Shift-by-shift: Frank Corrado’s first NHL game

It’s not enough to say that Frank Corrado didn’t look out of place in his NHL debut: he looked perfectly in place, skating on Alex Edler’s right side like he’d been there all season. Most rookie defencemen will just try to play a simple game and hope to not get noticed for the wrong reason. Corrado, on the other hand, made his presence felt immediately, stapling Marcus Kruger to the boards with a solid check on just his second shift of the game.

Corrado was credited with 24 total shifts and 17:20 in ice time (though this number turned out to be slightly inaccurate upon closer inspection). Still, he was fourth among Canucks’ defencemen in ice time and matched up against Patrick Kane more than any other Blackhawks forward. In fact, Kane was fed a steady diet of the Edler and Corrado pairing for most of the game, demonstrating how quickly Corrado won Alain Vigneault’s trust.

I wanted to find out exactly how Corrado’s debut went, shift by shift, to see exactly how he earned his ice time, so I went back and watched his entire game. The adjective that kept coming up in my notes was quick: quick skating, quick passes, and quick decisions.

FIRST PERIOD

1 | On Corrado’s first shift, he gets an early touch on the puck, making a good outlet pass to Ryan Kesler, who subsequently turns the puck over. Corrado quickly recovers, covering David Bolland and preventing the turnover from turning into anything dangerous.

2 | Corrado’s second shift was his most noticeable, making three good, quick passes to alleviate pressure in the defensive zone and move the puck up ice. It was his hit on Kruger, however, that caught the attention of the fans in Rogers Arena. Corrado recognizes that Kruger is alone and that he has no one to check in the middle of the ice, so he comes across and slams Kruger hard into the boards, allowing Edler to retrieve the puck.

3 | An attempted wristshot from the point is blocked by Kruger. Corrado does well to track the speedy Andrew Shaw back into the defensive zone after a standing start, knocking the puck off his stick and drawing a hi-sticking call on Shaw.

4 | In a battle along the boards, Corrado ties up Toews, freeing up the puck for Edler. He then ties up Kane in front of the net. Both battles do nothing to suggest he lacks NHL-ready strength.

5 | After knocking over Kane along the boards, Corrado ties up Bolland behind the net to free up the puck. After Raymond nearly turns the puck over, Corrado hits him with a nice cross-ice bank pass.

6 | On his sixth shift, Corrado demonstrates his quick decision-making, first with a safe play up the boards to clear the zone, then with a bank pass behind the net to Edler with pressure coming.

7 | This uneventful shift ends with a good outlet pass by Corrado getting tipped into the Blackhawks’ bench.

8 | In a 10-second long shift, Corrado still manages to make a good defensive play, forcing Toews offside at the blue line with good gap control and an active stick.

9 | Early in this shift, Corrado makes a simple pass out of the defensive zone. He spends the second half of the shift locked in a battle with Brandon Bollig in front of the Canucks’ net, boxing him out and preventing him from getting to a rebound.

SECOND PERIOD

10 | Corrado makes a well-timed and aggressive pinch down the boards in the offensive zone, but can’t hold the puck in. Later in the shift, he intercepts an outlet pass to Toews in the neutral zone.

11 | The Canucks spend the bulk of this shift in the defensive zone. Corrado tracks Hossa through most of the shift, doing well to stick with him as the Blackhawks play their cycle game. He ends the shift with a solid check on Toews, though the puck does get through to the net.

12 | This ends up being one of Corrado’s longest shifts, as he can’t get off on a change. During the first half of the shift, he makes two nice plays to prevent Kane from getting a scoring chance, showing good gap control on the first, then beating Kane to a loose puck and turning it quickly up ice on the second. In the latter half, however, things get a little scrambly, as he temporarily loses Brandon Saad when the shifty winger makes a move behind the net, then loses his check and is slow getting to Kane in front of the net when a shot from the outside could have created a rebound.

13 | Corrado breaks up a Chicago rush at the blue line in this short and uneventful shift for the rookie.

