Filip Forsberg has been shaking up headlines around the NHL recently and receiving more acknowledgement for his talent than possibly any other Nashville player in the history of the team (and I would still argue that he isn't getting as much recognition as he deserves). Ladies and gentlemen, we have someone special here. This kid is like nothing we have seen before in Nashville - even Alexander Radulov can't compare. Prince Filip is a highly intelligent player with incredible vision and foresight, and he has hands of silk. He is also currently a point-per-game player.
Only three rookies in the past ten years have been able to maintain that level of production (1.00 P/G) for the entirety of their rookie season: Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby. Does Filip Forsberg have what it takes to join the ranks of the few and the elite? Considering what we have seen from him game-in and game-out this year, I say it's possible. Filip Forsberg has shown us a sleekness and consistency in his game that is rarely found in anyone, never mind a 20 year old Swedish rookie.
He is Prince Filip.
He is super-special.
Let's watch him score.
Nashville's 6th goal: Filip Forsberg (9) on James Reimer from Shea Weber (5) and Mike Ribeiro (11).
Man this just gets more beautiful every time I watch it.
To refresh your memories and set the scene for this goal, please note the following:
- It's the very beginning of the 3rd period and Toronto's play has been absolutely revolting for the last 41 minutes (they probably had a 14 seconds of good play hidden in there somewhere).
- McRibs scored less than 60 seconds ago (the 1st of 4 goals in 5 minutes)
- The Leafs took a line change after McRibs' goal; this is the first shift of the period for this line
- This is the Leafs' top forward line (Kessel-Kadri-JVR) and one of their top defensive lines (Gardiner-Polak)
Seth Jones is breaking the Preds out of their zone and Toronto already looks kinda bad. (But don't worry - it gets a lot worse!) Kadri and JVR are both all over Jones, and Kessel clearly feels the attraction as well. Can't say I blame them; it must suck to not know what a good, young defenseman looks like. I'd want to see him up close too.
In all seriousness though, Jones skates right between Kadri and JVR, so Kessel steps up to pressure him. If he doesn't, no one will. Good move by Kessel. JVR was pretty lazy right before this frame (which is not included in the video, sorry); Jones skated right past him and JVR was close enough that if he put a lot more effort into harassing him for the puck, he might have dislodged it.
Like I said, this is the very first shift of the period for these guys so JVR certainly isn't tired. It's more likely that his give-a-damn is low on gas. I totally empathize with him on this, but you still have to make an effort.
Under pressure from Kessel, Jones passes the puck to Ribeiro. Jones then uses his body to do something incredibly smart: he stays right where he is and acts like a human shield between Kessel and Ribeiro. This allows Ribeiro to book it through the neutral zone unthreatened, which in turn gives Jones the time to make a safe line change. It's the little things that make a good player great. Jones is gonna be great one day.
As for the Leafs, everyone other than JVR (who, despite all appearances in this picture, is playing LW and should be with Neal), is in pretty good position and the play is developing smoothly. JVR has time to get back into position, so it shouldn't be too bad.
Aaaand this is where Leafs begin to break down. The first crack. I am all for knowing where the puck is, but damn, Leafs... I just so happened to catch a split second of JVR looking for Neal, but literally everyone (including him) is just watching the hell out of the puck for this entire sequence.
What I love being able to see in this shot is Filip and Mikey communicating. They're looking right at each other and making sure they both know what's about to happen. When you're going to make a move right inside the blue line, both players better know exactly what to do because if they don't... well, that's how turnovers happen.
Prince Filip swings around behind Ribs.
Every single Maple Leaf in the greater Toronto-land area looks on.
McRibs drops Filip the puck and peels away. Kessel and Polak are allowed to watch and harass Filip for the puck because they are right on top of him, but everyone else needs to pick up their crap and head out to do their damn jobs.
Credit where credit is due: JVR did check in on Neal again in the split second before this screen shot, so he is still aware of HJN for now.
Mike Ribeiro is going to take this opportunity to try to be the sneaky 3rd-man-high. If he times it well, he'll be able to glide down into the slot uncontested and give Filip a great passing option.
News about Filip Forsberg's talent is clearly getting around. I've never seen so many guys concerned about a single player in my life, and I've seen some crazy stuff. Now I wish I had added a green arrow for Riemer too, just for the aesthetics. For real though, this is like watching a Squirt game. Mustgetpuckmustgetpuckmustgetpuckmustgetpuck...
JVR has completely forgotten about Neal, and I'm not sure Jake Gardiner even knows about him. It's not like there's a ton of space for Filip to get Neal the puck right now, but I've seen weirder things happen and Neal has a boatload of room.
Kadri, as the center, is correctly following Polak and Forsberg towards the corner to support Polak if necessary.
Kessel is now disengaged from The Filip Chase and should remove his eyes from the puck and look around to find his new man is. (Hint: It's Ribeiro because Kessel is supporting Polak.) (Spoiler: He doesn't look (but he does glide in his general direction.))
Mike McRibs is enjoying how well his plan is working so far. Kessel should hypothetically be coming over to cover him, but he's taking his time and that's great for Ribs.
The sustained pressure of Polak and lack of passing options forces Filip to ring the puck around the boards up to Weber (not shown) and that jolts the Leafs back into reality. You know every single one of them turned to follow the puck, saw Neal standing there all alone, and went "Oh, $#@%!"
Meanwhile, Kessel and Kadri are in an uncomfortable position because of JVR. We'll see this a little better in the next picture, but now that Polak no longer needs his support, Kadri should go back to covering the slot, and therefore Ribs (so more or less where he is right now). But because JVR isn't doing his job, Kadri makes an executive decision and goes over to do it for him. Not a bad choice, honestly, as long as he communicates this with JVR. This leaves Kessel to either A) continue to play his regular position if JVR decides to start doing stuff and cover for Kadri or B) leave his position and start covering for Kadri if JVR continues to just stand there. You know he's hoping to god for Option A.
Oh this is going so well.
JVR does something productive for the first time this shift (Kadri's job), but only because Kadri skates across the whole damn zone to do the job that JVR never even started. This would leave Ribs uncovered, but as he's dropped down low in front of the net he is now Jake Gardiner's job. Gardiner half-glances at Ribs and then does approximately nothing.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Weber winds up, Ribs heads towards the slot, and Forsberg charges away from Polak and towards the net.
I know I've posted some pretty freaking big empty-space circles before (and once even came up with a name for such spaces), but I think this might be the biggest Zone of Oh Sh...! that I've ever highlighted. Seriously - that is a ton of space. That has to be like 2/3 of the ENTIRE ZONE that Ribs has all to himself.
Ribeiro manages to keep Weber's shot from breaking his ankle and somehow gets his stick on it instead. I think this tiny tip may have made all the difference for this goal because I don't know if Forsberg would have been able to redirect the puck into the net as cleanly if it was going much faster. Maybe he could have, but maybe not.
Let's finally get back to Forsberg, who aside from drawing every single Leaf onto one side of the ice, has now made it to the front of the net and is all alone with a puck flying at him. And guess what he does? Instead of awkwardly trying to get his stick around and put the puck in with his backhand, this kid deflects the damn puck in with his skate.
Here's a gif of this ridiculousness.
And here's another...
Toronto tried to wave the goal off and say that Filip kicked the puck into the net, but we knew all better. Eventually, they overruled the initial ruling and profusely apologized to Prince Filip on bended knee. (Or at least that's how it went down in my head.)
Here's to many more such goals from Prince Filip! May his reign be long and prosperous!