SAN JOSE- San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres is arguably one of a kind. Not only is the 32-year-old winger physically intimidating, but he’s quite a gifted player.
“With Raffi, the physical reputation follows him around but this is a player that went in the top ten of the NHL draft” reminded Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “He has a tremendous skill set to go with that physicality.” (Torres was selected fifth overall by the N. Y. Islanders back in 2000).
(FYI: Fellow Sharks writer David Pollak of the Mercury news also wrote about Raffi today, you can check out his column here.)
That said, it still feels paramount to chip in my two cents after Torres’ physical play sparked the Sharks to their most entertaining win of the season on Thursday. San Jose didn’t have a bad first period in their 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins but they did find themselves down 2-0 heading into the first intermission. Midway through the second however, Torres threw a couple of solid hits that lit his club on fire. The Sharks would go on to dominate the Penguins both physically and on the score-sheet in the final 40 minutes. They out-shot Pittsburgh 34-12, and outscored them 5-1 in the last two periods.
While there are other skill players in the league who also play a physical brand of hockey, some examples being the Sharks’ Brent Burns, St. Louis’ David Backes, and Boston’s Milan Lucic, Torres simply provides the Sharks a different element.
Torres is on his own “bad boy” level. And even though his past reputation for going over the line can hurt him, it’s that same reputation that creates time and space for his teammates. He puts the element of fear into opponents heads.
While talking about his past experience playing against Raffi, Sharks teammate Jason Demers said “it’s not scary, but…it’s in the back of your mind [that a hit may be coming]“.
Translation: it is very, very scary playing against him.
While many hockey fans, including San Jose die hards, have been at odds with Torres for past dirty hits, the fact of the matter is Torres has never intentionally tried to injure his opponents and he has recently made a concerted effort to avoid the unnecessarily malicious collisions.
Despite pulling back, Torres has managed to play a clean, hard, and even scary game with violent hits capable of knocking players out. The physical presence along with a top-six skill-set provides the Sharks with depth scoring and energy that nobody else can bring.
Torres is to his club, you could say, like, paprika is to deviled eggs.
Sure, deviled eggs, like the Sharks, can be really, really good with a regular mix of mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. However, they aren’t quite finished without that extra pop and spice that paprika can offer. It’s the final touch which makes the eggs taste that much better.
Torres, and Paprika are very similar. They both bring a distinct element which cannot be replaced.
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