Pension Plan Puppets
January 03 2012 11:38PM
When the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the score at 2-2 it came as a result of a lightning counterstrike, aided by a lucky bounce, and was right on the heels of one of Nazem Kadri's best shifts as a professional. I don't know why but Greg Millen decided that this goal was entirely the fault of Nazem Kadri taking a long shift. Just kidding, I know why, it's because he's not good at his job.
After the jump, I'll break down the goal so that even Senators fans could understand it: in pictures!
Dion Phaneuf made a nice bank pass to Joffrey Lupul. When he received it he was turning back toward the Leafs' net so his options were to dump it in on the backhand (the safest and smartest play) or to try to make a play. Meanwhile, anticipating no problems at all, Jake Gardiner heads to the bench for a change.
Nazem Kadri, seeing that Lupul has decided to continue the rush, heads to the bench on a change. I have no issues with the change either player is making. Connolly has acres of space and will easily either take on the defenceman one-on-one or chip it into the corner. They are safe decisions. Having said that, if both had skated harder to the bench their replacements might have had a bigger impact on the ensuing play.
Unfortunately for Lupul and Connolly, the puck took a wicked bounce and Martin St. Louis pounced quickly and Stamkos rushed away to ensure he'd never have to see his own zone. The slow changes meant that Kadri and Gardiner's replacements are now completely out of the play.
So now we have Keith Aulie chugging to get back into the play, Lupul and Connolly racing back, and Dion Phaneuf faced with a 2-on-1 with a lot of potential support. One thing I think that has hurt the Leafs on the PK is a lack of communication and bad decisionmaking. Not groundbreaking but plays like this highlight that unlike elite teams you do not often see players trusting that their teammates will make the right choice. Here, Dion should be taking away the pass to one of the best shooters in the NHL and leave St. Louis to Connolly and Lupul.
St. Louis' pass made it through and now three Leafs are within striking distance and Tim Connolly has stopped backchecking. It ultimately doesn't matter but you'll see in another picture that he was pretty close to costing the Leafs a chance at the gold medal because he was too lazy. Wait, sorry, that was Nathan Beaulieu. Note: Gustavsson is kind of deep in the crease.
God, there are so many Leafs so close to Stamkos. One thing that drives me batty is how often the Leafs will start stretching with their stick (what an old coach called chickenscratching) instead of taking one or two more strides. Also, note that while all of the Leafs are pushing Stamkos to the right of the net and he has no hope of cutting back that Gustavsson is still deep in his net.
Of course, Stamkos' shot goes to the most likely spot, blocker side, and Gustavsson obliges by moving too far to his left while staying relatively deep in his crease. On the right you can see Connolly's man St. Louis ridiculously wide open and ready to tap in a rebound.
Overall, to suggest Kadri was responsible for the goal is insane. His and Gardiner's change were too slow but they were exposed in large part because of a bad bounce and the skill of the two Lightning forwards. However, the mass of Leafs chasing Stamkos and the way that Phaneuf played the two-on-one suggest that there is still a lot of work to do in honing the team's decision-making and defensive coverage. Oh, and the orange circle for St. Louis is because he's a leprechaun.