Hello everyone! This is my very first post for PredLines, so I think I’ll share a little bit about myself before diving into the goals from last night. My name is Caroline, and I’m a graduate student living in Boston. I grew up in Nashville, where I started both playing and watching hockey. I’ve been involved with the game for 16 years years now; I played in the NYHL before graduating to the GNASH high school league (and simultaneously finding time to play girls’ travel hockey), but now I just play during the summer. I’m looking for a rec league up in Boston, though, so I should be playing again next fall! I love the Predators and follow them very closely, so it’s quite a privilege to be contributing to a blog like PredLines.
That being said, I want to briefly address the topic of my articles, because many post-game articles focus on analysis of the game itself. I like reading that kind of thing, but it’s far too broad of a subject for my liking when it comes to writing… my analysis would end up being like Alex Radulov on the ice (that is to say, everywhere). Because of that, I’ve decided to focus on the goals scored in each game instead. I got the idea when I saw Justin Bourne’s Systems Analyst articles, and this seems like the perfect place to do a Predators version. Here, we will look at who was where, when, why, what were they doing, and how they impacted the play. This will provide a more in-depth understanding of each goal, and will help Preds fans better appreciate what was happening on the ice. Most games, I’ll pick one or two goals against, but because this was a low scoring game (and this is my first post), I’ll do both. Let’s get started, shall we?
First Goal: Gabriel Bourque (7G) on Niklas Backstom, assisted by Nick Spaling (11A).
This goal ended up being quite telling, even though it wasn’t the game winner: the Preds’ win percentage when scoring first is second in the NHL at 82.5% (Boston is first, at 85.3%). Let’s set it up.
The video cuts in pretty quickly here, but the Wild are currently trying to transition out of their defensive zone. It’s a little squished, and there aren’t many outlets (as you are about to see). Mikko Koivu has the puck and is sandwich-pressured by Marty Erat and Gabby Bourque at the blue line. Now, the video cuts in right as Koivu is about to pass the puck, so it’s difficult to see, but it is at this point that I believe Koivu made a questionable decision. Instead of saucer-passing the puck to the oh-so-attractive Tom Gilbert over Martin Erat’s stick, Koivu shunts the puck down to his defenseman Clayton Stoner. There are a couple things to note here.
- Tom Gilbert is a defenseman. I’m not sure where right winger Devin Setoguchi is, but he isn’t where he’s supposed to be (providing an outlet to the scrunched-up Koivu and Co.), and this forces Gilbert to swing up and pretend to play wingman for a shift.
- Mikko Koivu either doesn’t see Gilbert (which I doubt), or doesn’t trust Gilbert (who is new to the Wild) to handle the puck well against Preds defensemen Roman Josi and Hal Gill, because he passes the puck to Stoner. This is an unfortunate choice. If Koivu passes to Gilbert, the guy is totally free: there are exactly ZERO Preds forwards nearby (all three are on one side of the ice, and boy are they lucky they didn’t get screwed doing that), and the closest one (Erat) is facing the other direction. Gilbert could have, at the very least, dumped the puck into the offensive zone for Koivu to go chase before he settled back on defense.
- Who does Koivu think is going to be Stoner’s outlet pass once he gets the puck??? Spals and Gabby are both clearly closer to Stoner than he is, so Koivu himself won’t be an option. Heatly is in an awkward (and rather useless) position on the boards. Spals or Gabby will cover him. Gilbert is a defenseman pretending to play forward who will hopefully be covered (to some degree) by Martin Erat. Setoguchi is totally absent from the screen so he’s probably not available either. His best guess is Gilbert, but even that isn’t guaranteed. If he’s going to get it to Gilbert eventually anyway, why not just cut out the middle man and do it himself? Huh.
Well, Koivu makes his choice and takes off. Gilbert is totally out of the screen, and Gabby is clearly trying to cut off that passing lane anyway. Heatley starts to power his way outta there (see that crossover?), assuming Stoner’s got it all together. And then Stoner stone-hands the pass and loses it in his skates. This is going well for the Wild. They have two guys near the puck, one of whom is not in a great position, and one of whom doesn’t even have control of the puck that was passed to him. I’m not certain Setoguchi even exists during this shift, Koivu is heading the other way, and Tom Gilbert is trying to play wing. Woohoo. Let’s let Spals begin his adventure towards greatness.
So now we have the potential for a man-on-man situation. Stoner should be in charge of Spals, and Heatley should be covering the open man (Gabby Bourque). Instead, Stoner loses the race with Spals to the puck he bungled, and Heately meanders down the ice to go chill with them for a bit. Gabby hangs out all alone.
Now, this is the picture that really makes me wonder where the heck Invisi-guchi was, because if he had been around, Tom Gilbert wouldn’t have had to go do Seto’s job, and he would have been here to cover Gabby. Unfortunately for them, and happily for us, that didn’t happen. The one thing that is seriously impressive about this picture is the distance between Spals and Stoner. Go look at the previous picture, then back to this one. Does Stoner have stone legs?? Why isn’t he a good couple of feet closer? I understand he lost and was looking for the puck, and transitioning isn’t the fastest thing in the world, but that is a BIG distance. Heatley, by the way, is still just chilling. Nice extension in his leg, though. You gotta stretch your leg all the way out like that – that’s what makes you a great skater. Okay anyway, on to the finale:
Ta-da! Spaling whips the puck back to Gabby. Backstrom is caught unaware by an uncovered Predator, and Gabby feasts. Stoner and Heatley have front row seats, and Gilbert watches from afar. Well done, Preds.
