In last night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, we saw James Neal get the puck below the goal line and be faced with minimal options.
Malkin stays on the boards for some reason, and Kunitz is covered in the high slot. He heads to the net, but he’s clearly going to get cut off by Canucks defenders, so he makes the low risk play of throwing the puck towards the goal.
It goes in.
In last night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, we saw Max Lapierre get the puck on the goal line and be faced with minimal options.
It had looked like Pittsburgh was going to break out the puck, so his teammates had all backed off, but that pest Lapierre kept working, got possession of the puck, and realized he had nowhere to go with it. So, he makes the low risk play of throwing the puck towards the goal.
It goes in.
In this morning’s game between the Rangers and Kings, it happened again, though in a way that the player deserves much, much more credit. Ryan Callahan was trying to bank the puck in off the back of Jonathan Quick, who was apparently inspecting the ice in his crease for nicks or something.
(No video yet, as the game is still going on.)
I was asked about those plays on Twitter by @TheoryDean: “Opening night jitters or just players reading goalies cheating?” (By the way, I went to his Twitter page to link him, and saw that he plays bass for Theory of a Deadman. They’re on tour in the south and got the Center Ice package for their bus. That’s pretty rad.)
In the end, I’d say it’s neither.
Hockey is one of the few sports where sometimes you have to say “okay, you know what, this isn’t working, I’m going to cut my losses in as safe a way as possible.” In football, a quarterback can throw the ball away when he’s under pressure. Like that, getting the puck to the net is better than a turnover.
Because it’s a fast, reactionary game, players have been taught since a young age where their safety bailout buttons are.
In the d-zone you can chip it out or ice it. In the neutral zone you just want to fire it in deep. In the offensive zone you have two options: put it in your feet and protect it against the boards, or put the puck to the net.
Coaches LOATHE when you make a blind pass from below the goal line, hoping that one of your teammates is there. It’s the equivalent of breaking out the other team, so you best be sure you get the puck to that goalie if you’ve chosen that eating the puck on the boards isn’t going to pan out.
Once you get that puck to the tender, one of three things is likely going to happen: the goalie will kick a rebound into the slot, which can be a good thing. He may cover it and hold for a whistle, which is fine. Or maybe it goes in because he’s cheating or napping, which is an awesome little bonus.
It’s not some thing that players do now, or are going to start doing more. It’s always been our bailout – last night’s lucky breaks just brought the play to the forefront.