Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why the Penguins will succeed where the Capitals failed

The Canadiens stunned the NHL world by upsetting the #1 seed and reigning President's Trophy champs.... the loser Washington Crapitals. Though their dramatic comeback was stunning, there is an explanation for it. The Capitals are a team that shoots on the rush, that shoots early, often, and from everywhere on the ice. They'll shoot as hard as they can in any direction, and score on the brute force of their shots..... unless they meet a shutdown defensive team willing to sacrifice the body. You see, the Canadiens knew that Ovechkin and company would shoot ASAP, so they were ready to jump in the lanes. They would shoot high in the circles and the point, so the goalie had more time to see it coming. The captain often reflects the will of the team, so let's look at how Ovechkin handles himself. Below is a chart from that shows where and how Ovechkin netted his 50 goals.

You'll notice that they are all over the place. From the points, the wings, the slot, on breakaways, and that's also how his team plays. Now I won't fault the guy for this. You get your 50 goals any way you can, but this is NOT a strong offensive strategy for playoff hockey. In the playoffs, defenses collapse toward the net to protect it. They block shots. They get in your face and disrupt your pretty one-timers because refs won't call the obstruction penalty. All of this is why the predictable Crapitals are sitting at home right now. Their system was not built for the long grind of playoff hockey (and it's the same reason they were dismissed in other game 7s in seasons past).

Now let's look at Sidney Crosby's goal chart. You'll notice right away that they are all almost entirely below the circles. When he's not scoring in the slot, he's scoring in the crease. He gets deflections, he battles for rebounds, he scores goals as ugly as sin, and that's EXACTLY how playoff hockey is!!! That's why Crosby is the best player in the league. That's why he's a reigning gold medalist and Stanley Cup champion. You lead by example, and Crosby is not afraid to battle for the hard goals. The Habs will not have an answer for that kind of persistent pressure. They were used to the Capitals firing as soon as they could, so they didn't expect the Pens power play to defer... and defer.... and defer... and change the angle... and defer again... and pause.... headfake.... and now FIRE. The Canadiens didn't know how to stop this kind of patient attack, and if they don't figure it out soon, we'll be heading back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

1 comment:

Dave said...

awesome post. anyone else notice all the smug caps in the geico commercials during playoff games? someone obviously thought they'd be around long enough to not be a total punchline in every one of those ads. maybe a little more work on power plays and a little less focus on face time would've got them to the 2nd round.