One is a gap-tooth antagonist who will mix it up with anyone. The other is a calm, stoic positionally-sound defender who blocks shots. Together, they comprise the Islanders' shut-down defensive pairing.
Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald have drawn a lot of assignments thus far in this series against the Penguins' top two lines. The duo was a big reason Sidney Crosby (above with Hamonic) and Evgeni Malkin were limited to four even-strength shots combined in yesterday's 5-4 overtime win for the Penguins.
Today, the duo, which was partly responsible for snapping Crosby's career-best 28-game scoring streak in 2010-11 in a 2-1 overtime win Dec. 29, 2010, talked about their pairing as well as playing Crosby and Malkin.
What makes you work as a pairing?
Hamonic - "Maybe playing so much? It’s our third year playing together. We have a good friendship off the ice and I think that really carries over as to why we have a good chemistry on the ice. It just seems like a lot of times we talk but a lot of times we’re not talking. We just kind of know where each other is going to be and how we’re going to play certain plays and certain players. We’ve had ups and downs as a pair but I think we both like to raise our levels in big games."
MacDonald - "They put us together right from the get go when Travis came into the league. He’s a physical strong player. He skates real well with a good shot. I think we established early on a communication that was important for us, especially in the defensive zone."
Are they're any difference in your duties individually?
Hamonic - "Andrew plays a little more on the power play than I do and he does a great job of getting his shot through. I think he’s deceptive out there. I think defensively we’re both pretty sound. Defensively, we match up against their best players most of the time. That’s the challenge that I think we both like. We’re both very competitive. As a pair, we don’t want to get beat. We really take it to heart when we get beat or something happens. I don’t think there’s very many similarities. I know I like to bring the physical edge. I think we feed off each other very well."
MacDonald - "As defensemen, your job is to shut down opposing team’s forwards and play solid defense in your defensive zone. I think generally everyone’s job is going to be the same. Some guys might have a different style or ways of doing it. For the most part, especially in the playoffs, you have to play physical, especially on their skill guys."
Is it fair to say Hamonic is the chippier half of the pairing?
Hamonic - Speaking for myself, I really do enjoy the physical side of the game. I think I’ve got the body type that I can battle with those forwards in the corner. There are some guys who want to engage and some guys that don’t want to engage as much. I’m think I’m one of those guys who really likes it. That’s part of my game. That’s part of what makes me click.
MacDonald (right) - I’d say Travis is a bit more physical than I am. That’s a big part of his game I think. You could tell he was getting under [Malkin’s] skin a little bit yesterday. He plays the body really well. He’s big and strong and skates well. He’s using his tools to his advantage and playing his game. I think for myself personally, I try to be physical when I can and try to pick my spots. I might be a bit more appositionally aware because I’m not as physical.
How much pride do you have in being assigned against a team's top line more often than not?
Hamonic - Oh a ton. We really do. Everyone’s got their role on this team. For us, that’s our job. We wake up, we come to the rink and we know what we have to do and we talk about it. We talk about different players their tendencies and how we’re going to play against them. I think myself and him take a lot of pride in playing hard against those guys. They’re going to get their chances. Some of the best players in the world, they’re going to get an opportunity to do their thing but you want to limit where they’re getting their opportunities from and how often they’re getting them.
MacDonald - "It’s a challenge we take on. It’s really nice to know the coaches have that kind of faith in you and the confidence for you to go out there and try to do your duty against players of that caliber. I think we talk about it before games or during the game even about little adjustments we need to make. It’s a challenge we welcome on. We really relish the fact that the coaches have that type of faith in us."
What's different about defending Crosby versus Malkin?
Hamonic - "There’s similarities. Malkin’s a bigger guy and I think he likes to engage a little more physically in the corners where in my opinion, Crosby is a little more harder to hit in the corners. He has a lot of stops and starts. He’s so explosive that you’ve go watch him. You can’t go right at him when he’s sitting in the corner because a lot of times he’s going to roll off your check. They’re both smart players. They’re going to hurt you in different ways."
MacDonald - "They’re similar and they’re different. They both protect the puck well. They’re strong on the puck. They can both shoot and they can both pass. There’s a lot of similarities between the two. I think personally it’s just about doing what you have to do to get the job done. Whether it’s one or the other, I think you just have to play them physical whenever can. You can’t really run at them because they’re good at spinning off and eluding you. When you can and you have that time to finish a hit on them, I think it’s important to let them know that you're there."
(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images and Andy Marlin/Getty Images)