Killing penalties isn’t an easy job. It’s not enough that you’re down a guy, but you’re generally facing your opponent’s most talented players as well. Those guys make a living capitalizing on getting a sliver of room, or a tiny break, and it can be tough to keep them where you want them.
Last night the Rangers beat the Devils 3-0 with an empty netter. The second goal was scored by talented rookie Chris Kreider (I’d like to go on record now saying I think he’s going to be an NHL star) off a powerplay breakout.
First, here’s the video – I’ll break down what went wrong (and right) with screenshots below that.
In the opening frame, the Rangers are heading up ice. Chris Kreider has just left the puck for Michael Del Zotto, who’s being angled to the bench-side of the rink by Adam Henrique. In all likelihood, that’s Henrique’s job – to be a Border Collie, and run the Rangers in a certain direction. That’s how most PK forecheck’s work.
Rather than force it on the powerplay (you never want to pass it through people with the man-advantage if you have a safer option), Del Zotto accepts the steering and does the right thing – he moves the puck up to Dan Girardi, who’s heading up-ice. Henrique has done his job, and now it’s Zach Parise’s turn: his role on the PK is to force Girardi to do something with the puck before the red line. Pressuring there means he can’t dump the puck in or it’ll be icing, which means he may have to rush a decision, increasing your chances of a turnover.
Parise executes this perfectly (though it wouldn’t kill him to get his stick on the ice at some point, which he never does), but Girardi is a talented player, and sees something. After Derek Stepan swings across the ice, Anisimov fills his lane and supports Girardi, giving him an option. A lot of times we’ll see a soft chip to Anisimov here (safer), but if you have a lane, you have a lane. He hits Anisimov in the middle of the ice…
…and the Devils are still in fine shape. They’ve got the two-on-two handled, and it’s just a matter of seconds before Henrique gets back to grab Stepan.
But then, the mini blunder.
Anton Volchenkov takes a couple steps inside towards his partner Bryce Salvador (trying to apply some pressure to the puck), who easily had Anisimov contained. He gets too far inside the dots and towards his partner, so much so I initially wondered if he knew Kreider was there.
Anisimov then makes a great backhand feed to Kreider – he sees where Volchenkov is at and moves it immediately – who’s had the sense to stay out wide after seeing the D’s positioning.
He gets the puck and hits the gas, but he knows one thing – he doesn’t have a huge head of steam going, so if he doesn’t get this off soon, Volchenkov will be on him in a hurray. Look how early he decides to pull this trigger:
And look how close Volchenkov was to getting a stick on his shot:
Mike Rupp apparently said to Kreider on the bench near the end of the game “Stay cocky with that shot.” He wasn’t saying it in a bad way – being cocky in hockey is a huge advantage. You don’t hesitate when you pull the trigger.
When talking to the media after, Rupp talked about Kreider’s shot. From the New York Times:
“He has the rare skill to get off a shot quickly, accurately and with power,” Rupp said. “Not too many players in this league have it.”
Well, we see it below – low glove? Who beats a Hall-of-Famer low glove unscreened from the top of the circles?
(By the way, that’s one of those goals Roberto Luongo stops strictly based on the style he plays, right?)
And that was all she wrote.
With the Rangers defensive wizardry and Lundqvist’s stellar play in goal, there was never much of a chance this game was getting back to even.
Sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge the good plays on offense and not just the bad ones on defense. Volchenkov may have gotten too far inside, but most players don’t have the speed/timing/shot of Kreider. This goal was the result of a good first pass, a nice direct pass from Girardi, a savvy backhand pass from Anisimov, and a great play by our goal scorer.