Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Designed Plays = Game Winning Goals

Pred Nation!

I love this goal.   Seriously, I LOVE this goal.  We've previously looked individually at either when faceoff wins, or lack of defensive speed, results in goals.  This week's goal by J.P. Dumont is a perfect example of how a designed play can exploit them both, and, only nine seconds apart, result in a game winning goal.  So lets break down one heckuva game winner (and streak snapper) in this edition of AOAG.

[Note:  I'm going to try something new in this post and put the football analogies in brackets, that way people who want to read them can, but those who don't can easily skip over.  As always, questions, comments, etc. are welcomed at, or on twitter @preds101].

The Goal

The Breakdown

1.  The play starts off in a seriously offensive formation.  Shea Weber (D, #6) and J.P. Dumont (RW, #71) are lined up far to the right of the faceoff... an aggressive move given the fact that the faceoff is in the defensive zone

[Football fans, this is an offensive formation because it allows for breakaways, but provides the goalie less protection.  A rough football analogy would be a spread offense.  A typical formation would have Weber directly behind the center taking the faceoff, and the right wing standing closer to the faceoff circle, either to the right or behind the winger].

2.  Notice where the feet are positioned relative to the hash-marks on the circles.  Jason Arnott's (C, #19), feet in the right red circle.  He is lined up on the mark, as close to the Blues player as possible.  Steve Sullivan, (LW, #26), on the other hand, is a foot off the mark.  This allows for Sully to move quickly, without getting tied up with the Blues defender.

[Think of the difference as a defenseive CB who lines up on the line for bump-and-run coverage, versus a cornerback who gives the WR a few yards.]

3.  Now the logic behind the initial formation unfolds.
A. Marcel Goc (C, #9) wins the faceoff, and passes it behind him to a "seemingly" empty space.
B. Sullivan moves toward the puck, unobstructed, to gain possession
C. Weber moves back in anticipation of a pass.
D. Dumont is off to the races down ice, down the right boards.
E. Arnott is breaking down ice down the left boards.

4. Weber gets the pass from the now obstructed Sullivan.  He will pull the puck from his backhand to his forehand to make the pass up to Dumont.  Dumont is wide open and moving up ice.   However, the Blues defender is following Dumont toward the right sideboards.

5. Notice how this play has left the left side of the ice cluttered with players, especially Blues players.  Meanwhile, the Preds, Puck, and Play are all moving toward the right and out of the zone.  Arnott has already slipped by his man, who was likely not expecting the player from that position to break out of the zone.

6.  Weber makes the pass to Dumont, who has plenty of room to maneuver.

7.  Dumont has the puck and speed for a two-on-two breakaway.  Even if nothing else happens, this is a great transition from defense to offense.

[Transitioning from defense-to-offense quickly and effectively is a critical but difficult-to-measure team skill.  Sort of akin to the ability to convert third downs, if your team can't do it, they are not going to win alot of games].

8.  Arnott has blown by the forwards, and is not manned up with the other Blues defenseman, Eric Brewer (D, #4).  He was so quick down ice that he is forced to slow down a touch to avoid being offsides.

8.1 (Oops, two "8"s, anyway, above...)  It's amazing to see on the video, but tough to see in the still frames:  Dumont really puts on a burst of speed here.  He decides to go toward the boards with the puck.  In doing so he gets the defender, Darryl Sydor, (D, 44, age 37) turned around.

[If Dumont didn't have that extra speed to get passed the Blues defender, Sydor, what you would have seen is Dumont dumping the puck into the zone deep, a.k.a. "dump-and-chase"].

9.  The speed burst gives forces Sydor to turn from skating backwards to skating forwards.  That move, plus Dumont's speed, will give Dumont a step on the defender.

10.  The other defender, Brewer, is still forced to respect Arnott, who is coming into the zone and trailing Dumont.  If it were not for Arnott, the defender would be able to make a more aggressive play on Dumont.

11.   Dumont's extra speed meant that the blues defender, Sydor, was unable to make a good play on the puck.  The speed also meant that the defender was in no position to take down Dumont with a body check.  Sydor's only remaining option?  To take a diving poke-check at the puck.  This is not a position the defender wants to be in.  Sure enough, the diving poke-check misses.

Additionally, Brewer, the lower defender, realizes his defensive partner is in trouble, and moves over to help on Dumont.

12.  Brewer is unable to get over in time.  Dumont has "built a wall" so that his body is positioned between himself and Brewer.  Dumont is able to get a shot off that isn't the best shot in the world, but it is a goal.  The game winner, no less.  Sydor can only look on and realize his lack of speed resulted in a goal.  Had it puck not gone in, Arnott was close behind to attempt to pick up the rebound.


What a fantastic play.  An important face-off win on a drawn up "get-down-ice-quick" play results in a great individual move and a goal.  Its these types of goals that are hard to appreciate full speed at the game, or on TV, but really give you a sense of how impressive the game is.  Until next time, lets go Preds!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Weekly Q&A: Submit Your Questions Now

Dear PredNation,

Its been a quiet week around Preds 101, with the holidays and all that.  This weekend was a rough one for Nashville pro-sports.  The Titans took themselves out of a playoff spot, and the Preds took themselves out of contention for first place in the central division for the immediate future.

Regardless, Titans Fans, there is reason to celebrate.  Why?  That's the subject of this weeks Q&A.  I will explain why Titans fans everywhere should, will, and are flocking to the Preds bandwagon right about now.

Also, I'll answer another reader question.  Last week's inaugural question was a great one.  I'm looking forward for another one this week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Scoring Inside the Box

Merry Christmas Eve and Happy Holidays to everyone.  As you likely well know by now, Nashville didn't play the best game Tuesday in Vancouver.  Regardless, what would Christmas be with a new "Anatomy of a Goal" posting? Christmas as usual? That's right. As pretty as our NHL Star of the Week, Patric Hornquist's, goal was, that is not on tap today.  In today's AOAG, let's dig into the Preds stuggling penalty kill, as of late, to see what happens when the power play thinks (and scores) inside the box.

The Video

The Video Breakdown

1. The play starts on the powerplay, which the puck coming away from the net toward the blue line.  The predator penalty killers are pretty far out of position.  Instead of being in a "box" formation (see below for what a box looks like when they regroup), they somehow ended up lined up on the goal line.  Three words: OUT OF POSITION.

2. The puck comes back to the Vancouver defenseman in the high slot.  Predators forward Joel Ward (RW #29) is out of position, and is now scrambling toward the defenseman in order to prevent a play.

3. Ward slides on the ice to take away defenseman's shooting lane.

4.  The defenseman pauses as Joel slides on the ice.  Instead of taking the shot, he makes the pass to the winger at the top of the screen, who was previously covered by Ward.

5. Kevin Bieksa, (D, #3), at the top of the screen, gets the now has the puck, and Ward is trying to recover.  The Preds as a group are not in their box penalty kill formation (two forwards at the top, two defenseman near the net), but are all out of position.  Because of this, the winger has four options: (A) take the shot, with traffic in front of the net, (B) pass to the winger in the slot, (C) make the return pass to the defenseman in the high slot, (D) retreat to the point to set up a play.

6. Joel Ward returns gets up and returns to position to chase the puck carrier, but two other Predators also chase the puck carrier as well.  This means that three penalty killers are attacking the puck carrier, which is not a recipe for success on the penalty kill.

7. The good news is that aggressive play has eliminated options (A) - (C).  Bieksa, the Vancouver defender, now retreats to the blue line.

8.  The aggressive play by the Preds forwards, Ward and Legwand, has drawn them very high in the zone.  The Preds are so far apart that they are unable to get their sticks in the "passing lanes".  Thus, the Bieksa is able to make a cross-ice pass to a teammate, Daniel Sedin, in great position.

9.  The Predators are closer to returning to their box formation, however, the play is shifting toward the bottom of the screen, and the "box" is favoring the top.  Daniel Sedin recieves the pass, and quickly feeds it to his brother Henrik Sedin in the corner.  Daniel is standing in the middle of the box... a dangerous place if you are a preds fan.

(?).  What I am unsure of is whether the predators are still too high in the high slot, or are whether they should be closer to the net.  This is the difference between and active and passive penalty kill.  If the predators are lower in the box (closer to my dotted blue line) the pass would not have been completed.  However, if they were, it would be much easier for the Vancouver defenseman to pass the puck back and fourth, and also to take one-times from the blue line.   This is more of an interesting FYI than anything else, as I'm not necessarily sure the preds forward are to high in the zone (i.e. to the left of the screen).

10.  The Pred defenseman now breaks toward Henrik. This is the appropriate play.

11.  Unfortunately, because Ward was so high in the zone, Daniel is able to slip in underneath him and make a move to the net.  Henrik makes a great give-and-go pass back to Daniel.

12.  Daniel gets the puck inside of the Preds PK box, and the preds are unable to close on him in time.  With the traffic that has been in front of the net the entire time, in addition to the short range one timer, Ellis is unable to recover quickly enough.  Goal Vancouver.


This play started with scrambling penalty killers who were drawn too high in the zone, and as a result were never able to fully recover.  They let the enemy slip inside for a quick give-and-go score.  One the things the predators they can do to return to their penalty kill dominance is to be more disciplined on the kill.  It won't be  so easy with Jerred Smithson out of the lineup, here's to hoping.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekly Q&A: The "Are We Screwed this Offseason" Edition

Welcome to our first installment of the Weekly Q&A:  Up for today: Goalies "randomly" slapping the ice with their sticks and gazing into the crystal ball that is this off season.  

Stick Slapping

In last week's Q&A, we asked the question posed by some new hockey fans: why is the goalie slapping his stick on the ice?  The friend proved the old addage: "You don't need to be right, you just need to sound confident."  The friend's answer was basically "cheerleading."  Can you do any better?  Select from the three options below.

If you picked option C, to let the team know and be aware that the powerplay is over, you'd be correct.  Want to see what happens when this message isn't covneyed/respected?  Check out this amazing goal.

Want to see what a goalie pumping up his team looks like?  Look at this rediculously long (and amazing) shootout between Chicago and Columbus from a few weeks ago.  I won't spoil the winner.

Question of the Week:  Are We Screwed this Off Season?

My favorite question submitted this week was by anonymous, who wanted to why such a high percentage of the predators were going to be free agents during the off season, and if that was bad business.  Great question !  My conclusion:  The Preds Are Doing Just Fine.

In order to see how the Predators stack up in terms off off season free agents, I went to, which is a great website cap-tracker in association with  From there, I decided to compare the Predators to the other teams in our division.  Using this years salary numbers, I put together this table of where we stand in the division.

The "Players vs. Expiring Contracts" column simply looks at the number of players who will be either restricted or unrestricted free agents (UFAs & RFAs) at the end of this season, and divides that number by the number of players on the roster.  The "Value of Expiring Contracts" tables on the right simply divide the value of the contracts of UFA & RFAs by the total roster cost of the team.  One caveat, these numbers are before Chicago's resigning of Kane/Toews/Keith.  How they plan on keeping that team under the cap, I have no idea.

The Preds are in the middle of the pack in terms of almost every statistic.  So it seems that ratios of contracts expiring in a given year are pretty high.  Why is that?  Because most contracts are for 1, 2 or maybe 3 years.  Very rarely do you see long term contracts, and those are often for the hard to replace players.

Warning: Let the rampant uninformed speculation begin!

Who's Going to be a Free Agent?

Here is a list of Predators who are unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and their current cap hits:

Hamhuis and Rinne will likely get a big or substantial raise.  Tootoo and Bullion will get some more money as well, but probably not a huge bump.  As for the rest of this list, they may get traded before the year is out (Ellis), or will likely only have a home with the Preds if there is room in the budget.  I think we can resign the people from this list we want, without much problem.

Here are the current restricted free agents (RFAs) and their current cap hits:

On this list, there are many more young predators the organization wants to keep.  Several will demand more money.  The good news about RFAs  are restricted, meaning that if another team wants to sign one of these players, two things happen: (1) the predators get to match the offer, and (2) if the Predators do not match, the team is compensated with draft picks.  This helps to lower the overall price for these players, or to increase their trade value.

Klein, Hornquist, Goc, Santorelli, and Franson will all command some fairly large pay raises.  The rest will likely resign (if at all) at the same or slightly higher rates.

Whether the predators are able to resign everyone they want is unclear (and I am certianly not wise enough to predict that at this point in the season).  But the Preds are very fortunate that most of the players they want resigned are RFAs.  It will help at the trade deadline, and it will help lessen the blow if we are forced to lose people.

Also, don't forget that the predators have lots of other players in the system in college and other leagues besides the AHL.  Losing a few people every year is natural, and helps create room for your new young players.


Overall, I am optimiatic about the core of this team, and the young players coming up through the ranks.  From where I am sitting, it looks like Poile has positioned our team very

Thanks and Twitter

Listen up, because this is important.  Allow me to take a moment to thank PredNation generally, and both Dirk Hoag ( and Buddy Oates ( for the amazing support during this first week of the blog.  The response has been overwhelming.  If you have not checked out their blogs, radio shows, etc. you need to do that.    To everyone, thanks for reading, and keep the feedback coming.

I've also created a twitter account, so please follow me @preds101.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Getting Seperation from Your Defender

Another amazing win for the Predators, puts them tied for first (and 1 1/2 games out of seventh?!) in the crazy Western Conference.  In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, we'll examine the importance of offensive players' ability to separate from defenders (or as they'd say in football "create space").  On the Predator's first goal of the game, Jared Smithson's ability to separate sets up Martin Erat for a relatively easy first goal of the game.

Video Highlights

Video Breakdown

1. Red hot Martin Erat (Preds RW #10) and all-star defenseman Dion Phaneuf (Flames D #3) are chasing the puck into the corner.  Phaneuf (6'3'', 210 lbs.) is bigger and hits much harder than Erat.  Who, however, will be faster into the corner and around the boards?

2. Predators offensive players, including Jerred Smithson (#25) are breaking toward the net.

3. Erat's speed beats out Phaneuf.  Because Erat has half a step on Phaneuf, Phaneuf is not in a position to plaster Erat into the boards.

4.  Predators offenseive guys are still driving to the net.  Smithson is closer, but has a man on him.  He is going to find space by going to the net, backing up at a critical moment, as traced out by the dotted line.

5. This predator has a straight shot to the front of the net and takes it, in the hopes of tying up the defender there and getting traffic in front.

6.  Erat not only wins the footrace but is able to gain several steps on Phaneuf.  He is too far out to curl back toward the net to attempt a shot.  (For another look at why defensive speed is so important, check out the first "anatomy of a play" on why defensive speed is so important).

7.  Look at Smithson hit the breaks hard and start to inch backward toward the open whole where he used to be... sneaky sneaky.

8.  Erat waits until Phaneuf is almost on him, and the other Flame defender has moved futher toward the bottom of the screen.  This creates a great passing lane for Erat back to Hamhuis at the blue line.

9.  Look how much space is between Smithson and Phaneuf now.  I don't think Phaneuf knows he lost his man.

10.  Dan Hamhuis is wide open for the shot.  He takes it and fires at the net.

11.  The rebound pops out and Smithson is opportunistically right in front of it.  However, he has defenders closing fast, and the goalie would be in good position to make the save, despite the traffic in front.  Instead he will make the decision to make the quick pass to Erat.

12.  Now it is Erat who has found the open space, leaving Phaneuf a few feet lower closer to the net.

13.  Erat gets the quick pass and fires.  Phaneuf realizes he is out of position and breaks toward Erat, but its too late.  The goalie has to quickly move from his right to left, but it is also too late.  Goal Predators!

Wrap Up

Two keys to this play in my opinion.  First, the hard work and quick staking of Erat to get the puck in the corner and beat Phaneuf. Second, and probably more importantly, the ability of Smithson to find the whole in the defense and thus be open for an opportunistic pass.  That's all for this installment.  Lets' go Preds!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Grit and Driving to the Net

A great win for the predators last night.  What I loved most about this game (besides the first period rally) is how similar and gritty almost every goal was.  Hard work, traffic in front of the net, and all of that good stuff.  A true team effort.  As Brandon Felder mentioned in a good piece of postgame analysis, two game ago the preds had seven different goal scorers.  Last night: five.  In this edition of "Anatomy of a Goal", lets examine Ryan Jones' prototypical goal, to see why hard work and traffic in front is the current key the Preds' scoring success.

Video Replay

Video Breakdown

1.  Ryan Jones (#28) and the Oiler defenseman are battling for position on the puck.  The Oiler defenseman has the slightest of edges, but nothing that Ryan can't overcome.
2. Once the puck crosses the blue line, Wade Belak (Preds #3) is free to drive down the middle (a.k.a. "the slot").  A defender is not immediately on him, so he will have an easy time doing so.

3. Belak is able to continue into the zone.  Because no defender is on top of him, he is able to stay parallel with the puck as it goes deeper into the zone.
4. Jones and the Defender are now in a full on battle for the puck.  Jones does an excellent job of using his body to attempt to out-muscle the Oiler.
5.  The other two oiler defenseman are in good position, letting the play come to them.  They could choose to be more agressive, but there is no need on this play.  It appears that the puck will continue harmlessly into the corner.

6.  Jones makes an amazing move with his stick right here.  Its so quick, its very easy to miss.  Jones uses stick to lift the defenders stick off of the puck.  Once that happens, Jones quickly lowers his own stick and makes a great pass to the open Belak (#3).

7. Seeing the pass (the puck is circled in black), the oiler defenseman collapse on Belak.  So now one defenseman is covering Jones, and two are covering Belak.  Nick Spaling (Preds #13) is all alone at the bottom of the screen.

8.  As Belak gets the puck, the defenseman who was guarding Jones follows the play, and now three Oilers are tracking Belak.  Keep in mind folks, Belak is our enforcer... not a goal scorer.   He is almost below the goal, and the puck is on his backhand.  The is able to get off a shot, but it is an incredibly low percentage shot.  The point is that having three Oilers responsible for him is too many, and someone(s) is letting their defensive assignment slip. Jones is uncovered, and Spaling is unnoticed.

9.  Now all four Oilers in the shot are watching Belak's low percentage shot, which has missed and is dangerously in front of the net.  The Oilers ALL have their back to the crashing Jones and Spaling.  Meanwhile, Jones and Spaling are driving to the net... hard.  The correct defensive play here would be for one of the Oilers to "Play the Man", and get in the way and stop Spaling and Jones from getting to the net.  However, the Oilers are instead "Playing the Puck", which means they are all looking for the puck so they can knock or pass it away from the goal.

10.  Belak's rebound is picked up by Jones, who is easily able to chip in puck.  Jones's shot is from just a few feet out, and no one touches him.  Goal!  Also, notice all the traffic around the Oiler goaltender.  It becomes very hard find the puck (much less save the puck) with that much traffic in front.

Wrap Up

What is great about this goal is that it shows that the Preds are fighting for the puck and are working hard to get to the net.  The first five predator goals of the game look almost idential to this one!  For highlgihts of those goals, click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weekly Q&A: Submit Your Questions Now

A conversation I overheard at recent game inspired this new (hopefully) weekly segment: Hockey Q&A.

Friend 1: Why is the goalie slapping his stick on the ice?
Friend 2: Um.... Pretty's sure he's trying to motivate his team.  Like saying, "go get 'em, boys." Yup, thats it.
Friend 1: Oh ok.  Cool.

Not cool... soooo not cool. So go ahead and submit your questions to Later this afternoon I will answer Friend 1's question, and one question submitted by lucky reader this week.  Please remember, we love stupid questions too here at Preds 101.

Don't worry hard core hockey fans... there will hopefully be something for everyone.  Not only will I try to make the post funny and media filled, but I'll also try to include some random nuggests of info that everyone can appriciate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lightening to Dress 8 D-Men, Bench Tanguay

According to Bolts Blogger Jon Jordan at HockeyBuzz, the Lightening are going to bench former all-star Alex Tanguay, among others, and dress 8 defensive players (two more than the usual six). Is this a desperation move by the Tampa Bay coach? It certainly is trying to send a message to the offensive players who certainly have been under performing.  Preds fan will recall that he was a free agent signing that many wanted to see land in Nashville.

Generally, a team's fourth line (aka grind line)  consists of three defensively minded forwards, who, along with two defensemen, try to shut down another teams scoring threat.  Now, when that line is on the ice, you will have one forward, and four defensemen.  Strange.

I can't think of a great football analogy, but here goes:  Its like a playing a prevent defense on every down.  The bend but not break style will give up alot of yards on the ground (i.e. shots, time of possession), but the offense hopefully wont be able to score (or at least any quality scoring chances).

As far as Alex Tanguay being benched... all I can say is wow.  Expect the Lightening to either come out totally flat, or ready to punch the Preds in the face.

Why You Care: Bolts v. Preds

In this "Kick 'em While They're Down" edition of "Why You Care", lets look at the Predators' opponent tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightening.   The only thing worse than being a Tampa Bay Lightening fan is being a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan (alot worse).  The lightening come into town having won only two of their last 10 games.  Let's examine how the predators need to take care of business against this Eastern Conference "also-ran" after the break.  (Also, in case you need something with more pictures, and missed last night's anatomy of a play, click here).

Their Words, Not Mine

Here's all you need to know about the state of the Bolts, from Bolts Blogger Jon Jordan<: "Simply stated, the Lightning are floundering right now."  He points out that the team has only scored nine goals in its last 13 games.  Nashville, on the otherhand, has scored 39 goals in its last 13 games, (and to add insult to injury, an impressive five last night).  The lightening are tied for next to last in the league in goals scored, and are one game out of next to last place in their conference.  [To be fair, the Eastern Conference standings are crazy right now, and it seems like half of the division is one game out of next to last place, but whatever, you get the point.]

Winners Win the Games They're Supposed to Win

In football, the montra goes that you have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat.  The (often) unstated rationale is that there are only 16 games, so a team can't afford to take a game off.  By extension, hockey teams with their lush and lengthy 82 game schedule, should be able to take a few games off and still be fine come playoff time.  NO!  You're confusing hockey with  basketball and baseball (and I don't know the first thing about NASCAR, but probably that... it seems like it goes on forever).  

The Predators have been playing a tightrope act that is "making the playoffs" in the last two years.  Last year, the Preds missed the postseason by 1 1/2 games.  The year before, we made it by 1 1/2 games.  Titans fans...  you know how it seems Jeff Fisher loves to win or lose every freaking football game on the last drive (Rams beatdown excluded)?  That's how the Predators are for the playoffs, and thats why we sometimes refer to them as the cardiac cats.  There's a reason that PredNation starts posting and talking about its statistical playoff chances months in advance.  [BTW PredNation, the odds are currently 50.8%] [BTW Titans fans, the odds for the Titans making the playoffs: 0.426%... so, how 'bout them predators, eh?].

Sufficed to say, this game is a game that winners win.

Playmakers Making Plays

You know you have a good fantasy football team (or heck, a real football team) when your top guys score points reliably and consistently.  Take a Chris Johnson for example.  It seems that no matter who the opponent is, CJ's going to find the end zone.  CJ, meet LW Steve Sullivan (#26) and RW Martin Erat (#10). Sully got the hat trick (a three goal game, which is different and far less life changing than a "Legwand Hat Trick") on Monday, and now has 17 points in his last 16 games.  Erat got his own hat trick four games ago.  They are centered by Captain Jason Arnott (#19), who leads the team in points, and together this line is consistently producing huge points.  

Silencing the Train Whistles

My car can't go as fast as Shea Weber can shoot a puck.  I need a new car and Shea needs to stop breaking (last season) predators' face, leg, and (this season) foot with his 103.4 mph slapshot.  That's actually a lie.  Weber needs to keep shooting... the Predators in front of him need to get out of the way.  Regardless, word is that Jordan Tootoo will be out three to four weeks with some broken bones in his foot.  

That's important.

Tootoo is a sparkplug.  He's a rolling mass of fury on the ice... and lately, he's been playing some pretty good hockey.  John Glennon at the Tennessean collected some quotes:

"He brings a lot to the team,’’ for ward Steve Sullivan said. "When he’s on the ice, he crea­tes a lot of attention toward him self because teams are on guard when he’s on the ice.  So he’ll definitely be missed.  He continues to grow every sin gle year. I feel like in the last two or three weeks, it’s probably the best hockey I’ve ever seen him play. So to lose him now, we just hope it’s not a long time.’’

How do opponents know to be on guard?  The crowd at the Sommet center blows on their train whistles.  That high pitched (somewhat annoying) sound used to indicate that a world of hurt was coming your way.  Sadly, those will be silent.  

K. Vanden Bosch Out, D. Ball in... So to Speak.

Think of that level of talent as the gap between Tootoo, and his likely replacement Wade Belak.  Belak can still dominate a few opponents an an enforcer, but he brings exactly zero offensive upside to the table.  As he doesn't have a highlight reel of goals, provided for your amusement is some "best fight" footage.

A Note on Fighting in Hockey
Potentially the most confused aspect of hockey by the casual observer is the role of fighting.  I will dedicate a blog post to it at some point.  For now, just understand that is calculated, purposeful, strategic, and has a lengthy and well enforced etiquette.

Anatomy of a Play: Why Faceoffs are so Important

On this installment of Anatomy of a Play, we look at Steve Sullivan's hat trick as a perfect example of why faceoff wins are so important in hockey.  We dig deeper into this peculiar mix of finesse and fury, complete with video, photos, and cheesy telestration, after the break.

First, a Quick Primer of Faceoffs

Faceoffs are how each stoppage of play gets resumed in hockey.  Winning faceoffs establishes possession of hte puck for your team.  The more faceoffs you win, the more often you have the puck, and the more likely you are to score (or less likely you are to get scored on).  Think of starting field position in football.  Kickers who routinely kick touchbacks, and punters who can pin an opponent inside the 20, are the unsung heroes of many a game.  Any real titan fan has to admit how important Craig Hentrich has been to so many Titan Wins.

The same true for centers in hockey.  A premium is placed on centers who win faceoffs (a.k.a. "draws") consistently.  For example, former predator Scott Nichol, now of the San Jose Sharks, is currently third in the league, winning 62% of his faceoffs.  Predator Captain Jason Arnott (#19) currently wins exactly 50%.  Fortunately, he won this draw that led to the Sullivan Goal.

Sullivan's Third Goal

Breaking Down the Faceoff

1.  Arnott wins the faceoff cleanly, passing the puck to Steve Sullivan (#29).  Steve Sullivan immediately passes the puck back to defenseman Dan Hamhuis (#2).  The pass from Sully to Hamhuis is so fast that I actually missed it on the reply twice.  Judging by the speed of the pass, and the angle/grip of Arnott's, Sully, and Hamhuis' sticks, it my fair guess that this play is a designed play.

2. The Columbus center, Antione Vermette's, (#50) first instinct is to chase the puck to Steve Sullivan.  However, because Sullivan got the puck to Hamhuis so quickly,  Vermette is pulled slightly out of position.

3. Hamhuis draws the blue jacket toward him, and then passes the puck to defenseman Francis Boullion (#51).  Notice that Boullion is pretty far away from the faceoff circle, is close to the blue line, and far away from any Columbus players.  This is because he was backing up since the faceoff win, in expectation of a pass.  (I say this because, if Boullion were in a more defensive mode, he'd likely be closer to center ice to prevent a push up ice by the Blue Jackets)

4. Notice how much room Boullion has to work with.  This amount of open ice is because simultaneous penalties have resulted in a 4-on-4 situation.  This is an offensive dream come true.  Boullion could walk forward and take a quick wrist shot, if he wanted to.  That would be a bad option here, though, because the Blue Jacket goalie has shifted from top-to-bottom of the screen following the pass to Boullion.

5.  The Columbus center Vermette is now pretty far out of position, due to the quick passes by Arnott, then Sullivan, then Hamhuis.  As Vermette has always had defensive responsibility for this side of the ice,  he is now in a mad-dash to get back into position and to cover Boullion.

6. Boullion is patient with the puck.  He waits until Vermette is on top of him before returning the pass on Sullivan.

7.  The Blue Jacket winger is actually NOT responsible for Sullivan in this situation, but is covering Hamhuis, who is behind Sullivan and off-screen to the left.  However, noticing the defensive breakdown, he is scrambling to cover Sullivan.

8.  Notice how after winning the faceoff, Arnott makes a drive toward the net.  Arnott is a big, strong center who can take up alot of valuable space in front of the net.  This is good because not only is he completely occupying one defender, but the other defender is clearly out of position and seems lost in the shuffle.  Did I mention that Sullivan has his stick practically over his head, waiting for a big, fat, juicy slapshot?

9.  From the behind the goal angle, we can see the result of Boullion's patience on the return pass: a wide open shootling lane.  The Blue Jackets are out of position as a result of chasing the quick Nashville passes.  The goalie is trying to get set up in front of the shot, but to no avail.  Sullivan knocks home an easy slap shot for the hat trick.

Five Seconds?

There you have it, the face off win sets up four passes and a slapshot goal... all in five seconds.  Obviosly crisp passing and knowing where your other teammates are on the ice is important.  But this goal, which really put the Blue Jackets away, would have never happened without that all important face-off win.

I hope that helps explain the importance of the face-off.  As always, this blog is still very much a work in progress.  Please send any questions or feedback to

Monday, December 14, 2009


Welcome to the second eagerly anticipated installment of "If You Like ____, You'll Love ____." Today's listing looks at the captain of tonights rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets.   Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets:  these two large offense machines have the potential to terrorize opposing defenses, hit an opponent in the mouth, and put up points in bunches.  More importantly, both of their teams still on the outside of the playoff race, looking in.  On the field, they have similar playing styles.  Off the ice... well they're pretty different.  Regardless, you're head-to-head comparison after the break!

Basically, the players are built the same, burst on the scene at an early age, play the same physical style, and have Ohio ties.

Scoring Ability

Check out Nash's top 10 goals here:

  1. Rookie of the Year:  Both were nominated, though Ben actually won Rookie of the Year.
  2. Power:  Both are power players.  Both can deliver a big hit when necessary.  The physical play is especially important to Rick's game.  
  3. Size:  Rick = 6'4, 220 lbs.  Ben = 6'5, 240 lbs.  Both are pretty big guys for their position.
  4. Ben grew up in Ohio and Ben play's in Ohio.  I've never been there, but I'm sure its lovely.  
  5. Both can score some serios points.  In Rick's second season (age 19), he scored 41 goals, tying Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk (two really top notch players) for most goals scored that season.  In Ben's second season, he lead the league in yards per attempt, and won a little thing called a Superbowl (sure, it was the worst winning QB performance in Superbowl history... but its like they say about a doctor who graduates last in his class...).
  1. Ben Rethliswhatever has a ridiculously long name.  Rick Nash's = bloggers best friend.
  2. Ben has won 2 superbowls... Rick has been swept lost one playoff series.
  3. Rick is well known for his work in the community.  He won the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2009, which is awarded to the player "who applies the core values of hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community".  Ben... well, he's best known off the ice for a terrible motorcycle accident and a sexual assault allegation.
Rick Nash against the Predators

Currently Rick's 33 points leads his team, and is significantly better than the Predators top players: Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont both are tied for 20 points.  Regardless, the Blue Jackets are have been terrible, and I mean TERRIBLE, against the predators.  (The Preds have won the last 13 against the Blue Jackets, which, IMHO, is one of the worst team names in the NHL).  On the other hand, Ben and the Steelers, if you remember, beat the Titans in a heartbreak of a NFL season kick-off game, and started a run that crushed Titan spirits everywhere.

A Disclaimer

The comparison between Rick Nash & Ben Roethlisberger was not my first choice, and isn't the most persuasive comparison outthere. I expect to get blasted on the comments about it. I was planning an amazing Like/Love with Jordan Tootoo... but thanks to Shea Weber & Tootoo's broken foot, that will have to wait 3-4 weeks. In the interim, I decided to profile Rick Nash on the advice that a friend gave me: "I know to root for the good guys... tell me who to root against for the bad guys." For these Like/Love posts, the goal is to get it 80% right and 80% accessible to the less-than-average fan, then to get the discription 100% right, and sacrifice accessibility in the process.

That being said, if you have a better comparison, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I'd love to hear it!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Anatomy of a Play: Why Top Tier Defensemen are so Important

The predators lost in OT to the Red Wings, 3-2, tonight.  The OT goal was a heartbreaker for preds fans, and a great example of what makes leagues top defensive players so great.  Let's dive deeper into this D-Man let down in the first installment of "Anatomy of a Play". (With pictures and video after the break).

The Situation

The OT period has just started.  OT, unlike regulation play, is a four-on-four situation (plus goalies) for five minutes.  If no one scores, it goes to a shootout.  The goal is to ensure that someone scores.  Imagine if the NFL, in overtime, required the defense to play without a free-safety.  Same situation.  You'd see alot more "long bombs" in OT.  That is exactly what the Predators saw tonight.

Anatomy of the Play

Here is the game winning goal.  The Predators turn the puck over in the offensive zone (bad, but it happens).

At 0:07 in the clip, the "long bomb" happens to Todd Bertuzzi (red arrow).  Think of Bertuzzi as a LenDale White.  He's big, but not huge.  He's pretty fast, but not lightning fast.  He's good, but not great.

At 0:09 seconds, Bertuzzi has the puck.  Notice that that the Predator Defenseman Klein, #8, has a step on Bertuzzi.   Just like the NFL, speed is so important in hockey.  Klein is now playing the role of free safety.  Its his job to make sure no one gets by him.  Will he "make the tackle" (i.e. knock Bertuzzi of the puck)?

Ah... no.   Speed kills.  Notice what happens between 0:09 and 0:10:  Klein loses the step that he has on Bertuzzi, now it is neck-and-neck, a race to the goal.  This is where the difference between top D-men, and second string, is so important.  Klien is a younger defenseman.  He's going to be very good, but he did not make the play here.  Here, he's Donnie Nickie, not Michael Griffin.

All is not lost at this point.  Bertuzzi's stance (above) is called "building a wall".  He is using his body to shield the puck from Klien.  Think of this as a running back covering the ball with both hands, running with his head down near the goal line.  He won't fumble, but he's not sprinting.  Bertuzzi is not sprinting either. (Notice, that in this position, Klein must continue to skate toward the bottom of the screen.  His body position won't let him skate toward the top).

So Klein didn't make the first play by knocking Bertuzzi off the puck.  He is skating full speed on Bertuzzi's left, and the puck is on the other side of Bertuzzi.  Right now Klein has two options: (1)Klein can either make a play for the puck (think of this as trying to strip the football), which is less likely to stop the play but also less likely to draw a penalty.  (2) Or, Klein can put a shoulder into Bertuzzi (i.e. make the tackle), which is more likely to draw a penalty much much more likely to break up the play. [Think to yourself right now, what would a Griffin or Courtland Finnegan do in this situation... he'd blow the opponent up!]

Unfortunately, Klein picks option two, and tries to play the puck.  To be fair, this is a "safer" play if it works.  Had Griffin gone for the hit, he would have very well ended up in the penalty box.  Thus, the Predators would have been down four-players-to-three.  Regardless, Klein switches sides to "get around the wall".  He is now behind Bertuzzi.  Worse, remember how the "building the wall" forced Bertuzzi to skate toward the bottom of the screen?  Well, to defend against that, Pekka Rinne moved toward the bottom of the screen to get ready to make a save.  How that Klein is behind Bertuzzi, there is no more "wall", and Bertuzzi is much more agile.

Rinne, the goalie, has already committed to going toward the bottom of the screen.  Bertuzzi is free to juke back to the top of the screen.  Klein was not strong enough to force the puck off of Bertuzzi's stick once Klein made his move.  Bertuzzi is able to put the puck into a relatively open net.

Weber Wouldn't Have Done That

I can't find the video, but I think I'm right when I say that a similar play happened during the second period.  That time Weber was the defenseman.  Instead of making an extra move to play the puck, Weber "played the body".  That's why Weber is an All-Star Defenseman, and Klein is very good, but still a work in progress.

Wrap Up

So there you have it, folks.  Jeff Fisher hates missed tackles and tucking in his shirt.  I too hate missed defensive plays.  That is what we had tonight.  The decision made between 0:08 and 0:10 lost us the game.  However, I must congratulate the team overall.  After a disastrous first period the team really rallied.   Coming out of this game with 1 point is huge.  (I will do a post on how the NHL standings work and why the are so confusing later... for now, think of an OT loss as "1/2 a win"... because that's what it is).

Thank You - Preds Bloggers!

A special thanks to Dirk Hoag at and The Oates family at for the shoutouts on the new blog.  Both are really top notch hockey blogs.  I may have missed (or will miss) a few others.  Let me just say that the blogs on the right are all worth reading in a real way (I know I do).

Why You Care About Tonight's Game Against the Red Wings

The Titans have the Colts... The Preds have the Red Wings.
The Titans hate facing Peyton Manning... The Preds hate facing Nicklas Lidstrom. (See below for my first installment of "If you like ___, you'll love ___").

A Hated Division Foe

As a predators fan, when someone says to you "I'm a red wings fan" the nicest thing you can say in response is "well, no one's perfect." You wont hear that many niceties tonight at the Sommet Center. The Predators hate the Red Wings. For many years, the Red Wings thought of the Preds as a nuisance, at best.

For the newcomer, think of the New England Patriots of the NHL. Not because their coach dresses like a homeless person. They have an organization that wins year-after-year-after-f'ing-year. Much like a marathon of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians", it gets old very quickly.


Remember the days when the Baltimore Ravens kept knocking the Titans out of the Playoffs. (And how much the city loathed them in return. Ray Lewis, man I hate that guy). The same is true for the Red Wings. Twice those bastards have knocked us out of the playoffs in the first round.

Fortunately those days are over. The predators can actually beat a healthy Red Wings Team to a pulp from time to time, including last year's 8-0 beatdown. A few weeks ago the Preds took down the Wings in front of a home crowd. Final score: 3-1 good guys.

The Detroit team that rolls into town tonight is hurt... badly. It's like the Red Wings got into some gambling debt with the Hockey Gods (a term you will hear a lot in hockey, a.k.a "luck"), and couldn't pay up, so they got their figurative knee-caps bashed. Its like the injured 0-6 to start the season Titans. Not the 5-0 healthy VY titans (nor the 0-1 didn't show up against the Colts Titans).

Attendance and an Energetic Fan Base

Attendance is always important for the predators. I'm sure there will be a whole blog post about that in the near future. The Red Wings games are almost a guaranteed sell out. Sometimes Predators fans are known (seriously) as the loudest fans in the NHL. We're credited with a TV timeout ovation that may well have saved the franchise.

Some of the games this season have been raukous, loud, and entertaining. Some, less so. If you are looking for a high energy, fun night, tonight should be the night. It will likely be a sell-out crowd. As of now, there are very limited tickets remaining.

(If you have never been to a game before, you are in for a treat. Its not like the Titans tame/weak/uncreative cheers: Ti-Tans! De-Fense... Ti-Tans! De-Fense! Bo-Ring! Be prepared to tell the Red Wings goalie that he sucks. Alot. Loudly. As do the Red Wings. And the players. And the Coach. It is, if nothing else, cathartic).


I won't go into a lot of detail just yet, because it is early in the season. However, division games are critical for playoff positioning. A win tonight potentially puts the preds 1/2 a game out of being the division leader (which guarantees home ice advantage through at least the first two round of the playoffs). A loss tonight could potentially drop us out of playoff contention. I say again, its early. However, you know how this year the Titans may go 9-7 and if they do they have a long shot of making the playoffs. The same thing happened to the Preds last year. One more division win (like tonight's game) and the Preds could have been in.



  1. Captains of their Team
  2. Guaranteed Hall of Famers
  3. Squeaky-clean, family-friendly personalities
  4. Lead team to championship
  5. Still playing for the team that drafted them (Manning = 1998), (Lidstrom = 1989)
  6. Multiple Pro-Bowls (Manning = 9) and All Star Games (Lidstrom = 11)
  7. Offensive POTY (Manning = 1) and Defensive POTY (Lidstrom = 6)
  8. Crazy Smart
  1. Peyton makes ALOT more money in advertisements.
  2. Peyton QBs the offense.  Lidstrom is a defensive powerhouse.  However, he does QB the powerplay for the Red Wings.
  3. Lidstrom delivers punishing hits.  Manning never seems to hit or get hit by anything.
  4. Manning = 1st pick in the draft.  Lidstrom = 53rd.

That is all for my inagural post. I am sure these will get better as time goes on. For now, thanks for reading and lets go Predators!