Hockey is both a super-accessible sport and one that requires a lot of education time.
You can spend most of your life outside of it, but go to one game and get instantly hooked. The nature of the sport is enthralling. But you can spend the next 10 years of your life obsessively watching hockey and still learn new things about how it’s played and why certain plays work and others don’t.
That’s the beauty of it. And it’s that subtle beauty that ultimately made the Vancouver Canucks lose a game last night in overtime in Nashville ... while they were on the power play ... with 1.5 seconds left on the clock.
Yeah. It was impressively bad.
Seems like a simple turnover, but layered underneath that are a bunch of little moments that led to Calle Jarnkrok burying that puck in the net.
Roll the tape.
Part One: The Entry
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Canucks’ approach here.
You know you have seconds left to get a goal. The best way to do that? Keep the Predators’ eyes moving on your zone entry and hope a final blast from the point catches them out of position.
“I’m going to move your attention ... “
“ ... and then ... “
“ ... and then either ... “
Either of those two options can be pulled off with at least one scoring chance before time expires.
Unless the trailing guy’s angle is way off. But, surel—
Part Two: The Angle Was Way Off
I’d love to hop into Troy Stecher’s head at this point.
There’s nothing great that he can do from this angle. Not as a right-handed shot.
Passing to Henrik Sedin for the one-time is out of the question. He can only fire at the net by twisting his body against itself. You know how quarterbacks are taught to never throw off their back foot or against the direction they’re running? (i.e., Peyton Manning, a righty, would never run left and then try to pass to the right.) That’s because you don’t get any power behind it. Or accuracy.
The same concept applies in hockey. Sure, Stecher can shoot the puck here. But it’s against the direction he’s floating. And, thus, the shot will float.
Part Three: The Blocked Shot
Yeah. Vancouver’s in trouble now.
The shot never makes it to the net. It bounces off Roman Josi, who’s boxing out his man in front of the net.
The next second of the play kind of determines the result of the whole game.
- Josi blocks the shot
- Stecher keeps floating forward. I guess he’s trying to see where it lands for a rebound?
- Before he finds the puck, Josi is a stride ahead towards it. Josi saw the puck and miles of empty ice before anyone else could react.
And now the race is on.
Part Four: The Desperation Dive
I can’t blame Henrik Sedin for trying this. But if I could turn back time I’d love to see what happens if he decides to give chase instead of diving to break up the play.
Because that dive is the highest of high-risk, high-reward opportunities.
Let’s say Sedin hits the puck backwards instead of forwards. Let’s say that shaves 1.5 seconds off the clock. We’ve got a shootout.
The risk, of course, is that Sedin hits the puck forwards where Josi can gather it anyway and keep racing down the ice.
Which is exactly what happened.
But instincts kicked in there, and I’m sure I would’ve tried the same thing. It just didn’t work out. And now it’s all up to Ryan Miller to stop this train.
Part Five: The Read
Something you should look for on breakaway goals is the body language of both the attackers and the goalie. There’s usually one slight movement that changes everything. That’s hockey! I come back to this moment a month ago:
See how Benn's toe curls for a fraction of a second before opening to saucer the game-winner to Lindell? No wonder Zatkoff bit. pic.twitter.com/yXQ8Ltsir4— Pat Iversen (@Pat_Iversen) December 24, 2016
But on first glance, it’s tough to see any hints or fake-outs by Josi as he approaches Miller. He’s staring him down, but his stick doesn’t really betray his intentions to either shoot or pass.
So what happened? It’s not until you flip the camera angles that you realize how Josi tricked Miller.
Josi does stare him down. The lack of any betraying body language is the whole point. He goads Miller into thinking, even for a fraction of a second, that he’s going to keep the puck and shoot it himself.
And the second that Miller (quite literally) inches in Josi’s direction, he dishes the puck to Jarnkrok.
It all happens so quickly that you have to dig to find the fraction of time that decided the game-winner.
But it’s worth finding, if only to appreciate the nuances that color this great sport.