DENVER — Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie has developed a reputation as forward thinking.
Easy to understand why: He’s constantly thinking as a forward.
His father was an NHL forward. As a kid, he was a forward. And now he’s chipping in on offense much like a forward.
Barrie has a goal and seven assists so far in the postseason. His first career playoff tally arrived Sunday in Game 2 at San Jose, helping the Avalanche send the second-round series back to Denver tied at a game apiece. Game 3 is Tuesday at Pepsi Center.
“I feel really confident in my all-around game right now,” the 27-year-old Barrie said. “I like playing against other team’s top lines. I enjoy the challenge. The offensive part, I’ve got to keep trying to bring it.”
His first postseason goal Sunday showed off his offensive instincts: After Gabriel Landeskog’s shot bounced off Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, Barrie jumped down low and sent a rolling puck into the corner of the net.
That’s Barrie being Barrie . He’s coming off a regular season in which had a career-high 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists), which was the most by an Avalanche defenseman since Ray Bourque had 59 in 2000-01.
“Tyson’s worked on his game over the last handful of years and gotten really good at creating offense, jumping up in the rush and making plays when he gets it in the O-zone,” Landeskog said. “He’s also defending real well right now because first and foremost, that’s what a ‘D’ has got to do. No doubt, he’s got the skill of a forward and can make the plays.”
Pressing forward just runs in the family. Barrie’s father, Len, was a forward who played in 184 NHL games with Philadelphia, Florida, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles Kings. Len Barrie wound up his career with 19 goals and 45 assists.
Tyson Barrie actually was a forward until his teen years, which he credits for his moves now.
“If you grow up a defenseman your whole life, you’re not working on the toe drag or beating guys on offense,” said Barrie, who’s a native of Victoria, British Columbia. “I always did that. I always made sure to really try to enjoy that part when I was playing hockey. I think it shows in the way I play. I like scoring and trying to beat guys one-on-one and stuff.”
Even with his switch to the blue line, his offensive skills remain firmly entrenched. He was the scoring leader among defensemen in each of his four full junior seasons with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League. The Avalanche selected the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Barrie in the third round of the 2009 draft.
He’s been assisting with the scoring load ever since. He became the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history earlier in the season, passing John-Michael Liles. Barrie has 75 goals in the regular season along with 232 assists.
“He’s developed a skill-set to be an offensive threat on the ice,” Landeskog said. “He’s getting rewarded for it.”
To be clear: Barrie doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities for the sake of sneaking into the offensive play. He’s developed a knack to know just when to rush into a play.
“Some of the plays he makes, they’re not high-risk plays, but he’s up the ice and making an impact offensively,” coach Jared Bednar said. “Just good decisions on when to shoot, when to hang on. He’s getting pucks through to the net and been highly competitive on the defensive side of things, too, just his gaps and breaking up plays. He’s more physical down low.
“You can tell it matters to him — winning matters. He’s playing his hardest every night to make an impact in the game.”
Barrie had five assists against Calgary, including three in the series clincher. He also helped shut down Flames standout Johnny Gaudreau.
In Game 2 against San Jose, he had two assists to go with his goal.
“He’s been really good,” Bednar said. “He’s certainly been a guy down the stretch that’s getting better and better. In the playoffs, he’s taken it to a whole new level.”
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