It’s really easy to sit in front of the computer and make fun of a play that happened at NHL pace and be a jerk while pointing out who messed up where.
…No seriously, it’s really easy, and I enjoy it.
But things do happen fast so people naturally make mistakes, meaning there’s usually no reason for me to belittle them. That doesn’t mean I don’t, but it’s usually a bit unfair. Today…today I think a little belittling is okay.
The Ottawa Senators gave up three even-strength goals to the Detroit Red Wings (as well as an empty-netter to Daniel Alfredsson in his return), and each one of those three can be traced back to the exact same issue: line changes. Yes, in an NHL game. Multiple times.
Poor changes can make a coach go squirrely, because there’s not a damn thing they can do about them when they’re on the fly aside from letting everyone know who’s up next and trusting the guys to get on and off in responsible fashion.
[A quick overview on what's supposed to happen for those who aren't familiar with being on the bench: Coaches call lines by the center's name. So, "Bozie, you're up" means Tyler Bozak and his two wingers are going next. Then for clarity, each of those guys will shout-out who they're changing for - "I got Kadri" or whatever. If the coach is shuffling the lines, he'll get more specific. "Bozie, you're up, Smitty, take the left side." The left winger who's normally on the line then knows he's sitting this one out - when coaches aren't clear enough here, you end up with Too Many Men penalties. The players calling their change out should be a safety valve in case someone missed something.
You're only supposed to change when the play is headed in the right direction - towards the o-zone - with the puck hopefully getting deep, whether by someone skating it or dumping it in. A good change can mean a simple dump, followed by a quick exchange at the bench and the next line getting in on the forecheck. You only change headed back into your d-zone if you're so tired you're going to be of no use to your team even if you get there (sometimes you're so far behind the play you'll call for a lacrosse-style change to gain ground). But if you can even function halfway-decently, they'd rather you take a long shift and help in the d-zone than leave your team without a skater for 10 seconds while the guy you're supposed to be covering is having a free-for-all. (At least in a full-time 5-on-4 situation the team knows they're down a guy and can react accordingly. When some defenders think they have numbers back and don't, players get awfully open awfully quick.)]
Anyway, those are the basics. Let’s take a look at how poor line changes cost Ottawa two points in a game they played fairly decently otherwise.
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