I Know No Sadness Today – All I Do is WIN.

I’ve been searching for the right words to begin this post. It’s hard. I think a friend of mind put it perfectly last night when he said that there were no words to adequately describe our emotions. You know what happened, I know what happened, and we both know the feeling; let’s not ruin it by putting it into words. It was beautiful.

April 20, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Alexander Radulov (47) reacts to a Predators goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period in game five of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators beat the Red Wings 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

Anyway, last night, Gabby Bourque, Alexander Radulov, and David Legwand were unstoppable. They had a total of 9 (nine!) shots on goal, they were all +2, and they combined for 5 points on 2 goals (2G, 3A). They also created tons of excellent scoring chances, they hustled all over the ice, and they flustered the hell out of the Red Wings. For a more broad perspective of their productivity, let’s look at the entire series (despite the fact that they did not always play together). The Nashville Predators racked up 33 total points (13G, 20A) in 5 games. These three gentlemen were the top three producers on the entire team, with a combined 13 points (6G, 7A). That means that 40% of our points came from these three guys. Now we all know that Pekka Rinne pretty much won us this series, but let’s pretend he doesn’t exist for 10 seconds (sorry Pekka!). With Rinne out of the picture, I would say that Leggy, Gabby, and Raddles Won (yes, capital “W”) us this series. They definitely Won us that game. I dare you to convince me otherwise. Pekka Rinne was outstanding, but we don’t score without LGR. Okay, you can come back now, Pekka. Heck, I noticed that line every single time they were on the ice, and I usually have a hard time paying attention to who’s on what line. These guys terrorized the Red Wings. In Detroit LGRW might stand for Let’s Go Red Wings, but in Nashville LGRW stands for Leggy, Gabby, Raddles, Winning (a pity-smirk is fine; I don’t deserve a pity-laugh for that one).

I know the Red Wings scored a goal, but I refuse to have any sad moments in here today, so we’re only looking at the Predators goals. LGRW ARE GO! (Oh, and the theme today is why giving people too much time and space on the ice is not a good idea.)

Predators 1st Goal: Alexander Radulov (1) on Jimmy Howard, assisted by David Legwand (2) while Gabriel Bourque supervised and applauded.

The Goal.

Alrighty, Preds are breaking into Detroit. Gabby has the puck, and is covered by Justin Abdelkmnop (TGIF), while Leggy and Raddles hang out near the blue line. TGIF has cut off Gabby’s passing lane to Leggy, but Gabby already knows that both Quincy and Ericsson could easily jump on that puck and take it back down into the Predators zone, so he isn’t going to do that. Instead, he decides to dump it past Radulov and Miller on the boards, and into the zone. Dump and chase might not be our favorite strategy, but hey… it’s better than nothing, and it does work.

There goes the puck, and there goes Leggy, chasing after it like it’s a brand new tooth. Quincy is ahead of Legwand, so it’s his responsibility to get to the puck first and safely guide it out of the zone. Ericsson’s responsibility is to be an outlet man for Quincy once he gets to that puck, because at this point the Predators aren’t exactly breaking into the zone anymore. That means Detroit can break it out. Why aren’t the Preds exactly breaking into the zone at the moment? Well, two of the three forwards are a bit preoccupied: (1) Gabby just got hit by TGIF and taken out of the play. (2) Radulov seems to be holding Miller’s hand and while Miller encourages him to cross the blue line. “It’s okay, Alex!” That’s so kind of him.

So the puck goes into the corner, and this now looks like a heavily offensive forecheck instead of a break in. Legwand really wants the puck. Ericsson and Quincy are clearly communicating; their heads are turned, they are looking right at each other, and they have just planned their next move. They know who’s doing what, and who’s going where. Just because there’s no better time, I would like to point out that the set up for this goal is spectacularly similar to Legwand’s two goals one real goal and one disallowed goal from Game 4 in Detroit. He has been excellent at snagging pucks in this area of the ice recently!

