Predators, it is roughly 1,100 miles from Boston to Nashville, and I am in the middle of my last week of finals. Please do not make me walk all that way just to yell at you. Boy was this last game ugly. I was hoping for a more joyful game to make up for having to write papers all weekend, but that certainly didn’t happen.
Maybe Wednesday? I would rather just get started, but I should probably introduce this one just a little bit. I have good news (assuming you enjoy reading through these articles) and bad news. Good News: I’m going to look at three goals. Yes, three. Yippee! Bad News: Zero of them are Preds goals. Here’s why. The Preds had a really unfortunate game last night, and I am more concerned about looking at our problems than our successes (which were few in number). I will, however, give a Tip of the Hat to our lovely powerplay (which was 100%), Ryan Suter in general (1G/1A/2P, 6 SOG, 30:20 TOI), and Andrei Kostitsyn (seriously awesome goal). I will give a humangous Wag of the Finger to… Kevin Klein, Alexander Radulov, Pekka Rinne, Martin Erat, Sergei Kostitsyn and David Legwand.
I should not have to call this many separate people out for such egregious errors. This is disappointing, Preds.
Finger Wag the First: Antoinne Vermette (5) on Pekka Rinne, assisted by Keith Yandle (6) and Mikkel Boedker (3).
This was the first, and (for me) most painful, goal of the game. Here, we have a pretty generic dump-and-chase, initiated by Mikkel Boedker. Ryan Suter is gonna chase him into the corner and battle for the puck. Everyone has great positioning right now.
There are some clearer man-on-man pairings starting to form, but everyone’s still trying to figure out who’s doing what. You can see Weber and Sergei kinda poking their heads around to see where all the other Coyotes are, because…. the Preds all made it into the zone together! No frantic backchecking – hurrah! Suter and Boedker are heading into the corner, and Doan is going to try and cut behind the net to make himself a better outlet pass for his buddy.
Fisher, who is the center, is heading in Doan’s direction (even if it might look like he’s just kinda moseying around right now), and is going to stick tightly to him. Boedker beat Suter to the puck, and is swooping up the side boards to look for a pass. Now, this pass could end up going in several directions, but most notably either (1) behind him to Doan, (2) ahead of him to a defenseman, or (3) across from him to a behind-the-play forward cutting through the slot. Meanwhile, in the middle of the ice, the Predators look like they have built a wall, with Marty, Weber, Fish, and Sergei all lined up. What’s cool about this shot is that you can see exactly where everyone is about to go. It’s like a blooming flower – everyone’s about to curl out like pedals. Fish, as mentioned, is going after Doan; Marty’s ahead of the game because he’s seen that the Preds are about to have a visitor; Sergei is going to follow a very important rule and, while transitioning at the faceoff dot, never turn his back to the puck. This is great, but he makes a big (unrelated) mistake while doing it, which I don’t like.
One of the great things about this play is that the pairings are extremely distinct. Everyone has a definitive job, and [almost] everyone is doing it. Let’s look pair by pair. Green Pair: Fish was able to cut off the lane between Boedker and Doan, and will make sure to stick with him until the very end of this play. He does extremely well on this shift, and it’s kinda too bad that his hard work doesn’t pay off, because he does literally everything right. Blue Pair: My only complaint here is that Suter doesn’t win the puck, but he does keep Boedker to the outside while trying hard to get the puck off his stick, so that’s about all you can ask for. It’s hard to regain possession in that kind of a situation. Boedker gets the pass off to Surprise-Yandle. Orange Pair: I’m already not happy with what’s going on here. While Sergei was doing a great job of keeping his eye on the puck, he ended up missing Keith Yandle, who snuck down the very open slot. As a winger, not turning your back on the puck is very important, but knowing where your man is on the ice is just as, if not more, important. All Sergei had to do was peek up at the blue line to see whether or not Yandle was standing there. So now Sergei has his back to Yandle, who got on his horse and powered into the zone, and Yandle is about to receive the pass. Purple Pair: Martin Erat saw Antoinne Vermette (who’s the centering this line) start to sneak into the zone, so he curled up around the faceoff circle to make sure he was covered. So far so good. You can see Vermette’s stick (labeled “Vermy” because I didn’t have enough room for his full name) supporting the “O” in the “Discover” sign on the boards. Weber: Covering the center slot. He sees that Yandle is not covered right now, and that Sergei just got caught, so he’s trying to decrease Yandle’s time and space and options by getting closer to him.
