Ducks' Boudreau on Cogliano: He 'sparks a comeback with his energy'
The Anaheim Ducks have been increasingly building a reputation as being a big, bad postseason team, overwhelming opponents with their size, strength and physicality. But it's one of the smaller guys that has quietly been helping Anaheim with play that has been, for lack of a better term, big.
While he's rarely scoring the highlight-reel goals, Andrew Cogliano does just about everything else. The third-line winger has played on the right side, left side and in the middle. He kills penalties, cycles the puck, generates momentum and is absolutely relentless on the forecheck. The latter being his biggest strength and an invaluable facet to Anaheim's game in the postseason.
"Speed, leadership, great on the PK, great. Gets draws, can shut down the other team's top line, plays in a lot of different roles on this team," said center Ryan Kesler. "He's consistent. He's one of our best players every night. That speed and those smarts he brings are huge for us."
The extremely versatile winger is one of the most important glue-guys on an extremely deep roster. Yet with all of those other wingers available - Jiri Sekac, Tomas Flieschmann, Chris Wagner - it would just about take something catastrophic to prevent Cogliano from taking the ice. Cogliano has played 622-straight games without missing one, the NHL's longest-running Ironman streak.
A sprained ankle, a broken finger, an undisclosed upper-body injury - if Cogliano has suffered from any of these common ailments, you'd never know. A stick to the face that knocked out his two front teeth? Still played the next game. And the one after that, and so on and so on.
"He's a guy I count on and I have a lot of faith in when I put him on the ice," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When we're down, he's usually a guy that sparks a comeback with his energy. He's going to have bad games, like other people, but it's never for lack of trying. He's out there giving it his all, all the time. I think everybody recognizes that."
It's remarkable given the hard-checking, high-energy presence that he brings every single night.
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"Sometimes it's tiring. It's a tough style to play," Cogliano said. "But I've always been a guy who's been able to push the pace. I think it helps our team. I think I'm a guy who's able to increase the energy and the level of intensity. It might not be me scoring, but it might be somebody else scoring."
It takes a considerable amount of conditioning to play the way Cogliano plays and to do it for 622 straight games. That's the easy part, he says. With a fitness instructor mother, Cogliano has always been known for a similar dedication to fitness. His in-season routine is about injury prevention while the off-season routine is about strength.
But it's more than just endurance. A streak like that takes skill and smarts.
Cogliano's greatest skills are his skating and stick. Barely 5-foot-10 but routinely battling guys with about five inches on him on the forecheck, his speed and stick work helps him take away their size advantage.
"You have to have a good stick and you have to use your feet," he said. "When you're smaller, you have to pick your battles. You can't rush in on guys. You want to hit sometimes but there are situations where you just can't because you won't get the angle on them. So, you you have to contain them.
"In my career, what I've noticed when I've played against big guys, especially in the corners, you can't go in there and battle with them completely. You have to do a good job of containing them and angling them and wanting to go to a certain place by using your speed and quickness."
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Cogliano has become adept at picking those battles, strategically choosing his hits.
"Dustin Byfuglien, you just don't hit him," he said. "Sometimes it's more making contact, so you're in front of them, so you have body contact. The puck comes free in that area and you're ready to go there. For small guys, the more physical and engaged you are the better you play. When I've had success in games this year is when I've had three, four or five hits. And it's not a matter of running around and hitting guys and it doesn't make sense. It's more of hitting guys purposefully."
Boudreau has lauded Cogliano's hockey accumen and he's arguably one of the smartest guys on the ice. Whenever the media needs an analytical breakdown, they head straight for Cogliano's stall. It's hard to believe that Cogliano was once a victim of depth on an Edmonton team that was considered too loaded to have a use for him.
But they've found lots of uses for him in Anaheim, as he's become an essential piece of the lineup.
"He's another piece of the puzzle on this team," Kesler said. "You're only as good as your weakest link and we don't have weak links on this team."