Wednesday night was one of the most intense and terrifying games I have ever watched, simply because I knew it was going to set the bar for the rest of the series. And what a game it was… and amongst all the chaos and confusion and discussion about Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg, amazing little Gabriel Bourque managed to score two goals out of the Predators’ three. I boarded the Gabwagon earlier this spring, and it has been a great ride! His second goal is on the docket today. The first goal we are going look at belongs to Tomas Holmstrom, who is lucky that Pekka Rinne’s glove had to sneeze, because other wise he might not have scored. Let’s get started!
Nashville’s 3rd Goal: Gabriel Bourque (2) on Jimmy Howard, assisted by Nick Spaling (1) and Patrick Hornquist (1).
The video angle of this goal is unfortunate in that it’s impossible to see what’s going on in the entire zone, but it’s fantastic in the sense that we can really appreciate Nick Spaling’s work ethic on this play. The only problem with it is that there are going to be a lot of players suddenly appearing in the screen shots (and one who literally pops up right in front of the camera), because of how narrow the view of the ice is.
The puck is dumped into the zone, and Brad Stuart and Nick Spaling goes barreling in after it. Stuart grabs control of the puck, and Spals refuses to let him walk away with it, so he checks him hard against the boards. Everyone always talks about the “importance of battling for the puck,” and “winning battles along the boards,” and that is exactly what we are about to see here – from a great angle where we can see all the dirty work.
After hitting Stuart, Spaling does his best to wriggle away and get the puck, but Hank Zetterberg shows up to ruin the moment. He scoops up the puck and starts to head directly behind the net. What he does not expect, however, is another Predator waiting to cut him off.
This image seems redundant, but I’m putting it up here so that you can see what Spaling and Stuart are up to. Stuart is losing his balance, and Spaling struggling to get to his feet (and is almost there).
WAH! It’s Huge Kronwall! Okay, now it’s too bad Kronwall’s head is in the way, because you can’t see the specifics of what’s going on in front of him. What’s most important, however, is very visible: Patrick Hornquist’s butt has seemingly grown out of the boards, and Zetterberg is cut out of the play. The angle of Horny’s hit (cutting him off with his hip) is much more effective than just hitting Zetterberg straight on for two reasons: (1) It takes Zetterberg totally out of the play by preventing his forward motion instead of just bouncing him off the boards, and (2) it allows Hornquist to still be an active participant in the play because his upper body isn’t occupied with the hit; he is facing the play, his stick is on the ice, and he can move the puck, even if it is just a tiny little bit… as in passing the puck to Nick Spaling (see: Horny’s assist on the play)!
So Horny gets Spaling the puck, and Stuart does an okay, but inadequate, job of covering his man. Spaling won the initial puck battle, Horny won the second puck battle, and Spaling has won the third puck battle. This is the point in which I wish I could see the rest of the ice, because it would be nice to know what’s going on out there. But someone’s about to show up, and his name is Gabby.
And Gabby is gonna put that puck right in the back of the net. Way to go, Gabby!
Detroit’s Second Goal (PP): Tomas Holmstrom (1) on Pekka Rinne, assisted by Kyle Quincy (1) and Valtteri Filppula (1).
So this was obviously a powerplay goal. The Wings are breaking in the zone, and the Predators are well-dispersed, with everyone about to pair up. Weber has Flip, Klein will end up having Quincy because Fisher is too far behind him to catch up, and Sergei has Holmstrom because Klein ends up having Quincy, and Fisher should pick up the trailer. We’re about to see Quincy pass the puck to Flip, who will officially get the puck deep into the zone.
The pairings are pretty clear here. Flip has passed the puck to Quincy, and Klein is directly on his way to cover him – his positioning is fine. If Quincy shoots, Rinne can see and stop the shot, and if he doesn’t shoot, Klein will have him covered. Fisher is keeping an eye on Hudler, but because it’s a penalty kill, you can’t play man-on-man; he’s fine. Because Sergei is so close to Holmstrom (and the guy is on a direct path to the net – look at him pumping his arms), he needs to be more cautious of him. He’s near him, but not really covering him… which might be okay any other time, but the guy is on a bee-line for the net and Klein is preoccupied by Quincy. If Sergei doesn’t cover Holmstrom, he’s going to be in the perfect position for that back-door goal-play (FORESHADOWING!).
So Quincy gets the puck and chucks it on goal. Rinne does indeed see it, and makes a fantastic toe save, which inevitably results in a rebound. There are two potential issues about to arise: (1) Fisher isn’t covering Hudler very well, and (2) Sergei has gotten caught behind Holmstrom, so (3) any rebounds are gonna be popping out RIGHT in front of them.
Oh hey look, there’s the rebound! Fish and Sergei suddenly realize they aren’t covering their guys well…
And Rinne’s glove couldn’t have picked a worse time to sneeze. This is usually a pretty generic glove save from Pekka – we’ve come to expect him to save these, but we also have to remember that the guy IS human. Sometimes things happen, and I’m going to blame the glove for sneezing, and, in that moment, missing the puck as it flew by. I’m mostly going to blame Sergei, though, because he should have been covering the guy RIGHT NEXT TO HIM to was on a BEE-LINE FOR THE NET. Maybe it’s because Sergei’s defensive skills aren’t the best, but it’s still pretty basic stuff to cover your man – especially when you’re down a guy.
It’s important stuff.
Game 2 tonight… GO PREDATORS!