Green Pair: Fish is still in the same general proximity as Shane Doan, which is more than several other pairs can say at the moment. You can tell he’s heading towards the net, which is good for several reasons. First, Doan is heading towards the net. Second, Ryan Suter is up near the hashmarks on the wall with Mikkel Boedker and can’t get back to play defense right now. Third, by heading directly to the net, he cuts in front of Doan, and therefore cuts off the passing lane from Yandle to Doan. Blue Pair: Suter has does his job to the best of his ability and realizes that Yandle now has the puck. He’s currently trying to cut back to the net to help out. He’ll get a desperate stick on Yandle, but it’ll be too late because Sergei Kostitsyn just ruined everything for everyone. Now, you can blame Suter if you’d like for allowing Boedker to get the initial pass off to Yandle, but I’m not blaming him for this goal. I’m a “second pass” person. In the defensive zone, you are going to give up passes along the boards. It’s an unfortunate part of the game, but that first pass is typically not fatal; there are exceptions, but it’s a decent rule to follow. What’s more important is where that initial pass is going, because most of the time the receiver also passes the puck. The receiver also tends to be in the middle of the ice, and is therefore easier for a wing or center to cover. There are pretty much zero excuses for allowing the second pass (i.e., from receiver to a third player) to get off easily, if you are at even strength. A forward should be harassing the receiver and making it difficult for him to give the perfect second pass. So that’s why I’m not blaming Suter for this, personally. Orange Pair: So about Sergei Kostitsyn… he is in charge of the second-pass guy, Keith Yandle, and he screws the pooch by not paying attention to where Yandle (his man to cover) is standing on the ice. Yandle sneaks in, receives the pass, but sets up the fatal second pass to… Purple Pair: …Antoinne Vermette, who Martin Erat annoyingly did not cover. Erat did the right thing when he curled up to cover Vermette, so I’m really confused about why he didn’t stick with him more carefully. You cannot let an opposing player get between you and your net! Vermy beats Marty to the net by what ends up being a significant margin. Marty… sir, this was not a good play. Not at all. Just cover your man! Dang… Weber: Same positioning. He’s trying to prevent Yandle from passing the puck, though it’s debatable whether or not he knows about Vermette. He definitely knows the general area of where Yandle is trying to put the puck though, and he’s trying to get between Yandle and that spot.
Green Pair: Fish, you did your job, and you did it well – arguably better than anyone else on this shift (except for maybe Weber). I can ask for nothing more. Good work. Blue Pair: Suter did his job. He kept Boedker to the outside, and he did his best to challenge him on the puck. Could he have been stronger, or more aggressive? Sure. Do I think he did anything terribly wrong? No, not really. Orange Pair: Sergei takes a solid 50% of the blame for this. You HAVE to know where your man is on the ice, and you HAVE to make sure he’s covered. Sergei got screwed on both accounts. Purple Pair: And Martin Erat takes the other, just as solid, 50% of the blame. He actively curled back around to cover his man, and yet somehow he left that same guy totally open and uncovered so he could score a goal. No good, Marty. Weber: Also did his job to the best of his abilities. He covered the slot, tried to defend the uncovered man, and generally took up room. It’s not his fault that other people weren’t doing their jobs.
Finger Wag Two: Radim Vbrata (2) on Pekka Rinne, assisted by Keith Yandle (7) and Martin Hanzal (2).
Let’s get this one over with, because this goal honestly just pissed me off. There is no reason this should have happened. David Legwand? This one’s on you.
Here, we see a break in. Kevin Klein is covering Keith Yandle (this guy again, ugh), Roman Josi is covering Radim Vrbata, and David Legwand, as the first forward back, will be covering Ray Whitney.
So far so good. Yandle, as a defenseman, decides not to carry the puck into the zone, and instead slaps it on net – which is a smart thing to do. Forward Martin Hanzal is lumbering into the zone anyway, so Yandle will be able to get back to playing defense, and Klein will now cover Hanzal. Now, when Yandle puts this puck on net, it shoots into the air, and bounces to the ice behind the net.
Roman Josi is sticking with Vrbata, and they both head straight into the boards to retrive the puck. Meanwhile, Klein is covering Hanzal (as Yandle has dropped back to defense), and Legwand has an eye on Whitney. He is approaching the back side of the net to cut off the pass from Vrbata to Whitney, should Vrbata gain possession of the puck.
Vrbata swipes at the puck with his stick, and he chips it into the air. It careens towards David Legwand. This is the beginning of the end. Also, Gabriel Bourque has made his way back into the zone, and is positioned perfectly, covering the center of the ice. Patrik Hornquist will be here momentarily.
The puck flies closer and closer to David Legwand, and a terrible, terrible idea crosses his mind. Meanwhile, let’s talk about what everyone is expecting David to do with this puck. Roman Josi is sorta behind the net because he was not expecting the puck to bounce quite like that. However, it works, because he is now an outlet pass for Legwand. Cool. Radim Vrbata is lucky that the puck bounced away from him and closer to Roman, because that will give Radim more time to get away from Roman momentarily. Klein is keeping an eye on Hanzal, who is about to get away with murder by barreling through the slot. Gabby is hanging out in the center of the ice, watching this crapshoot go down. He should probably have his stick down, but it’s not the end of the world. Suddenly…
David Legwand decides to THROW/PUNCH the puck from BEHIND THE NET, over the top of the net, and TO THE FRONT OF THE NET. What the hell? Yeah, this is a marvelous idea. Let’s do this. Just chuck the puck into the crease area. Are you serious?? I mean it, David. Are you? I cannot fathom why this seemed like a good idea. I have seen some stupid decisions take place, but this is literally almost unbelievable. Let’s THROW/PUNCH the puck into the most dangerous area of the rink. Dear God. Roman Josi, who was understandably not expecting this to happen, is now caught behind the net. Radim Vrbata is lucky enough, as I mentioned before, to have some extra time and space to make his way towards the net because the weird bounce went away from him. Martin Hanzal now wanders right through the crease – unnecessarily close to Pekka Rinne – and just so happens to take Rinne’s leg out from behind. Rinne, who is obviously not expecting this, topples like a very, very tall man. Klein does not push Hanzal (like I originally thought he did), and Klein does not instigate any kind of contact between Hanzal and Rinne. Hanzal just runs into Rinne. No call on the goaltender interference though. Nice.