Camera shift! This is actually a rather helpful view because we can see what’s going on behind the play. Subter (Suter + Weber; it fit better than both names) are hanging out down ice. Gabby and TGIF still seem a bit tangled up from the hit, but Gabby is getting to his feet (I assume, at least; he’s just kind of a gold blob from here). Radulov finished crossing the blue line, and is merrily skipping into the zone alone. Wait… alone? Miller, where are you? Raddles is your man! Hmm. Maybe he’s helping Gabby and TGIF cross the blue line too? Come on, who are you? Detroit Boarder Patrol??? Cover your own guy! Plus, isn’t he the one all you Red Wings were upset about coming back into the NHL anyway? Who knows. In the meantime, Todd “Ping Pong” Bertuzzi is literally coasting into the zone (I just double-checked this going frame-by-frame). He just glides on in. With Alex Radulov all alone in front of him. Solid effort. Quincy has now reached and gained possession of the puck, and Ericsson is curling off to go behind the net as an outlet man. Let’s get a little detailed for a second.

Ericsson is too close to Quincy. It’s a very short pass between the two, and Legwand could probably pick that off (HMMMM….!). If he’s going to go behind the net, he should have cut a much closer path than this. That would have allowed him to still be nearby Quincy if help was needed, but far enough away from Legwand to prevent the interception of any passes. The sooner Ericsson heads behind the net, the sooner Quincy can ring the puck around the boards, and the sooner Legwand can’t get to that puck because it was passed away from him sooner. Speed and positioning are crucial. You always want to present yourself as the best outlet pass possible, so that means getting yourself both as open and as far away as you can safely be from the puck carrier. This is a tiny detail, but it would have made a WORLD of difference (by which I mean, this goal would not have happened).

Credit to @CapstoneIII for recreating the image with a ping-pong table (http://twitpic.com/9bd2u0).

Oh, this is a fun picture! (Make sure to check out the caption for image credit and a link to the original, hilarious image.) So let’s look at the big blue circle in front of the goalie first. Normally, having no one in front of the goalie like this is fine, but the problem here is twofold: (1) There’s a lurking Predator, and (2) Quincy turns the puck over. This scenario is very different from the inset image in the sense that it’s a defensive zone breakout gone poorly for the Wings, and not an offensive rush by the Preds, but it’s similar in the sense that not controlling the puck when there’s a lot of nearby empty ice has dire consequences.

  • In the inset, Martin Erat controls the puck, but the far-left stooge DID have a chance to take it back, or at the very least control what Erat could do with it (by which I mean stickcheck more aggressively, skate at him a little harder, etc.). Stooge-Left gave up control of the puck (per se) in that situation right by the net, and Erat and Klein took advantage of all the time and space they had been given. Goal.
  • Here, Quincy had inital control of the puck, but made a really weak pass and pretty much handed it over to Leggy. Right by the net. Leggy has all the time and space in the world.

If your entire team is not in the zone, a play has not been set up, and man-on-man roles have not yet been established (e.g., during a forecheck, odd-man rushes, one team is changing lines on the fly), you can bet that there is going to be a big clearing of open ice somewhere. That is one of the most dangerous times to turn over the puck, because there’s empty ice around, and no one is there…. yet. You don’t want to the puck floating around alone. As we are about to see.

цель! (That means goal in Russian.) I am quite curious about where Miller is right now… TGIF and Ping-Pong have managed to get back into the zone, so why hasn’t Miller? Radulov was his man, originally. He should be busting his ass to cover him – especially with how talented Alex Radulov is with the puck. Maybe he and Gabby got tangled up from that hit, or got into a shoving match or something? Maybe he was preparing for a full breakout? He should have been covering for the center in that scenario, though, and cruising through the middle of the zone as an outlet man for the defensemen (Bertuzzi was behind the play, and TGIF on the boards, so he would just cover the middle even if it wasn’t his normal job). I’m honestly not sure. It seems like he should at least be in the picture, even if he can’t get back fast enough to fully cover Radulov. But instead, Raddles has almost the entire zone to himself, and has no problem whipping it right over Howard’s shoulder. While I’d love to blame most of this on Miller, Quincy really screwed the pooch here by turning over the puck. HURRAH!

Hang your heads and start packing up. Your hours are limited.

Predators 2nd Goal: David Legwand (2) on Jimmy Howard, assisted by Gabriel Bourque (1) and Alexander Radulov (4).

The Goal.

Remember this goal? It happens 13 seconds into the 3rd period, so this image is from immediately after the faceoff. Man-on-man pairings: Gabby/Hudler, Leggy/Zetterberg, Radulov/Flip. Okay, so Zetterberg won the puck back to Brad Stuart, and with pressure from Gabby Bourque, Brad is gonna chuck it down the ice towards Jiri Hudler.

