We’ve all heard the term “coach’s player”, the guys that are gritty, relentless, don’t make many mistakes that compromise the team, and make big plays at times. While that does sound like a third of the Predators roster, coach Trotz does have a few fine examples of when he has a favorite player. One clear cut example is when Colin Wlson, who had a decent season and was a good playmaker at times, was benched for most of the playoffs in favor of Matt Halischuk.
Halischuk is a tough customer, who has a knack for scoring tough goals and making something out of nothing, was on the receiving end of a slick pass from Cal O’Reilly. Combining their efforts into one smart hockey play, this goal proved to be the difference.
Going into the third period, the Predators had the momentum by snatching the lead back towards the end of the second. In the first minute of the third period, the Preds had cleared a rush into the Columbus zone. Halischuk was on the forecheck with O’Reilly trailing. Nothing exciting, actually this was pretty predictable and standard… but maybe that contributed to the downfall.
Fedor Tyutin, who probably still clutches his jaw whenever he sees Shea Weber on the ice, gets a little sloppy with the puck deep in his own end. Halischuk simply follows his fundamentals and blocks his pass with the tip of his stick. Even RED GREEN tells you every time to keep your stick on the ice. This is why. The pass ricochets over to a waiting Cal O’Reilly, who can also be referred to as a player with solid awareness. Couple with his vision is a very good set of passing skills. Remember his slick dangle to Colin Wilson last year against Detroit? I sure as heck do.
From there, Halischuk watches O’Reilly for the next move, and very fluid. Nothing fancy here, but it’s good fundamental hockey. This is Lane Lambert, Peter Horachek, and Trotz coaching for years at work here with O’Reilly’s pass. Halischuk doesn’t have to do much with it, but opts for the backhand to further confuse Mason. Steve Mason may not be the Cadillac of young goaltenders, but he can stop most things he sees. The trouble with the backhand shot is that it is the hardest to see on the release point, and hardest to predict the destination.
All in all, a very solid hockey play and one we would like to see repeated several times this year. Halischuk has shown he’s willing to take abuse for goals, much like Patric Hornqvist, and does possess some decent skills with elevating the puck. O’Reilly needs triggermen around him to be used at his full potential, having guys like Erat, Kostitsyn, Hornqvist and Halischuk around doesn’t hurt his game at all. He makes slick passes to people in good position. More plays like this could spell out some very good things for the guys in gold.