It’s pretty lucky that the puck didn’t go in right here. Who the hell knows why. Maybe the hockey gods just wanted to taunt Legwand for making this choice before truly punishing him? Anyway, you can see here that Roman is definitely caught behind the play because of both the bounce and Legwand’s stupid, unpredictable move. He doesn’t even know where the puck is until it hits the ice (watch the video again), and then he has to jump into action, when Vrbata already saw it and started acting. Klein seems shocked about what just happened, as does Gabby.
Pekka Rinne, despite toppling to the ground, is still attempting to make the save. Hanzal is lying face-first on the ice. Serves him right.
Handstone stands behind the net watching his handiwork. Gabby and Horny both realize what’s about to happen the moment the puck hits the ground, and begin to scamper towards the puck. Klein and Josi are both trying to figure out what to do because they are both to utterly lost and confused. I can’t even bring myself to blame them for this. How would you react to your own player tossing the puck into your own crease??
Now as much as I love Roman Josi, I do have to call him out on letting Vrbata get so far away from him with the puck. Part of the problem is that Klein is in the way, but I wouldn’t let anyone else get away with it, so I can’t let Roman get away with it. Sorry buddy 🙁 gotta close that gap and stay tight with your man, okay? Horny and Gabby are making serious efforts to get to the puck, but Vrbata is quick and has the advantage of Rinne being knocked flat by Hanzal (the large red butt). All Radim has to do from here is flick the puck into the air over Rinne’s sprawled body. Man I am SOMAD at Legwand right now. This is the goal that put Phoenix ahead 3-1. This could have changed everything!
Finger Wag the Third: Taylor Pyatt (3) on Pekka Rinne, assisted by Shane Doan (2).
This one is depressingly short, but I couldn’t leave it out. I’m gonna breeze through it. This is a neutral zone battle. Pyatt had the puck and Radulov challenged him, so he tossed it back to Shane Doan. Everyone important has someone else important covered right now, except for Roman Josi, who is waiting to see what’s going to happen.
Klein, who had been covering Vermette, suddenly leaves him to help Gabby cover Doan. Vermette is now (momentarily) Roman’s problem. Klein is going to be caught slightly flat footed, however, and he won’t be able to keep up with Doan. Because of that, Roman will have to abandon Vermette to cover the more dangerous player – Shane Doan.
When I was watching this live, I literally thought we were going to see a Reverse-Detroit. Roman Josi is the only guy playing his position correctly right now. Gabby was too far away to cover Doan correctly, Klein gave up on Doan, and Radulov was supposed to be covering Pyatt, so SOMEONE had to take the puck carrier! Thank you Roman. Also notice that all the pairing-circles are gone…. because everyone has broken their man-on-man pairings.
Now this is where Pekka Rinne is at fault. Maybe not 100%, but he certainly takes some of the blame. Doan puts the puck on goal because Roman challenged his as the puck carrier, and Rinne coughs up a huge rebound. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Rinne’s usual lack of rebounds, but this one seemed preventable. At the very least, I feel like maybe he could have prevented it from going right out into the slot? And speaking of the slot… please focus your attention on the two Coyotes in blue circles. NO ONE IS WATCHING THEM. I had to go watch the clip again to be sure, but Gabby is not in a position where he can easily cover Pyatt, even though it looks like it here. That rebound comes out so suddenly, and Pyatt jumps on it so quickly, that Gabby can barely react by the time it gets there. Radulov should be on Pyatt, and Klein should be on Vermette. This is not difficult. If Radulov stuck with his man, Klein would know exactly who to be on top of.
Pekka Rinne now has zero chance of stopping this goal. NHL.com lists this goal as a wrist shot, but it isn’t a wrist shot. This is a snap shot, which is like a very mini-slap shot. Snap shots are unbelievably fast, and very difficult to stop. You don’t have to drag your stick from behind like you do with a wrist shot (though they do in the link), and you don’t wind up like you do with a slap shot; you literally snap your stick against the puck and drive it home. This is a great example of how crazy dangerous they are. This is also a great example of how crazy dangerous it is to abandon your man. I expect much less of this on Wednesday.