After the Senators game #1 shutout defeat in Pittsburgh the analysis of what went wrong runs in many different directions. The powerplay, the number of missed shots, and the one I want to centre in on which is “every player has to do his own job”. The scorers have to score, the checkers have to check and the goalie has to stop the puck. With the exception of the goalie the other two are only half right.
In the playoffs multi-tasking is what often sets winners apart from losers. When Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley chase a dumped in puck and smear the defenceman into the boards, that is playoff multi-tasking. That lets the opposition know that a scorer is willing to be a checker and not just once, but every time he gets that chance. When a checker goes hard to the net and has a puck deflect off his skate and in, that tells the other team that the checker is willing to play at both ends of the ice and he has to be defended against even though he is primarily a defender himself.
That to me was the most glaring deficiency in Ottawa’s game #1 performance outside of the obvious failings of the powerplay and the number of missed shots. Ottawa or any other team won’t go far in the playoffs if the players are not willing or able to multi-task.
On the problems with hitting the net, one of the biggest reasons is testosterone driven. Too many players want to put the puck right through the goalies chest. My good friend Kevin Haime (the award winning golf pro) once told me that you should try to hit the ball consistently at about 75% of your hardest swing. Always ripping at the ball makes for poor accuracy because you are concentrating more on power than balance.
I believe hockey, especially in the composite stick era, is more about balance than pure power. The best shooters are the ones who can combine both, but for most other players getting the puck to the net should be more important than trying to blow-out the back of the net. Clearly that method is not working.
I watch Nick Lidstrom in Detroit and rarely does he blow anyone’s doors off with his shot, but it almost always hits the target and if he doesn’t score the rebound becomes a chance for a team mate. The most important thing is, he forces the goalie to make some kind of save. It goes back to what we all learned in Novice hockey. It is never a bad play to shoot at the net. Its a great play if you hit the net.
See you at the rink.