14 | This is arguably Corrado’s best shift of the game. First, he keeps the puck in the offensive zone on a clearing attempt, but has his shot blocked. Shortly after, he makes a great neutral zone interception on a breakaway pass to Kane, then makes a long outlet pass to Zack Kassian that eventually leads to Kassian’s goal. Unfortunately, Corrado had already changed for Cam Barker when the goal was scored, robbing him of his first plus.

15 | Corrado’s fifteenth shift was split into two parts by a TV timeout. In the first part, Corrado keeps Kane to the outside, forcing a low percentage shot from a bad angle that Cory Schneider easily handles. In the second, however, Kane gets 2 scoring chances, with the latter chance coming when Corrado loses him in front on a rebound. Corrado recovers to knock Kruger off the puck and allow Raymond to clear the zone.

16 | Corrado’s third attempted shot was a one-timer blast set up by Kesler. Regrettably, it was also blocked. He’ll need to learn to get that shot through to the net if he wants it to be a usable weapon at the NHL level.

17 | Again, it’s Corrado’s responsibility to track Hossa in the defensive zone. Hossa still manages to get a shot off, but it’s from the outside and easily blocked in front. Corrado attempts to jump up in the rush, but ends up just dumping the puck in deep with no other options available.

THIRD PERIOD

18 | Thanks to a series of early penalties, Corrado doesn’t have a shift in the third until 6:52, when he comes out with Andrew Alberts for a brief shift after a powerplay. Nothing of note occurs in the 15 seconds he’s on the ice.

19 | Reunited with Edler, Corrado makes a couple quick passes to his D-partner to clear the defensive zone twice. Later in his shift, he shows his confidence, directing traffic on an odd-man rush. Unfortunately, the player he was directing, Andrew Ebbett, ended up taking a penalty on Bollig as he stopped moving his feet and got the stick into Bollig’s hands.

20 | Corrado absorbs a big hit from a Chicago forechecker and keeps possession of the puck, moving it to Edler for the clear. Later in his shift, he loses control of the puck briefly, but quickly pivots to recover the puck and chip it up the boards to safety.

21 | Again, Corrado absorbs a hit from a forechecker to move the puck to Edler.

22 | Corrado wasn’t actually on the ice for this shift and I’m fairly certain Chris Higgins’ number 20 was mistaken for Corrado’s number 26. This means that Corrado actually played 16:29 in this game rather than 17:20.

23 | This is Corrado’s only shift that doesn’t come at even-strength, as Vigneault gives the rookie a brief amount of time on the second unit of the powerplay. Corrado makes a few simple passes during the man advantage, but the Canucks don’t have a single shot attempt with him on the ice.

24 | Corrado’s final shift comes with the game largely out of reach. The Canucks have a 2-goal lead with 1:40 remaining and the faceoff in the neutral zone. The Blackhawks pull Corey Crawford once they gain the zone and Corrado spends the bulk of his shift battling in front of the net to prevent screens.

Corrado’s game holds up under closer inspection. While a couple of his shifts led to chances against, they came when he was matched up against very good players. For the most part, Corrado contained Kane, Toews, and Hossa when he was matched up against them, keeping them mostly to the outside and quickly turning the puck up ice when he had the chance.

I was most impressed with his decision making, as he showed no hesitation at any point in the game. He also showed good strength, battling bigger forwards in front of the net and absorbing hits to make plays when he had to.

If he can continue to play like this heading into the playoffs, it may even be worth it for the Canucks to burn a year of his entry-level contract, particularly if Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev are unable to return to the lineup in time for the post-season. Corrado is a major upgrade on Cam Barker and is a better option than Andrew Alberts, even with Alberts improved play this season. The fact that he naturally fits on the right side certainly helps his case.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that errors will creep in over the next two games and it will become clear that Corrado isn’t quite ready yet to be a full-time Canuck. At the very least, he’s given Canucks fans something to get excited about for the future.

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18 comments

  1. Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)
    April 23, 2013

    Yeah, Corrado definitely earned the next two games and played well enough to make burning an ELC year something that could be considered rather than a joke.

