Folks, I'm thrilled to welcome Caroline to the OTF writing crew for this season. You know her already as OTF's busiest commenter, and after lending a hand as a moderator last season, she's going to provide her signature, detailed analysis of some of the key plays from recent Predators games. See, those Enforcers can indeed work their way up the depth chart! - Dirk
So hey guys! I never thought I'd be here... and yet here I am. Big shout-out to Dirk for letting me climb aboard and start writing. I'm really excited to add another angle to OtF. Have no fear though, I'm definitely not abandoning my enforcing duties. I'm watching, so all you ruffians out there better behave!
As some of you know, towards the mid-end of last season, I started writing for another blog. I picked a few goals from each game and broke them down to show exactly where the Predators went right and wrong. It was fun looking at goals from every game, but it was really time consuming, it kept me up late, and I got stuck looking at the same mistakes over and over. In hopes of fixing those problems, I'm going to write on a weekly basis instead, picking a few of the goals from a few of the games that week. This also gives me the opportunity to reach out to you guys. If there are ever any requests, I'm happy to take them. If there is a particularly stupid/frustrating/ridiculous or weird/confusing/spectacular goal that you want me to break down, email me or mention it in the post-game thread for that game. This should get smoother as I get into the swing of things.
If you read nothing else in this post, please read this:
I'm doing this for you guys. I love writing this stuff, and I'm doing it for OtF. That being said, I'd really love to get some feedback on this. I covered three goals because it seemed like a solid number. Is it too much for one post? Would you rather have more? Is it perfect? I also tried to explain some of the things that I, as a player, immediately noticed, and thought that non-players might not immediately consider, like the weird issue of Ryan Suter's initial positioning as a lefty in the first goal (see below), or Ryan Ellis' communication in this earlier bit (see paragraphs under the first picture). Is that kind of thing interesting to read about? Is that stuff you actually wouldn't have noticed/considered, or am I not giving you enough credit? I honestly want to make sure you guys find this interesting, so any and all thoughts, ideas, suggestions, critiques, likes, dislikes, and loving praise will be accepted.
This week was massively disheartening, so I'm going to try to be NOT sad in my first post. I can't guarantee the same thing for next week.
January 22: Predators vs. Wild (3-1)
Preds: Martin Erat (2) on Nicklas Backstrom
This starts off as a 4-on-4 in the defensive zone, as Mikko Koivu tries to set up a scoring opportunity by sending the puck behind the net to Zach Parise, who is being watched by Roman Josi. Nick Spaling has his head on a swivel, sees someone coming into the zone behind him, and is going to switch places with Martin Erat to continue to cover that guy, which will give Marty a grand opportunity.
Welcome, Voldemort. Here is Minnesota's problem: Voldemort is too low. I see what he's doing, and it sorta makes sense, but not really. First of all, he is a lefty. I am also a lefty, which is why this caught my attention. Please consider for a moment the current positions and angles of these three things in relation to each other: Voldemort, Parise, net. Finished? That is a seriously awkward shooting angle. As a player, I feel uncomfortable just looking at it. Unless he's planning on simply redirecting the pass instead of shooting (which, granted, is possible), I'm not sure why he's this low and at this completely useless of an angle. Second of all, see where Spals is? He has single-handedly removed all of Voldemort's time and space. There is no way V. can adjust for a quality shot before Spals will get to him. Third of all, V. has left control of the blue line up to one dude. He's gambling that Jared Spurgeon (out of picture) won't screw anything up, because if he does (spoiler alert), Marty is gonna have a spectacularly clean break away. I'm not at all against a defenseman dropping low and into the play, but Voldemort has nothing to offer Parise right now by dropping this low... so I don't know why he's doing it. He'd be better off to just back up closer to the boards, giving Spurgeon an outlet pass.
Amazingly enough, Marty somehow manages to see that Parise is passing the puck right up his alley, and pokes it out of the way. Also amazingly enough, Spurgeon decides that he's gonna go for it... fully aware that Voldemort has dropped low... and that there is no one behind him if he misses the puck... and that Marty could get a breakaway... But hey - why not risk it all when you're tied in the last half of the third period, right?
I really wanted to photoshop them onto horses so it looked like they were jousting.
Gotta give Nicklas Backstrom credit for doing this, because his other option is to let Marty have a full-blown breakaway. It's ballsy, but it's probably the better alternative.
Of course, the only problem with racing a charging forward for the puck is that if you aim poorly and clear the puck right into said forward, there ain't a whole lot of defense between him and the net once he gets past you... the goalie. I have to give half unhappy credit to Voldemort for hauling himself down the ice that fast, and half joyful credit to him for doing that, because now he gets to witness the following:
Thank you, Ryan, for making Barry smile. I will keep this gif forever and ever.
Here is the Minnesota goal, for your viewing pleasure:
January 26: Predators vs. Ducks (2-3 SO)
Preds: Brandon Yip (1) on Some Dude Playing His 1st NHL Game
I commissioned a poem just for this goal. Credit goes to 3DLink, because DAMN.
The Redemption of Brandon Yip
The stick of Brandon Yip is built of fear and of fire
The puck flew out in front like a spark on a wire
Yip crashed down ice, our much maligned golden tiger
Then with Smithson-like grace he dodged Fowler with a slider
The wrist shot flew out, truer than an Englishman's arrow
Poor Fasth was screened by Clune, a tower of muscle and marrow
The Swede makes the stop, but downwards Yip bore
Again his stick found the puck, and holy shit did Yip score?
