Scoring a goal can do wonders.
Timra coach Fredrik Andersson deserves a lot of credit for putting Jacob Olofssson out on the power play in the final minute of the Dec. 3 game versus Vasby with his team up 7-4. Olofsson (#38) scored his first goal in 12 games, and if his play in the ensuing match Dec. 5 is any indication, a tremendous weight was lifted off of his shoulders.
Olofsson looked like a completely different player in his last game, and he is now riding a two-game goal-scoring streak. Four shots on goal, 8 of 9 in the faceoff circle, a couple of steals that led to scoring chances for teammates on great feeds, and a +3 in a 4-0 victory over Mora. Olofsson was the best skater on the ice. In fact, Olofsson was on the ice for all four Timra goals, and if third assists were rewarded on goals, he’d have had a three-point game. Just a terrific all-around effort.
Here’s a shift that demonstrates his change in attitude – rushes the puck with confidence, makes three smart passes, and directs the puck towards the net on an intelligent swing around that gave him a lane.
His skating skills, puck skills and vision are all above average, and it’s encouraging to see him starting to put them all to use once again. One wonders if he would not have been best suited playing for Timra all season long, but as the old saying goes, better late than never.
It’s easy to forget that Olofsson is just 20 years old; perhaps because he has been playing pro hockey for four seasons. It must also be remembered that he missed more than half of last season, including the WJC where he was slated to be one of Sweden’s top-two centers.
Olofsson was struggling to find his place on a Skelleftea team this season playing a bottom-line role on the wing. The SHL is stronger than normal because so many NHLers are playing there until the delayed NHL season gets underway in the new year.
By the end of his tenure in Skelleftea, Olofsson was playing less than ten minutes per game, and it was obvious that he was lost. Loaning him to his old Allsvenskan team in Timra was the ideal solution, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity, playing more than 17 minutes per game and looking solid in all three zones. He was even a regular on the power play in this contest.
This shift offers a perfect example of Olofsson’s confidence transformation:
The odds of him trying a dangle like that in the SHL bordered on zero percent. He made several slick stickhandling moves in this game, and was tapping his stick for the puck fairly frequently – both telling signs that he has found his confidence.
Here was his third-period goal to put Timra up 4-0. By no means a special tally; nevertheless, he had to put it past the netminder, and given how dominant he was in this game, a much-deserving point on a night when he could have had several.
My one beef with his game? Physical play. The 6.2.5, 196-pound centerman passes up most opportunities to hit opponents.
The last shift of the game illustrates the dichotomy in Olofsson’s game at this point. He has the confidence to try a dangle at the start of the shift in his own end that could have led to a solid scoring chance against, but that confidence doesn’t extend to the physical end of his game. Olofsson had a perfect opportunity to staple his opponent into the boards; instead he slowed down, and chose to stick check him.
Yes, the game has changed. Players don’t hit as much, and are taught not to make hits if it puts you behind the play. That is especially true for centers, who are often tasked with being the first forward back because they have to cover their own slot defensively.
Hits don’t always result in you getting the puck; so there is that to consider as well. On that play, though…if Olofsson stops the puck carrier’s progress by pinning him into the boards, the puck is turned over to either him or his left defenceman. The right play there was to bodycheck the opponent into the boards.
Olofsson has registered five hits this season in 18 games. While he is a 20-year-old playing in men’s leagues, he’s a big boy, and he’s in his fourth season of pro hockey. A little more hiss and vinegar, and he could be quite a force in the Allsvenskan. Drive to the net, hit the puck carrier, compete a little harder, and good things will come. He has the tools to be a ppg player the rest of the way with Timra.