Second Goal: Danny Heatley (23G) on Anders Lindback, assisted by Nate Prosser (11A) and Mikko Koivu (31).
The beginning of this goal is a little screwball of importance, so let’s look at that before moving on to the actual goal.
The puck is dumped into the Predators’ zone and ends up behind Anders in net. The Preds are playing man on man, so Weber has Heatley, Suter has Setoguchi, Fisher has Koivu, and Marty and Sergei have the defensemen. Now, what happens behind the net is basically a toss-up that the Predators lost. There are four guys in a tiny space looking for one object and fighting each other for it. Obviously someone is going to leave upset.
I’ll spoil the ending: in this sequence, WebHeatSutSeto (I’m not typing all their names out again) all converge on the right corner of Anders’ net, and Weber gets annoyed with Heatley, so he plows him over right as the puck comes free (Koivu poked it). Setoguchi squeaks around a fallen Heatley to nab the puck, and Suter can’t get around Heatley unless he leaps over him. Suter goes in front of the net.
Heatley is just now up off the ice (3 seconds later… Weber ain’t nuthin’ to fool with). Meanwhile, Setoguchi has flung himself around the net and slammed the puck off the far post. Suter really had to move his butt across the net (atta boy) and is still with Seto, his original man-on-man player, even if he couldn’t get there in time to block the shot. Suter eventually gives up possession of Setoguchi to Sergei because, mysteriously, there is no left defenseman for Sergei to cover (you’ll see). The puck heads to the wall, where Koivu and Fish take off after it. Let’s talk about Marty really quickly. There was zero reason for him to be that low. If the Preds are playing man-on-man (hint: they are), he has left his man completely open. This will be a problem.
SO suddenly all the Wild players do a magic trick and disappear. Seriously… this is not a penalty kill. Heck, they are in their offensive zone! They have all five guys available to be on the ice. I’m not sure where they all are, but maybe this explains why the Wild haven’t been too hot for most of the season… it helps to have at least ONE of your players in or around the slot area. Oh well, they’re going to score anyway. Let’s just get on with it. Fish is covering Koivu, Weber still has his eye on the terrified Heatley, and Suter is floating because… well… again… there’s NO ONE THERE. Marty is finally moving his butt up to the blue line. Sergei is off at the blue line hypothetically covering a player. But I’m not sure. Now, here’s where Marty’s earlier positioning becomes a problem. Before, he was between the hashmarks. Now, he’s not even at the top of the circle. Had he been at the full top of the circle by now, it would be able to cut off both passes he’s trying to block (which is really only one pass – you’ll see in just a second), and also be able to prevent Koivu from cutting towards the center of the ice. Unfortunately, that’s not where Marty is, so despite Fish’s efforts to keep Koivu to the wall (which need to be more aggressive), the guy gets the pass off… to the man Marty is supposed to be covering. About Fish, quickly – this is not a penalty kill. In fact, I don’t even see most of the Wild players. You can go attack the guy. Try and get him off the puck. It’s okay! This is probably the deciding factor for this goal: Mike Fisher watches Mikko Koivu wander up the boards, with the puck, and doesn’t try to go get the puck.
Moving on to the goal…
Here we have a clear view of what’s going on. Weber still has Heatley, Fish is peeling off from Koivu, Marty was slightly too late to Prosser, who was able to get the eventually-deadly shot off, and Sergei has Setoguchi, allowing Suter to help down low (except that no help is really needed). Let’s stop right now and ask a much needed question: WHERE is the 5th Wild player? He’s gone. I have no idea where he is, or if he was ever there. This is bizarre to me. The Play-by-Play shows the same two defensemen on the ice, and even if you’re tired after a 20 second shift and are in the offensive zone, you stay. 20 seconds isn’t that long, not to mention that you haven’t had to do quite literally anything for the last 10 seconds. Unless you are bleeding from every orifice, plant your butt on the blue line. It’s too bad that this didn’t matter for the Preds, but it’s still weird enough to be worth pointing out.
Anyway, Prosser gets the shot off because Marty wasn’t quite quick enough to get there (I wouldn’t blame this whole thing on Erat, but he can take part of the blame; the rest goes to Fish), and even though Weber has Heatley tied up as best he can, Heater gets the tip of his blade on the puck and angles it in. Other than preventing the Wild from getting the puck in the first place (which kind of starts behind the net, but really comes down to Fisher not being aggressive enough on the boards), and possibly Weber snowplowing Heater out of Anders’ way so he can see the shot better (much easier said that done), there isn’t a whole lot the Preds could have done on this. It’s a fantastic tip by Dany Heatley.
I still just want to know where the 5th Wild guy is……
Third Goal (Shootout): Alexander Radulov (3G) on Niklas Backstrom.
There are no words for this, and I’m not even going to try to describe it. I’ll let Raddles do that for me, and then you can watch the glory that IS Alex Radulov:
“Well, I just see the way [Backstrom] play, I was a little bit lucky on that too… I was going up there and usually I try to go fast, but here I knew I could lose the puck because the ice was kind of slowing down [the puck]. He went down, and I just try to put it on top of him, and I think it hit something, like his stick or blocker, and went in. I was a little bit lucky, but I’ll take that.” – Alex Radulov
Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to embed a video yet, so until I learn, here’s the link to the video. Enjoy!