I’ve been watching Luke Schenn closely this season, looking for creep of the sophomore jinx. Everyone is a little banged up at his junction of the schedule, but he might be playing through some hurt. The rust is off in the NHL, and players are hitting stride, making the young blueliner vulnerable as the games get more intense.
While there’s been an improvement statistically, that may not be an accurate indicator of his performance.
He’s upped the 15:02 of ice time in October to 16:13 in November – with an asterisk on the 19:40 against Minnesota with the Leafs down to five defensemen with Mike Komisarek lost a little over two minutes into the game.
Has also improved from the rotten minus-5 in October marking plus-3 in November.
But there are issues.
He’s been caught flatfooted a lot this season in various situations and seems to start momentum from a static position. Players are zipping by due to sheer momentum. Footspeed was a concern entering the season and he should keep his feet moving to maintain momentum.
In foot races, he’s losing his balance and falling down upon contact along the boards and in open ice.
He’s watching the puck and becoming a swatter with a plus/minus effect here, developing a more active stick and using it in front of him to take away forward space off the rush. However, he depends on swatting away the puck instead of taking the man. Players are slipping by along the boards, especially with speed and change of pace. There’s a need for balance here with a developing stick and getting back to using physical strength to take his men.
Regarding body work, he hasn’t been using his enough, especially along the boards, and it led to the third goal last night. Instead of taking the man out of the play by trying to contain him, he threw an insignificant cross check and allowed the man to twist away with the puck to develop the play from behind the net, to the corner, then out front where Koivu scored amidst three Leafs, including Schenn coming out from behind the net after the failed attempt.
There was a play in the first period where he was in good position in front of the goal with the Wild buzzing. The puck went behind the net to Martin Havlat who came out on a wraparound attempt .. Schenn saw him and had him in sights beside the net, and could have (should have) put put Halvat on his ass, sending a statement to the sniper and his teammates “this is my area.” But he let up with a slight nudge. This was a pivotal moment that could have swung the momentum with a big clean hit. I have to add a lack of confidence on this play as well.
He’s shown mixed aggression and a prominence for taking restraining fouls, leading the NHL with four interference penalties.
Individually these don’t mean much, but tallied together, it paints a different picture. I have to conclude from his stationary positioning, slower footspeed, lack of progressive aggression and a slight dip in confidence, Luke Schenn must be playing hurt.