There’s a tough reality about games that go deep into overtime: spreading ice time around goes a long way towards sustaining the performance of your best players (yay!), but it also means that the bottom of your roster has to get through the odd shift without costing you (booo). You roll the dice every time you throw your low-liners over the boards (please just get it deep, please just get it deep), and on Wednesday night Tampa Bay crapped out.
On the ice for the Candiens game winner was one veteran in Eric Brewer (35), along with rookie Radko Gudas (23), rookie Nikita Kucherov (20), rookie Richard Panik (23), and a guy in his third-ever NHL game straight out of junior at age 20, Cedric Paquette. The 6’1″ 198 pounder most-recently played with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL, scoring 83 points in 63 games.
An initial review of the OT-winner made me wince: Paquette, who played the least of any player on either team in Game 1 made the error that cost his team the game. Ouch.
…BUT WAIT! There’s good news: it wasn’t entirely his fault. ACTUALLY, It was barely his fault – it was a damn tough read and Tampa got a damn tough break.
Let’s dive in.
In the frame above you have pretty good defensive positioning, bordering on great. Radko Gudas has Dale Weise, Cedric Paquette has an eye on Michael Bournival (could be a tighter), Brewer is on Briere, Nikita Kucherov is in perfect weak-side winger defensive positioning, and Richard Panik is in a great strong side winger spot. It’s team-by-team whether he should be helping on Briere here or not.
Anyway, the shot gets blocked and ricochets up to Josh Gorges. You can see who’s on who below.
Kucherov rushes out into Gorges’s shooting lane (great job here) so the Habs defender can’t get the puck to the net. Instead, he’s resigned to cycling it in deep and hoping his forwards can win a puck battle.
Bournival does what he should here – he goes to the front of the net to provide a double screen on a shot. Paquette, appropriately, goes with him. Brewer stays on Briere, and all is good in the hood.
Bournival sees where Gorges puts the puck.
You can see that Subban is doing the right thing by fading out in case of disaster as the puck bounced up to Gorges. Josh did a nice job calming the puck down, but still, nice to see Subban making safe reads.
The interesting thing now is noting that Bournival has come all the way across the front of the net – he was headed there for the screen, but when he sees Gorges go deep with it, he carries on to try to gain possession. And here…here’s where it comes undone.
When you believe you can get the puck, you’re fine to leave your man in the d-zone. That’s pretty obvious. Tampa defenseman Radko Gudas accurately judges the angle and speed of the rim, and leaves Weise to go pick it up. He’s the smart kid at hockey school, jumping the puck’s route.
The issue now is that Paquette has correctly marked his man and followed him around the net. With Gudas jumping to the puck and Bournival heading into that battle, he’s got to figure out where the open guy is. Only, it’s really hard to come to that conclusion because you see your guy about to be first on the puck. An offensive-minded player might even start thinking about where to go to support the breakout.
The puck hops Gudas’ stick. Uh-oh.
Brewer has stuck with Briere, who’s gone behind the net to support Bournival in the puck battle. Paquette is about to realize he’s in no-man’s land, and Weise is about to realize he’s alone on an ocean of ice directly in front of the opposition’s goal.
Paquette didn’t quickly recognize that with Gudas/Bournival now a pairing he’d need to find a guy, and has found himself below the goal line with no angle to get to Weise even if we wants to. I feel like this is what leads to his next decision: he decides to go all-in. Weise gets himself in a great spot for Briere, and I’d bet money he called for this puck.
Paquette jumps to try to attain the puck or stop the pass, but Briere’s still got a sharp offensive mind.
All signs pointed to Gudas cutting off that rim, so Anders Lindback is looking over his right shoulder to follow the play. He quickly realizes the play may be developing from the other side, and turns.
Here’s what kills me about the aftermath of what comes next: Dale Weise’s comments:
”I knew I wasn’t going to miss from there. I got down on one leg, the old Brett Hull, and I just ripped it.”
First off, who the hell says that even if it’s true? And while he did get a lot of wood on it, he hit Lindback in the logo. Watch a replay on a big screen TV. I don’t mean that as a figure of speech, I mean he actually hit the right side of Lindback’s crest, but because the Tampa tendy wasn’t set, it flew up under his arm and into the top corner. Seems like a situation that would call for a “Great play by Danny, fortunate to be left alone, just hammered it on net and Lindback wasn’t set,” but hey, to each his own.
Gotta love having the puck coming to you, nobody around, and the goalie looking like he is in the frame below.
And that’s all she wrote.
The uber-green Cedric Paquette was in a tough situation, but playing center is tough in general, and you’re often asked to make reads like this one.
As little as Paquette and Kucherov played (11-plus minutes each of nearly 80), Jon Cooper has shown throughout this season that he’s comfortable trusting his young guys in crucial situations. Tiny gaffes are going to be part of the learning curve, and that’s going to make it tough for them in playoffs. (That, and it was just a tough break that Gudas couldn’t corral the puck.)
Either way, it’s 1-0 Montreal, and Dale Weise was Game 1′s hero. Who-da thunk it?