Sorry everyone, but we have to cancel today’s Friday live chat due to my penultimate law school final exam. Unfortunately, none of the other guys are available today. Next week, the chat will be held on Thursday at 3pm instead of Friday, since I’m graduating that day. If anyone has specific questions they wanted answered today, feel free to either email me or leave them in the comments and I can prepare a mailbag for either one day this weekend or the beginning of next week.
So several people on Twitterd and in the comments section here at Blue Seat Blogs asked me a question the other day about why defensemen slide on the ice to break up plays in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, I’ve been working some late hours this week and I missed those questions. Anyway, so Dave brought this issue to my attention, and I figured it would be better to write up the reasoning in a short and sweet post rather than respond to comments that are several days old.
Moving right along.
When it comes to defending two-on-one rushes in the defensive zone there’s basically two different approaches coaches teach their players.
Michael St. Croix (4th 2011) and Sam Noreau (6th 2011) were pushed to the brink of elimination in the WHL Finals and QMJHL Finals, respectively. St. Croix’s Edmonton Oil Kings dropped Game Four to the Portland Winterhawks 2-1, and now trail in the series 3-1. Noreau’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar were routed 7-4 by the Halifax Mooseheads in Game Four of the QMJHL Finals, and now trail the series 3-1. Below are the scoring lines for both St. Croix and Noreau.
- Michael St. Croix: 0 G, 0 A, +1, 2 PIM
- Sam Noreau: 1 G, 0 A, -1, 0 PIM
Last night, Marc Staal was a last-minute scratch from Game Four, forcing Steve Eminger back into the lineup. In Games One and Two, Eminger got enough ice time to give the others a rest, playing 10 minutes in Game One and 14 minutes in Game Two. After sitting out Game Three (with Staal in the lineup), Eminger played just six minutes in Game Four, and didn’t see the ice after a gaffe in the offensive zone that led to the Caps first goal.
Perhaps that is just a one game benching, much like we had seen with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. But we’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum (see: Bickel, Stu) where repeated gaffes led to barely five minutes of playing time per game. Eminger has seen his fair share of benching, but he has also seen top-four minutes under Torts.
It’s a good day to be a Rangers fan. Two wins on the bounce, two four goal games produced by the Rangers and suddenly a goaltender who was boasting about a lack of challenge has started to look rattled. Let’s get into the musings
I don’t care who you are – the 80’s Oilers aside – no player or team should ever provide motivation for the opposition. Holtby’s comments and Ovechkin’s comments have both being countered by improved play on the ice by the Rangers. Adam Oates cannot be happy with the way the series has begun to swing.
Obvious thought of the day: Derek Stepan is going to be a very rich hockey player sooner rather than later.
Is Stepan the first of the home grown kids – talking ‘tweener contracts – where Sather really doesn’t have the same power as he usually has in regard to controlling costs? With Richards clearly in decline (despite the occasional production recently, Stepan is an absolutely critical Ranger long term given the way he is developing.
Derek Stepan has four game winners in his last nine goals. Please remember this young man is just twenty two.
Game Four was one of the best games the Rangers have played all year. They came out strong, played a physical game, played good defense, and generated a lot of scoring chances. The game itself was very exciting as well, but the Rangers appeared to trade chances with a Caps team that is much more skilled than them. This is what caused the Rangers to blow their initial two goal lead and almost blow their second two goal lead. They eventually held on in a frantic final three minutes to even the series.
These were two HUGE wins for the Rangers on home ice to even the series. Any loss at home would have all but clinched the series for the Caps. Now, the Rangers head back to Washington with a lot of momentum heading into Game Five.
Rangers 1, Caps 0
Braden Holtby, who is usually good with the puck, handled the puck at the boards and tried to clear the puck up the middle. Taylor Pyatt knocked down the clearing attempt, and it went straight to Carl Hagelin with Holtby out of the net. Hagelin’s shot was blocked, but Brad Richards was able to put it into the open net. There is no picture on this because A) It’s not needed, and B) They were blurry. Sorry about that.
The Rangers won Game Three, which was a must-win. Funny thing is that Game Four is also a must-win. The Rangers can ill-afford to head to Washington down 3-1, so tonight is another game where the Rangers need to get their W. The good news is that Ryane Clowe is back, in place of the injured Darroll Powe. This means that for the first time, the Rangers have all of their key players dressing (Powe notwithstanding). The crowd was raucous on Monday, and they need to be even rowdier tonight.
Be sure to catch up on everything you need to know for this series:
Game Three goal breakdown
Game Two goal breakdown
Game One goal breakdown
How the Caps will match up lines
Keys for Ranger success
Special teams may decide series
Scouting Braden Holtby
Previewing the Caps systems
Caps will be a tough series for the Rangers
Michael St. Croix scored the only goal for the Edmonton Oil Kings in their 3-1 Game Three loss to the Portland Winterhawks. The Oil Kings now trail the Winterhawks 2-1 in the WHL Finals.
Meanwhile in the QMJHL, Sam Noreau and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar finally took a game from the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL Finals. Baie-Comeau now trails Halifax 2-1 after their 3-1 Game Three victory. Noreau was held without a point in the contest, but registered two hits.
Per Dan Rosen, Ryane Clowe said there is a “good chance” he plays tonight. Clowe, who hasn’t skated in the playoffs, will likely take the place of the injured Darroll Powe. Powe appeared to suffer a concussion in the Game Three victory, as he left in the first period and did not return. Powe, who suffered a concussion earlier this season, is likely done for the playoffs if this news is true.
As the playoffs hit full throttle, the decisions players make (or don’t make for that matter) get further put under the microscope. While we tend not to overreact to one particular play, shift, or even one game on this site, player scrutiny for better or worse always gets turned up a few notches this time of year.
Perhaps no area of the ice fuels more debate around the blogosphere and Twitterd than what happens in the defensive zone. More often than not a goal will be scored, a chance will be created, or a unit will get pinned and out come the pitch forks. While we can’t stop the finger pointing, we figured we might as well at least try to teach people where to point those fingers.
For these reasons, today’s post will focus on basic defensive zone coverage.