Nicklas Grossmann making difference on defense

Nicklas Grossmann making difference on defense
March 5, 2013, 2:30 pm
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NEW YORK – Peter Laviolette doesn’t hold back when describing Nicklas Grossman’s 6-foot-4 stature on the ice.
 
“He's a mountain of a man out there,” the Flyers' coach said. “He's moving well, making a real good first pass out there out of our end. He's blocking shots, he's physical, he's done a really good job for us.”
 
Tonight, the Flyers play the New York Rangers, a team that was once tenacious at shot blocking – third in the NHL last season – but just 18th currently.
 
Grossmann comes into the game as the NHL league-leader in blocked shots with 66 – one more than Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik.
 
“I don’t think I’ve ever led the league in blocked shots,” Grossmann mused.
 
As a team, the Flyers are fourth overall with 357 blocks. Colorado is first with 377.
 
“It’s just part of the job, I guess,” Grossmann said. “You kill a lot of penalties and have to block shots. You look at the team we play tonight. They led the league [earlier] in blocked shots.
 
“It made them successful. It’s a small thing, but it’s about small details. If you are good at different things and I can keep the puck from coming to our net, it’s a good thing.”
 
The Flyers have had many good shot blockers over the years on defense. Eric Desjardins comes to mind.
 
Kimmo Timomen, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle, more recently. Carle was 15th in the league last season with 164 while Grossmann was right behind him (22nd) with 152.
 
Derian Hatcher once said you had to be a little nuts to block shots. Grossmann’s thought on that?
 
“You have to be a little stupid I guess,” he smiled.
 
“You kinda learn after a while. A bunch of guys are pretty good. Kimmo's been around a while. He always gets pucks on him. [Luke Schenn] Schenner is pretty good. Cobie [Coburn]. Just try to get in the lanes and get in front of pucks.”
 
Over the years, the Flyers have lost a number of defensemen and forwards on blocked shots. It’s a dangerous thing to do.
 
Knock on wood, Grossmann has been healthy this season when shot blocking. He had a number of past injuries in Dallas and missed significant games.
 
“[Injury] is nothing you really think of,” Grossmann said. “It feels like it’s almost a few games and you get 10 shots and it doesn’t hurt.
 
“And then the next game you get hit by two and those are bad ones. It’s luck or whatever.  Where it hits you. You can't control that.”
 
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson broke his foot blocking a shot with the Phantoms and injured his shin last week doing it with the Flyers.
 
Yet since Gustafsson has been here, coincidentally, Grossmann has rejoined former defensive partner, Coburn. He had been playing with Kurtis Foster.
 
“At times they have been really good playing together,” Laviolette said of the Grossmann-Coburn pair. “Through the course of the opponents we play at times, when you’re staring at Pittsburgh and you got Crosby on one line and Malkin on another line, and you got Kimmo and Luke, who can go out there and do the job, it’s nice to put those two, big beefy guys out there against a high-end player.
 
“They’ve developed a lot of chemistry. Grossy has been on top of his game for a while now and what he brings to the table with his physicality and shot blocking. His skating looks good.”
 
It’s one of the small things, as Grossmann said, which has made a big difference with the Flyers' defense getting better as the team hits the halfway mark tonight at Madison Square Garden.