I love hockey and there is nothing like watching it live. Do you think most people who haven’t grown up with the sport know how to take in a hockey game? My guess is no. They are “puck” focused versus “zone” focused. When we have the puck in the offensive zone, my eyes are not on the puck or its carrier. I watch the entire offensive zone and my focus shifts depending on which quadrant holds the puck…no, I am actually not watching that quadrant. I watch the one without the puck.
Example – Imagine the play is moving from right to left. The Kings have the puck. Kopitar has it to the left of the left dot and near the boards (closest to your side). Where are your eyes? Mine are primarily to the right half of the offensive zone, with an awareness of the entire zone. As the puck moves, my focus shifts away from the puck and to the other half (if puck is up high, I am looking at the bottom half)
Same with the defensive zone although the “box” area around the crease gets a lot of my attention regardless of whether the puck is there.
The neutral zone is the biggest challenge so I generally span 5-10 feet behind or ahead of the puck carrier depending on whether I am focused on our defense or offense.
Why the hell do I do this?
Because I am not concerned with where the puck is.
I am concerned with where the puck is going. I want to see where the players without the puck skate in anticipation of the next pass, hit, shot or play.
“Hey Scribe, this is all really interesting, but why is this post titled N.Y. M.O.?”
I am glad you asked.
You see, as a student of this sport we all love, one thing I enjoy the most is studying the opposing team and their tendencies.
I did it with New York.
What is New York’s modus operandi based on one game?
The following is subject to supplementation but I think I got it.
On D zone exits, they are a one trick pony. Chip and chase. They place so much emphasis on their speed that they build their breakouts, not on quick passes and possession out of the defensive zone, but just getting the puck out to an open area in the neutral zone and then chasing it down. They are willing to take this to such a level that they even leave the zone early before they have possession. Justin Williams’ OT goal in game 1 wasn’t an accident. The Rangers had abandoned the D zone because they thought they had the puck even when they didn’t.
In the neutral zone, it’s a similar mentality. If they believe they have the potential for an outnumbered attack, their forwards will carry the puck through and into the offensive zone. If they do not have an outnumbered attack, the same chip and chase mentality comes in, except this time it is into the offensive zone. I thought it was interesting that the Rangers were so willing to give up the puck and rely on their speed to get it back (and try to get behind the defense). While that is a fundamental of a dump and chase system, their chip and chase is more risky (and reckless because the puck isn’t 200 feet deep) because an intercepted chip attempt or a defensive puck retrieval would create a quick transition the other way and forwards out of position to back check, especially against a team with speed on defense and with an aggressive forecheck, ala us.
In the offensive zone, they do know how to cycle and the part that still has me studying is their play from below the goal line. They look for opportunities to create plays, not so much from the point, but down low. Think of the goal line as their blue line. Once again, high risk because a broken play (errand pass, deflected pass, intercepted pass), can create a counter attack in a hurry with their players caught deep.
Knowing our L.A. Kings well, I see three things that will neutralize New York.
First, limit turnovers and giveaways. While this may fall under the “duh” category, I mean this more specific to mistakes at or around the blue line or in the neutral zone. Since their players pinch the high defenseman or forward, it’s important that lateral passes, especially those without a D2 back in the neutral zone, be safe. If it’s not there and there isn’t an option B through support. it’s better to hold and get the puck deep. The Rangers appear willing to chase the puck carrier so someone with Doughty, Martinez and Mitchell’s puck handling skills can pull that forward out of position and create passing lanes as a result.
Second, sustained forecheck below the top of the circle. We already know this to be our bread and butter but against a team like the Rangers, it has heightened benefits of pinning their faster guys where they cannot use speed. What made Chicago such a challenge was their near flawless stick checking game. It was difficult to maintain a puck possession game when their defensive zone coverage was built around taking pucks off sticks without having to play a physical game. New York doesn’t have that based on the first game I saw. They fall into traditional coverages once the puck cycles down low. There we have the size and skill advantage.
Finally, the third key, is somehow fixing this absurdity of paying $11.75 for Stella at the game.
No, that’s not it.
Finally, one D back. I tweeted during Wednesday’s game “We have momentum. More conservative on defense but with active forwards give NY nothing. Smart hockey boys.”
We generally play that style anyway although we activated both D a lot against Chicago. F1 and F2 forecheck. F3 picks his spots. D1 is ready to jump in if the play is there. D2 stays back. Committing to this lower risk, mid to high reward forecheck makes a lot of sense against a team that plays much of its game trying to chase or create loose pucks. This way, our forwards can be even more aggressive knowing they have at least one D back and once we have the puck in their zone, their zone becomes our zone by virtue of traffic to the blue paint and their hyper spastic forwards and defensemen are forced to do what they would prefer not to do – collapse and play defense.
In our pairings, Muzzin is back (but close to the blue line because of his speed) and Doughty is the D1. Mitchell is back and Voynov is the D1 (assuming Voynov has removed head from butt). Greene is back (further than others due to his lack of food speed) with Martinez as the D1.
It is possible (and the Kings do it) to play more aggressive than what I mention, only pulling back the D2 when the puck is above the dots. That is cool too (especially when the pass is coming back to the point) but the D2 has to be aware of where the puck is and where the Rangers’ pressing forwards and defensemen are. It is a greater challenge to fall back and then get to the right end of the ice at the same time (skating back, reading the play and anticipating the pass) than it is to stay back far enough to not rely so much on that first step and anticipation.
Remember when Jake Muzzin fell? That is what happened.
$11.75. Seriously. Do you know what the profit margin is on that one beer? 1100%.
Game two is Saturday. Look for Sutter to make the right adjustments? He is way smarter than I will ever be about puck. So yes.
Categories: L.A. Kings 2014 Stanley Cup Coverage