Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nashville, What are you more excited about?

Alot of draft talk on the radio today, especially for a day that may be the most important game in Preds' history.  So here's the question...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cheater!: Explaining Erat's Penalty Shot

This edition of "Cheater!" answers a question that several friends had following Erat's penalty-shot goal during game three, namely: "What the !@#$ is going on here?!"

I knew they were rare, but I did not realize  the quasi-historic treat Pred Nation got on Tuesday, as we watched Martin Erat's penalty shot goal. reports that it had been over two years since the last playoff-penalty-shot-goal.  In fact, Erat's goal was just the 19th goal on 59 total attempts in playoff history.

The Video (Ok, I couldn't find video of the penalty, but here's Erat scoring on a penalty shot, and its just as fun to watch).

The Basics: If a offensive player is on a breakaway, and a defender fouls him from behind, the result is a penalty shot (the most awesome penalty of all time!)

The Rule:  Rule 25 is damn long states in part:

"There are four (4) specific conditions that must be met in order for the Referee to award a penalty shot for a player being fouled from behind. They are:
(i)  The infraction must have taken place in the neutral zone or attacking zone, ...;
(ii)  The infraction must have been committed from behind;
(iii)  The player in possession and control ... must have been denied a reasonable chance to score...
(iv)  The player in possession and control ... must have had no opposing player between himself and the goalkeeper."

Infractions that will result in a penalty shot are: 
  1. Being fouled from behind, via Holding, Hooking, Tripping, and Slashing
  2. Deliberate illegal substitution
  3. Deliberately dislodging the net
  4. Falling on the puck in the crease
  5. Picking up the puck in the crease
  6. Throwing something at the skater (Pred Favorite Scotty Hartnell uses his glove as an example... poorly)

NFL Comparison:  No really good comparison, and the penalty shot is pretty self explanatory.  However, the best comparison I could come up with was this: when the defense jumps offsides, the offense often gets a "free play".  I suppose this is the "free play" of the NHL... not really though.  

Can you think of a better one? Leave it in the comments.

Anatomy of a Goal: Out Hawking the Hawks

If I say to you that a long bomb pass through an open neutral zone results in a game winning goal, would you expect that the shooter was Chicago's Patrick Kane, or Nashville's David Legwand.  Well, reset the Legwand 'Meter, so it must be the latter!

This goal is a great example of  a lightening fast transition game by Nashville, and a defense by Chicago  that does not play a Nashville style "Trap".  Its a much better, and differing picture, than game 2's long bombs.  The result, a two-on-one breakaway and a Legwand game-winning goal.

Want to see Chicago's reaction to the game, click here.

The Video

The Breakdown

The play is in the Preds' defensive zone.  Notice first the excellent positioning by the Predators.  Every player is exactly where they need to be.

1.  LW Smithson collects the puck along the boards.  He is going to move toward the net away from the pressure, and collect the puck.  Chicago does not keep up the forecheck, but instead accepts the turnover and starts to transition back to defense.  LW Smithson will make the cross ice pass once the pressure lets up.

2.  Well, Chicago may start to transition, but C Legwand and RW Sullivan bust it down ice.  This aggressive play was not typical of Legwand's line during the regular season, but I'm glad to see it.

3.  The D Man (I think its Weber, but Its hard to tell from the Video: EDIT, its Klien, thanks to Shlimmy for pointing that out.) makes a great pass under amazing pressure from Chicago.  The pass is definitely of the long bomb variety.

4.  Here is another view of the pass.  Again, notice the pressure on the Preds' D.  Notice also how much open ice there is.  This is not a picture you saw very often last night, when the Preds were on defense.  The Preds did such a wonderful job of clogging the neutral zone.

5.  The great thing about this pass is that it catches up to Sullivan, who is skating full speed.  Also, the pass is banked off of the boards, before it gets to Sullivan, so that the odds of it getting turned over are far less.  [The football comparison here is a QB putting a football on a WR's, say, outside shoulder, if the defending CB is on his inside shoulder.]

6.  Sullivan has half a step on the Chicago defender.  He does not quite have the puck in a shooting position, though, so a pass to Legwand makes perfect sense.  Notice that if the Chicago defender chasing Legwand is one or two steps closer to the play, he could get in the passing lane and shut down the play.  No such luck for the Hawks, though.  Speed is so important, especially in the playoffs.

7.  Sullivan makes a perfect pass, forcing Neimi to shift from left to right quickly.  Legwand has half a net to shoot into, and he doesn't miss.  The result is a game winning goal, and 00:00:00 on the Legwand O'Meter.  Go Preds!

The Poll

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hahaha... Ohhh man... That was... Haha... I mean... Wow.

