I’ve always preferred sitting behind the net at hockey games (and basketball games, for that matter). The more expensive seats are at center ice, the TV view, but I’ve always felt that it’s best to view a game the way a coach might view it later on– from in front of or behind the action. Maybe it’s the years of playing NHL on Sega and PlayStations and seeing things move vertically. I don’t know. But I prefer it. It gives you a much better view of plays developing. Sitting on the side, you’re never too far from the action, but you lose depth perception and context of what is taking place. You see things, but you don’t see them.
Last night I sat behind the Flyers’ goal. I saw things. Not good things. [If you don't count all the people I saw wearing Wolf shirts!] Let’s discuss them.
Video game hockey
Again, maybe it’s because I’ve spent thousands of hours playing NHL games in my life, but the Flyers last night reminded me of a sub-par gamer who couldn’t score against a much better AI or real-world opponent. Somewhere around 2006 or 2007, the NHL games started to get really realistic. Gone were the days of skating the length of the ice and either swooping in front of the net or setting up a one-timer. Defenses started to behave like defenses and you actually had to create scoring opportunities. For some who really understood hockey, this was a seamless transition. They innately knew what to do. Others got pigeonholed into the same breakout every time up the ice.
That was the Flyers last night.
I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times their breakout went one of the following two ways:
Gather puck, however awkwardly, begin skating it out of zone, find what appears to be a streaking (but not really) winger on the right side, usually Vinny Lecavalier, gain the opposing blue line with no particular plan, and then either A) take a slap shot that has no chance of going in, B) get pushed to the outside by a faster and more physical Rangers defenseman, or C) stop right on the blue line and get called for offsides… because you stopped on the blue line.
Gather puck, however awkwardly, pass it up the left boards to an awaiting winger, find what appears to be a streaking (but not really) center in the middle, usually Claude Giroux, and then either A) get too “creative” at center ice and bungle the play or B) gain the blue line and get swallowed up by a faster and more physical Rangers defenseman.
All the credit in the world to the Rangers’ defense – it’s very good – by my God did the Flyers fall into the same trap over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. They were the novice NHL player after 2007 who couldn’t, for the life of him or her, figure out how the heck to generate reasonable scoring chances. Um, why can’t I just streak down the wing, pirouette at the face-off dot, and pass to Claude Giroux, who will swing his stick wildly like a toddler with his first Mylec jawn and take an overly reckless one-timer in the slot which may or may not go in but will look cool?
It was so predictable, and every time I saw Vinny gather steam (although at this point it’s more like he’s a service train trying to find a break in the line), I knew the play was going to end with the puck bouncing off a Flyers stick and into a Rangers three-on-two.
Sitting at the end where the Flyers shot once – in the second period – I also got an up-close look at their power play.
First off, the Rangers blocked a ton of shots. That was the real story of this game. Their defense is a real-world condom: no matter how much you wiggle and how hard you shoot, they’re going to block it 99.9% of the time. For real, Trojan ENZ should sponsor them. Their penalty kill is just a bunch of guys playacting safe sex. OH YEAH, GOT THIS BABY READY TO AHH… shit. That didn’t feel so good. And why is Dan Girardi laughing at me? WHY IS HE EVEN HERE?! Can I just throw this on the floor?
But besides all the blocking, there’s another problem: that stupid corner triangle game isn’t working for the Flyers. Look, I know that Giroux dangling above the left face-off circle has been the Flyers’ power play strategy for years, and it’s worked mostly very well. But, IT’S NOT WORKING AGAINST THE RANGERS! Do you think the Rangers really care how long the Flyers cycle the puck in the corner, and then out to Giroux, and then over to the point defenseman, and then back to Giroux, and then back to the point defenseman, and then back to Giroux, and then into the corner, and then into the other side of the very same corner, and then back to Giroux? You can’t do it against them. 1) You’re not going to score from out there on Lundqvist. You have no angle. He’s too good. 2) Giroux doesn’t get room to breathe once he touches the puck. 3) You’re shrinking the offensive zone by about 68%. And 4) even if you do get a shot from the lone point man, it will almost undoubtedly be blocked, since the Rangers have already forgotten about 32% of their zone… and because they’re a giant condom.
Why not cycle the puck behind the net, forcing Lundqvist to look over his shoulder and go side-to-side, while one forward stays in the slot and the weak-side defenseman sneaks in when no one is looking? Or, I know(!), how about sending a man into the high slot and having Giroux set him up for a one-timer, snap shot or wrister (whatever!) that doesn’t wind up in Brian Boyle’s shin guard?
pic via (@shawnnmatthias)
OH COME ON, IT’S THE PLAYOFFS!
No, he didn’t, Neil. And quite frankly, neither did I. People were calling Couturier that for a month on Twitter. Gotta love how Comcast folks have the pulse of the fan.
You guys are awesome
I told you Rickey Ledee’s Twitter was the best
They were on the scoreboard, too. I also spotted Bryan Braman while I was pulling into the parking lot: