It feels weird to say, but hockey is one of, if not the most, important things in my life. Hockey has always been there for me. It’s been there when I needed to take my mind off something else, it’s been there when I just wanted to get away, and it’s been there to help me connect with others. Hockey has given so much to me, and I often put it on this grand pedestal. I believe there’s an integrity to the game and that it’s a positive on everyone’s life. But, sometimes I get reminded about what’s really important.
Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils has announced that his chronic myeloid leukemia is now in remission. He is winning the fight against cancer, something that everyone can empathize with. While I love hockey, Boyle’s struggle is just so much more important. It warms my heart that something as trivial as pushing a puck around the ice can make bring millions of people into one man’s corner. The future is always uncertain, but I know one thing, Brian Boyle is a hero and I’m proud to have him play the sport I love.
Tuesday reminded me way too much of when the Predators took on the Jets in the second round of last year’s playoffs. Specifically, game three where the Predators went ahead by a couple of goals and then coasted the rest of the way. That allowed the Jets to claw their way back and it cost the Predators a commanding lead of the series. Granted, the stakes weren’t nearly as high on Tuesday, but the message remains the same.
You can coast after going up against the Oilers or Flames or Islanders, but you cannot coast against great teams. The Sharks, Jets, Maple Leafs, Lightning, Penguins, and Bruins will always find a way back into the game if you let them.
All in all, it’s not the worst thing in the world. An early loss in the season doesn’t mean much, but it’s two easy points that shouldn’t have been surrendered. I hope the Predators learn from this and come back stronger than ever.
2. Don’t Call It A Slow Start
Kyle Turris, in a strange turn of events, is off to a pretty decent start. He currently has two goals and eight points in 10 games which is honestly pretty great. What’s weird is that his point totals don’t match how he’s looked. Whether you believe in the eye test or advanced analytics, Turris has been somewhat unimpressive.
Turris has created three high danger chances in 10 games while also only producing 16 shot attempts. His shot assist numbers look better, but that’s mostly because Craig Smith produces shots at an elite level. Maybe I’m overreacting a bit, but Turris has just not shown me anything to be that thrilled with.
Even in Thursday’s game, where Turris had a goal and assist, he was on the ice for five high danger chances against and was on the ice for none of the Predators’. Also, not for nothing, but Turris receives an incredible amount of shelter. He’s started 81.03% of his shifts in the offensive zone, whether on the fly or with a faceoff.
3. A New Stride In The NHL
I’ve been noticing a trend among certain players. Players are taking fewer strides than ever and instead choosing to rely on crossovers. The prime example is Connor McDavid, as he’s the best skater in the entire league. Crossovers are an extremely efficient way to skate, but there’s an issue. When crossing over, you have to shift your momentum and change directions, even if slightly. Anyone who’s ever skated will tell you that it’s easier to go one direction than constantly re-shift weight and turn. So how does McDavid and other players use it to go forward?
McDavid, specifically, does it by shifting his weight almost constantly. His shoulders are very rarely stationary and that allows him to make that shift quicker than anyone. On top of that, McDavid has this incredible ability to perform a crossover and instead of landing on his inside edge, is able to land on his outside edge, which prompts a crossover going the other direction. Because his crossovers happen so quickly, he can perform two in the time it takes another player to do one and a half.
The linear crossover is a trend that’s sweeping youth hockey everywhere, and you can bet it won’t slow down anytime soon. For an example of what I’m talking about, reference this video here.
4. One Touch Pucks
I love possession. The 2012 Kings, 2010 Canucks, or Joe Thornton rarely let their opponents hold the puck and it worked for their time, but times are changing. What I’m seeing a lot of is players relinquishing possession by pushing the puck towards open ice and engaging in a one on one battle with an opposing player. It’s a huge gamble, but it often pays off for the faster players in the NHL.
This strategy almost games the interference rule. By pushing the puck to an open area of ice, the forward becomes a neutral skater and forces the defenseman to play the puck rather than the skater. By eliminating overt physical contact, the forward now has an advantage because he’s often skating forward while the defenseman has to transition from skating backward. That transition will only take half a second, but that’s all the time a speedy forward will need to blow by him.
Once again, Connor McDavid is the best player in the world at this, but other great players are Mitch Marner and Nik Ehlers. Watch them play with the puck, especially along the perimeter of the offensive zone. They’re so good at using this one-touch method to push the puck to a free area and then make a pass to a high danger zone.
5. Who Else But JoFA?
Alright, back to Predators things. Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson have been scorching to start the season. The JoFA line has 34 out of the Predators’ 81 total high danger chances, good for 41.98%. On top of that, the Predators look extremely average without the hot trio on the ice. In the 306 minutes that JoFA has not been on the ice, the Predators have a 49.90% Corsi, 50.68% Fenwick, and 51.65 high danger chance share.
On the other hand, JoFA has a 55.07% Corsi, 53.37% Fenwick, and 68% high danger chance share. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it adds up over time. What’s even more curious, are the simple goal totals. JoFA has 10 while the Predators sans JoFA only have nine. It gets worse though, as JoFA has given up six goals while the rest of the Predators have given up seven.
I’d like to say that JoFA carrying the club isn’t sustainable, but it’s worked so far. I just hope the Predators realize that they can’t lean on one line forever.