Well that was just a fantastic win for the Predators.  Outstanding defense, a workmanlike effort from the team.  Timely offense.  Grit.  Such a great game.

If you can't get excited about that game, you probably hate fun, or have about had enough of this "good times" thing people keep talking about.  Or you're a hawks fan.

Speaking of Hawks fans, take a look at their live reactions to the third period, in the comments section from the Second City Hockey blog.  Enjoy it tonight, and then forget about it.  A critical game 4 starts thursday.

I plan on having a AOAG up by tomorrow.  Until then, congrats Pred Nation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The "Trap": Why Clogging the Neutral Zone is the Key to Beating CHI

Chicago is a blazing fast team.  We've heard so much in this series that the Preds need to clog the neutral zone in order to be effective.  What happens when the Preds don't clog the neutral zone?  You blink and CHI goes from defense to having two great shots that would have been goals, if not for the heroics of Pekka Rinne.

The Video

The Breakdown

Before I start, let me point out that I am using a highlight of the penalty kill to emphasize the important of clogging up the neutral zone during regular strength play.  I chose the PK example for two reasons: (1) because it shows the importance of staying out of the box, and (2) it is just a great example of what happens when we do not clog up the zone.  Besides, the Preds do such a good job of clogging the zone, it was hard to find a good, even strength example of when we don't.

1.  0:05 seconds to disaster.  The play starts harmlessly.  The Chicago defense has the puck, executing an otherwise bland, average, breakout.  Versteeg  and Hossa are slightly ahead of the play, ready to receive a pass.  Kopecky is to the left of the shot, ready for a long bomb pass.

2.  0:04 seconds to disaster.    Hossa receives the pass.  No Predators are even close to defending him.  He is full speed now, and there is nothing to slow him down.  I'm starting to really hate this guy.

3. 0:04 seconds to disaster.   The red dotted line represents the distance Hossa has traveled since the last frame (that is to say within the same second, are you f'ing serious!?).  The blue dotted line represents C Marcel Goc.

4.  RW Smithson tries to use his stick to break up the pass of Hossa.  Unfortunately, he is not quick enough to get his stick into the passing lane.  As a result, Hossa will both get the pass off and continue full speed into the zone.

The Predators do not have enough pressure on the Chicago players in the neutral zone.  The Blackhawks are able to enter and travel in the neutral zone too easily.  If the Preds had one more skater in the neutral zone, it would go a long way in breaking up those passes.  The Predators must do this (i.e. "Clog the Zone" or "Execute the Trap") in order to neutralize Chicago's speed.

5. 0:02 seconds to disaster.   Hossa continues to fly unabated into the zone, and is still leaving Goc in the dust.   LW Versteeg (ok, he's listed as a RW, but he's playing on the left.  I don't know what the actual line ups were, and honestly, I don't care.  I hate these guys) has the puck, and as soon as he enters the zone, C Kopecky, #82 enters as well.

6.  As the three CHI forwards enter the zone, they create a three-on-two situation.  The defenders are on their heals.  The defense covers the LW and RW, leaving C Kopecky unguarded.

7.  0:01 seconds to disaster.  Versteeg makes a perfect pass to Hossa, of course, who immediately turns the pass into a shot on net.  Preds' D Klein actually has good positioning on Hossa, but regardless, Hossa gets the shot off.

Oh, and #82 C Kopecky...  he's going to skate full speed toward the front of the net, with no one to stop him... so there's that.  Smithson and Goc look slow backchecking, in comparison.

8.  0:00 seconds to disaster. C Kopecky is unguarded and takes a full on slap shot at point blank range.  If Pekka Rinne doesn't "make the save" so much as he is able to get into position and simply absorb the blast.   Thank god those goalie pads are pretty thick.

Wrap Up

Yes, this was a penalty kill.  This tic-tac-toe passing play may not happen during even strength... if we execute the trap right.  However, Chicago has proven over the course of the season that they can play this run-and-gun game on the power play, at even strength, or even short handed.  In my opinion, if the Preds are going to win more games, its going to have to follow the blueprint of game one pretty closely.  For the next few games, slow and boring is beautiful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cheater!: Elbowing or Charging - More Reasons to Hate Ho$$a

Coach Barry Trotz, who I have the utmost respect for, is saying in todays paper that Patric Hornqvist did not finish Game 1 because of a skate issue. Color me skeptical.

Looking back at the scarce highlights on makes me want to pony up for full Gamecenter Package revealed some interesting tidbits.  Included was this hit on Hornqvist by yours truly, Marian Ho$$a.  There was no penalty on the play, due in part I'm sure, that it was within the first period of game one of the playoffs (i.e. emotions are high, "let 'em play").

