take, you won’t score,’ ’’ Leddy said, slightly mangling Gretzky’s famous line that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. ‘‘Or something. The point is, the more you shoot, the more good things will happen.’’
Good things are happening for Leddy, who has three goals this month and has been noticeably more active offensively this season. When you’re a 22-year-old defenseman on a team loaded with elite forwards, there’s a natural instinct to defer to them, to pass up even open looks and force the puck to them. But that’s an instinct Leddy is trying to fight.
He’s using his speed — maybe the best on the team — to carry the puck into the offensive zone more often, initiating and joining rushes whenever possible. He’s the point man on the second power-play unit, which has been consistently effective all season. Above all else, though, he has shown more confidence and more willingness to fire away. He has 65 shots on goal through 41 games, the same amount he had through 48 games last season. That puts him on pace for 130, which would shatter the personal best of 94 he set in his first full season (2011-12).
In the four games before the Christmas break, Leddy had a total of 13 shots. Not surprisingly, he had two goals during that stretch — both cannons from the left circle, where four of his five goals this season have come from. He also has 13 assists, as he tries to adopt teammate Duncan Keith’s mentality that any shot attempt could lead to a goal one way or another.
‘‘If you look at the top guys in the league, if you look at [the Ottawa Senators’] Erik Karlsson, he has, like, eight or nine shots a game,’’ Leddy said. ‘‘You wonder how a defenseman does that when I can barely get one or two. But you have to have a shooter’s mentality, and the offense will come if you keep putting pucks on the net — whether it goes in for you or gives someone else a chance.’’
Leddy’s elite speed, big shot and ability to adapt to different defensive partners — while the top two pairings are stable, Leddy constantly is forced to adjust to the various styles of Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank and Michael Kostka — make him an appealing possibility for Team USA, which will announce its Olympic roster after the Winter Classic on Wednesday. He knows he’s a long shot, but the excitement is building as the announcement draws near.
‘‘I think that it’ll be an exciting day,’’ said Leddy, a native of Minnesota. ‘‘Obviously, [Patrick Kane] has got a pretty dang good chance of making it. [Brandon Saad] is playing great, too, and he’s got a really good chance of making it. For me, if you look at it, there are a lot of good-skating D-men that they’re looking at. Obviously, it’d be a really cool opportunity to play on that team, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’’
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman is on the Team USA advisory committee, but Leddy hasn’t exactly been poking him on the shoulder and asking if he’s on the team or not.
‘‘That could be an option,’’ Leddy said, laughing. ‘‘But I don’t think he’d appreciate that much. I’ve just got to keep playing my game and worry about playing here. If it happens, great. I guess we’ll just see what happens.’’