Zetterberg, anticipating Hudler NOT screwing everything up, starts movin’ it to the Predators zone, and Leggy sticks with him. Consequently, Suter, who is not being pressured by anyone at the moment, feels safe enough to go pressure Hudler (Gabby’s man) for the puck so he doesn’t have all that time and space to carry it in. Gabby was pressuring Stuart immediately after the faceoff, so he’s in the process of backchecking to get his man right now (check out his feet and weight distribution – he’s about to do a huge crossover and book it over there). Let’s watch Jiri screw up!

First, though, let’s let Alexander Radulov have THE ENTIRE NEUTRAL ZONE ALL TO HIMSELF. That sound good? Well, I certainly like it, but really, how the does that happen? I just…… how? How!? I know Flip is anticipating an offensive rush, but you can’t leave guys just chillin’ all by themselves like that! Valterri is supposed to be the weak-side wing right now; if Hudler DOES get the puck (spoiler alert: he doesn’t), where is he going to go with it? Suter and Gabby have him blocked off front and back, so his only option is to center ice. Where Radulov is now living. Oy. But anyway, Legwand is now playing defense while Suter bothers Hudler, and Gabby waits for scraps. Hudler loses control of the puck without even really putting up that big of a fight, and Gabby is all over it.

Lucky for Detroit, Stuart is paying attention, and tries to pressure Bourque. Unluckily for Detroit, this means that Gabby’s just going to give the puck to Radulov, who, by the way, still has a hilariously large amount of space on the ice. Kronwall sees what’s going down, and scurries over to cover for his pinching defensive partner. What is going to happen off-camera: Suter and Legwand switch back to their normal jobs.

That nifty blue and gold arrow is what Alex is about to do, and you can tell he’s prepping to do it from his arms. See how outstretched they are? He’s making sure that he can extend the puck far enough away from his body that no one else can get it, but also maintain control of the puck when he finishes the spin. And he does it beautifully. Kronwall was totally not expecting this move, and ends up deep in his own zone near the faceoff dot. Because he ends up so deep, Gabby has enough room to scoot past Brad Stuart (who will be in a lot of trouble about two pictures from now), and will receive a beautiful pass from Radulov. Now, Stuart did get caught pinching, so Flip darts in to help Kronwall, and cover for Stuart. That means Stuart needs to find someone to cover in Flip’s place. Zetterberg is by the boards not really doing anything, and is inexplicably alone, which means a Predator somewhere is unchecked (hint hint).

Stuart has, I think, decided to cover Radulov. The problem is that he doesn’t exactly do his job very well (as you’ll see in the next picture), but at least he’s watching someone. Zetterberg is barely in the picture, so I’m going to assume he’s with Legwand, who is coming back from covering for Suter earlier. Kronwall and Flip play Gabby perfectly. They cut off his path to the net, and force him to get rid of the puck. Now I’ve watched this about 15 times, and I still can’t tell whether Kronwall pokes the puck or Gabby drops it, but some how the puck ends up moving back down the ice in a perfect position for a surprise guest…

Leggy, returning from giving Suter his D-Man duty back. I was totally expecting Zetterberg to be here with him, but for whatever reason… he isn’t. And so Leggy gets a ton of room that he shouldn’t be able to have. Now even if Zetterberg isn’t there to cover Legwand, someone still needs to try and stop him from getting that puck, and guess who is TOTALLY available to do so? Brad Stuart. Guess who TOTALLY doesn’t do it? Brad Stuart. Perhaps he decided to stop covering Raddles when he saw Legwand rushing the zone unchecked, but if that’s the case, he needed to get on him ASAP, and he didn’t.

Stuart pauses – just for a second – and in that time, Legwand has destroyed any chances he had of preventing this goal. Heck, he could have just dived over and slapped the puck away from that general area of the ice with his stick. Good thing he didn’t! All the Wings are still covering their men except for Zetterberg. You rarely see him screw up, so enjoy this moment. Flip originally was watching Radulov, but gave him up for Gabby; therefore Hudler, who was originally watching Gabby, gave him up for Radulov when he saw Flip was helping defensively. Kronwall did his job, and Stuart kinda did his… sorta. Zetterberg just let Legwand go with a free pass, and man did Leggy snipe that corner. This, boys and girls, is why you never leave a man unchecked. He gets way too much time and space, and he becomes very dangerous.

Congratulations to the Predators on beating Detroit out of the 1st round!! 2nd Round, here we come….

Topics: Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber

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