The tale of the tape, if nothing else, provided for a great opportunity to provide another installment of "Cheater!", which provides explanations of Hockey penalties to the casual fans out there. (And for the record, I'm not saying this should have been a call... do you?  Vote using the poll at the bottom.)

Here's the video for a full breakdown.
This hit reminds of of a hit on a Red Wing player who I can't remember, during the playoffs.  The story went that he got a concussion during the game, but kept playing, because the rule was that if you suffered  a concussion and sat out the rest of the game, you had to sit out the next game.  He woke up the next morning, and the only reason he figured that he played a game last night was that his foot hurt from where he blocked a slap shot.  He said "my wife had to tell me whether we won or lost".   (I can't remember the player of specifics, if you know, share it in the comments below).

The Rules

1. NHL's New Rule on Headshots:  

Basically: You can't hit a guy in the head.

The Rule: According to the press release: A player is prohibited from making "a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact."

NFL Equivalent/Analogy:  Defensive players are not allowed to touch the quarterback's helmet.  Of course, that rule is enforced with an insane level of strictness.   The NHL rule is punishable only by fine, after the fact.

2. Charging

Basically: You can't blow a guy up.

The Rule: Rule 43.1 states that charging is: "minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice."

NFL Equivalent/Analogy:  Tackling.  And just like in the NFL, thats kind of what I love about the games... so... hmm.  Moving on.

3. Elbowing

Basically: Don't elbow.  You need more? Fine.

The Rule:  Rule 46.1 States: Elbowing shall mean the use of an extended elbow in a manner that may or may not cause injury. 

NFL Equivalent/Analogy: Yup, an elbow to the head.  Its 15 yards.

The Poll

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anatomy of a (GW) Goal: Getting the Puck in Deep

What a game last night Pred Nation!  One thing that I think Nashville did extremely well last night was get the puck in deep.  Why is that important, and how did it lead to the Predators' first-ever-playoff-road-game-winning goal?  Here is the first Playoff Edition of "Anatomy of a Goal."

Its been a while since the last AOAG.  Here's the legend for a refresher on what everything means.

The Video

The Breakdown
1. The Predators have done a good job of getting the puck deep in the offensive zone.  The play starts with a Preds turnover in the corner.  Chicago #22 will recover the puck.

2. This shot is critical to showing how the Preds will win this series.  Notice the Chicago wingers (at the red dotted line).  They are very deep in the zone (put another way, they are very close to their own goaltender).  The Preds can really reduce Chicago's forwards' speed and reduce the possibility of a Chicago offensive breakaway by forcing their forwards to play defense and stay low in the zone, like they are above in 2.

3.  Chicago gains control of the puck.  Predators defense is well positioned (i.e. not scrambling).  The Predators forwards are backchecking.  This is all good for the Preds.  Chicago, on the other hand, are all very close together.  There is no long-bomb pass that is available to quickly get down ice.  When you hear commentators say talk about the importance of Predators "getting the puck deep", this is what they are talking about.

4.  The "Play of the Play".  Smithson's strong backchecking pressures Chicago #22.  Because #22 sees no one in front of him to pass to, he tries to skate around Smithson.  There are two problems with this decision for Chicago. First, he does not make the easy pass to the LW at the bottom of the screen.  Second, he keeps the puck in the zone.  By keeping the puck in the zone, the Predators will not be offsides if they regain possession.

5.  Chicago #22's poor decision to try to skate around RW Smithson results in a turnover, as LW J.P. Dumont skates from behind and steals the puck.  What makes this more difficult for Chicago is that their skaters were anticipating being on offense, and are out of position once the play shifts back to defense.

LW Dumont makes a quick, accurate pass to C Legwand. This pass puts alot of pressure on the last Chicago defenseman.  Lets see what happens...

6.  Oh!  The turnover and the quick pass have left Chicago completely out of position, and scrambling.  Notice that all three skaters are focused solely on (the impossible task) of catching C Legwand.  No one is taking responsibility for LW Dumont.

7.  C Legwand's shot creates a rebound.  The Chicago defense is unable to clear the puck: #6 dove, and is pretty well useless at this point; #5 overskated the play; #22 was not fast enough to get back, and has realized (too late) that Dumont is crashing the net hard.

8.  If you are Chicago, this is the last image you want to see.  The goalie is dead to rights.  The defense is woefully out of position.  Dumont has a fat rebound on his stick, with plenty of open net to put it in.  Goal Preds.

The Poll

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Predators Search Story

PredNation, it has been a long time.  I apologize and hope to get on a more regular posting schedule during this post season.  Hopefully that will start with a Anatomy of a Goal from tonight's Preds GW goal.  In the meantime, here is a Google Search Story about our favorite hockey franchise...

GO PREDS!  See you at Blackstone tonight!