This took place immediately after a face off, which explains the awkward positioning of all six players in the defensive zone. Rickard Rakell (dat name) wins the face off back to Cam Fowler, who is immediately hassled by Brandon Yip and Rich Clune. He passes over to Bryan Allen, but not well, as the puck leaves the zone. As Allen fumbles with it, it bounces off either his or the referee's skate (I can't tell which) and careens into the neutral zone. Yip is all over it.
Here, we have Yip charging after the puck. Also, Clune not fighting anyone.
Unfortunately you can't watch the drag Yip's about to do around the floundering Fowler, but it's pretty sweet.
Of major note here is my confusion and serious disproval of whatever the heck Fowler is doing. Here are the steps you take as a defenseman during a 2-on-1. First: Who are the two? Datsyuk/Zetterberg or Crosby/Malkin differs significantly from Yip/Clune or Thing 1/Thing 2. You end up doing the same thing regardless, but it's important to know what you're up against. Blocking a shot is much different than getting dangled out of your jock strap. Second: Find the guy without the puck. YOU ARE NOW BEST FRIENDS WITH THAT GUY. Third: Let your goalie save a clear and unblocked shot. That's It. Fowler took himself completely out of the play, allowing his goalie to get partially screened and Yip to find his own rebound. Because he had to lay down. The 10-year-olds I coach know better.
Anyway. Yip gets around Fowler, who now gets to watch the whole shebang, and Clune sidles up to the goalie, resisting the urge to fight him. Yip shoots, and the rebound comes flying out between Clune's feet. Of marginal interest here, the Anaheim announcers decided this was an accurate call of the play: "Here's Erat, his first save as a dandy, and then the rebound..."
O_o ...wut? They do later correct themselves, but there are so many weird things happening in that sentence.
All hail the Yip-Shot!
Watch the Yip-Shot here:
January 28: Predators vs. Coyotes (0-4)
Coyotes: Nick Johnson (1), assisted by Keith Yandle (4) and Derek Morris (4) on Pekka Rinne
There was so much bad this week that it was impossible to ignore. It took me a while to decide which goal I hated the most, and I stumbled upon this one. There are many others that were just as frustrating, but I picked this one because it so perfectly demonstrates why I was so frustrated after our last game.
This is very similar to what happened to Minnesota, except this was 5-on-5, and the Predators handled it much better than the Wild did. Roman Josi is sneaking down behind the play and dropping low into the zone. I'm pretty sure no one is aware that he exists right now except for David Legwand, and David Morris sees him at the last minute. It's a fantastic move by Roman, and one of about three solid moves during this shift. He gets a gold star.
Also like the Minnesota goal, unfortunately, someone does figure out where the pass is going, and he tips it just out of the way. I bet $30 that if Derek Morris hadn't screwed with Leggy's pass, Roman would have scored right there. You can tell that Leggy is already aware of the fact that Roman missed the shot, and is going to be behind the play. He's upright, about to do a crossover (check the skates - the body and leg angle? That right leg is about to come up), and is going to book it back to cover for his teammate. This is the second good move that occurs during this shift. Leggy also gets a gold star.
Keith Yandle, who is a defenseman, gets past Nick Johnson (who had to turn 180 degrees before taking off, whereas Yandle just had to skate forward) and carries the puck into the neutral zone with Shane Doan on a 3-ish-on-2. Weber backed the heck up after Roman decided to drop down into the zone (third gold star), and therefore had time to transition and prepare for everything. Roman and Sergei Kostitsyn are booking it back down to their zone, and Gabby, who was down by the net, is on his way. So far so good.
Alright, pairing time! Weber has Yandle covered. Leggy has Doan nearby. I'm really not thrilled with his coverage of Doan, cause he sorta just lets him sit there, but Leggy is Leggy. He's not a very aggressive guy, and he's not a defenseman. He's doing the best he can, I guess. Roman has made it back quickly enough to pick up the fourth man in (Antoine Vermette), and Sergei SHOULD be covering Nick Johnson. The difference in Tits' body position between this picture and the last is really impressive, and not at all in a good way. He is HAULING in the other picture, and he is gliding here, when it really matters that he still be hauling. There's a tiny bit too much space for comfort between Josi and Vermette too, but at least he's less than a stick-length away from him. Tits is just watching this all go down, so guess where Yandle decides to put the puck?
Hey Gabs. So anyway, Leggy is way too far away from Doan for my immediate liking, but there are two things going on here. First, I think standing right on top of Doan just doesn't quite fit into his automated list of things to do in the defensive zone. Second, NO ONE is even NEAR BY Nick Johnson. So I guess at least he saw that and is kinda attempting to cover him. It's up for grabs whether it'd be better for Leggy to let Johnson get the shot off while covering Doan really carefully, or whether he should have fully committed to Johnson (which he sorta did, to the best of his ability) and just let things run as they did. Not sure the first option would have changed much, but I guess it's worth considering.
I'm not going to show the puck actually going into the net.
It's just too fresh.
And too sad.
But here it is:
Here's the big issue I had with this play, amongst all the others (and I can't even remember how bad some of the others were, but I did not enjoy watching them): This all comes down to backchecking and covering your man. I really am a fan of Sergei, but I'm getting reaaaaaaaally sick and tired of watching him float around, in both ends, doing nothing. And he isn't the only one I've seen do this. Others are guilty as well. But he does it a LOT. The only real reason this goal happened was because while Sergei Kostitsyn did get back fast enough to cover his man, he suddenly decided not to cover the LONE UNCOVERED MAN.
I truly do not understand.
I want to expect better things next week.
Is that so wrong?