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  2. Matt
    April 23, 2013

    It’s a one game sample, but if Corrado’s not already NHL ready, he’s close. He didn’t get soft minutes in this game – as you pointed out, he was playing against Kane, Hossa, and Toews. If he doesn’t stick around this year, it seems realistic that he’ll be with the team next year. Does that solve their lefty/righty problem? Assuming Ballard gets bought out or traded and no one suffers a major injury between now and the start of next season (and Tanev is re-signed which seems like a no-brainer), what would be be looking at for defensive pairings next year?

    Hamhuis / Bieksa
    Garrison / Tanev
    Edler / Corrado

    Seems like two pairings that can handle heavy defensive responsibilities and a third pairing that is still reasonably defensively-reliable and would feast on weaker opposition. Good balance!

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      April 23, 2013

      Provided this game doesn’t end up just being a one-off beginner’s luck type of thing, that’d actually be a pretty respectable defence corps, and having two early career guys in there will be great for the salary cap situation too. Wouldn’t be shocked if the Canucks continued to keep Alberts around as the depth guy either. I guess the team hasn’t seen enough out of Joslin to warrant putting him in the lineup, but certainly Corrado showed why the team’s so high on him.

      I also wonder what the future holds for Yann Sauve. I think he had been sidelined by a serious injury or something but I wonder if he could jump up into the Alberts role next season, or perhaps the Barker role, being that I doubt Cam is retained. However, if I’m not mistaken, Sauve will be an RFA so I wonder if he’ll even be qualified.

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    • Kenji
      April 24, 2013

      That group lacks some menace, but it is mobile and skillful. Another plus for Corrado is that he is relatively cheap, which you need to offset the expensive veterans.

      Too bad about Ballard though, keep waiting for him to break out. A rushing defenceman is exactly what this group does not have. Bieksa and Edler can do it sometimes but it doesn’t seem to be what they really like to do.

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  3. Square Ball
    April 23, 2013

    So much for AV not trusting young players. I’m disappointed, Alain.

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    • Andrew
      April 23, 2013

      AV hates young forwards, but adores young defencemen.

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    • Jacob
      April 23, 2013

      AV: “Frank, are you ready to play most of the game against Patrick Kane?”
      FC: “Woah, I don’t think so!”
      AV: “I don’t trust you! Get out there!”

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      Rating: +16 (from 16 votes)
  4. Prophet
    April 23, 2013

    Frank is more dependable than a Volkswagen!

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  5. Nee
    April 23, 2013

    I love these first game posts. They always catch things I would have otherwise missed. : )

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  6. elvis15
    April 23, 2013

    I didn’t really like how he followed some of the players around the D-zone (like the shift with Hossa) rather than play them in front and in the corner when it was his side, but it certainly worked for him this time. I was really impressed with his battle in front of the net with Bollig though, who despite having 30lbs on Corrado wasn’t able to manhandle him.

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  7. `e blacha
    April 23, 2013

    I was impressed with his play. Crazy after 93? games, he’s still able to play to move up each level of hockey.

    But Alberts has really really impressed me with his play. I hope we keep him, or he at least gets regular top 6 minutes on another teams

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    • Kenji
      April 24, 2013

      Yes he has quietly come along. He has the immense size and reach, and seems affordable.

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  8. alviator
    April 23, 2013

    Great analysis and article. I really enjoy these posts.

    The thing I can’t get over is: “The verb that kept coming up in my notes was quick”
    No, it’s an adjective the way you’re using quick….sigh….#hatingmyselfrightnow

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 23, 2013

      No, don’t hate yourself. I hate myself for making that mistake. Wow.

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      • Taco
        April 24, 2013

        Rookie mistake. Don’t worry kid, we’ll make a blogger out of you yet.

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  9. Truculent!
    April 23, 2013

    Tom? Tom? Where are you Tom 1040? It’s okay buddy, please come out from under that rock… No need to hide. We still love you little guy.. While we all know you’ve “played the game”, it’s painfully clear you’ve never coached. #justsaying #corrodo16minutes

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  10. Pukeko
    April 24, 2013

    I’d like to see a shift by shift of Chicago’s Hjalmarsson from that same game. May be wrong as I only saw the highlights, but man he looked like a victim out there!

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  11. Drew
    April 24, 2013

    Quick. Simple. Tanev clone?

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