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12-18-2008, 12:36 AM
Lord Horse
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Originally Posted by MathMan View Post
I think you're misidentifying the problem. The Habs' scoring at 5-on-5 has been fine -- or, at least, close to last year's, within 6 goals of the pace, which is more than compensated by a 28-goal improvement on the defensive side of 5-on-5. The Habs are headed towards a whopping +30 goal differential on 5-on-5 alone (not counting 4-on-4 and shorthanded goals, either, so that's not pure plus-minus), so I would contend that the Habs' 5-on-5 play since the beginning of the season has been quite satisfactory in its results. It hasn't been as good over the recent losing streak, but that would be why it's a losing streak. They need to get back to what worked and compensate for the loss of their top center.

I don't think their 5-on-5 strategy or performance is an issue. The area where the scoring isn't up to snuff is the power play. I'm guessing you're not suggesting that the Habs should use a down-low strategy on the power play.
It's not that our 5-on-5 play has been poor, as you pointed out. But the part in bold says a lot that's just hanging in the air: getting "back to what worked" entails very hard work on short shifts, and most of that work is in the corners and down low. That's a solid way to compensate when a talented player is missing - dump and chase, tooth and nail hockey. Truly though, injuries are an excuse with this team and I don't care who is out. This is extremely basic hockey and it always works if you execute better than the other team.

Often it seems we go a period of two with, say, 5 or 6 shots per 20 minutes. Whether that's from one two many passes, or many awesomely blocked shots, or just plain not getting into a better shooting lane and missing, or putting the puck wide of the net..... all of these problems can be ameliorated, if not solved entirely, by getting down low and putting the puck at the goalie from in close.

The lack of shots in some games is really glaring. There's a trite hockey axiom that says that any time a player is in a scoring position and fails to hit the net, it's a mistake on their part. The forwards on the team should tape this to their mirrors.

And yes my friend, this strategy is precisely what I suggest on the powerplay. They are going to have to make it work down low until they get a shooter. Use D for pinching and switching sides. For opening the box up so guys can sneak in. But shoot sparingly from the point and never with a man right in your face. They won't be there if the puck is against the end boards.

Folks here think Andrei K has a badass slapper? He's got a wrister that's maybe as good as Kovalev's. Both have got to use that from point blank. I've been liking the 4-man overload with 1 man back at the point for extended stretches too.... this kind of thinking is what I mean for the PP -- work the puck as low as you can and shoot from as close in as you can.

The other teams will get their shorthanded breaks sometimes, sure. But what's happening a lot is this: the immense pressure that Habs bring when they put 4 guys down low, smashing the box and behind the net, is that teams are clearing in a huge hurry rather than looking up and taking the time to try a counter-rush.

The usual faceoff troubles plague our PP too.

If we're stymied by a larger, better bodychecking team, we need to make sure we use our feet continuously on the PP and that cycle will have to produce. It didn't in last year's playoffs and the league has it deciphered. When a team like Boston pins us up on the boards all night or clogs up the slot so we don't finish on all that passing, we're going to have to try new rubs.

How about this: The up-ice rush where guys support the puck through the neutral zone needs to keep up until the dot, so we overload right at the point of attack/entry with 4 guys -- as opposed to the traditional "gain the zone, spread out!" to set up a cycle. One D says on the blueline. When the puck hits the dot, everybody pivots directly at the net and the other D gets in an open spot for a relief pass or shot. Then all go to the net.

If they manage to grab the puck, we have 4 players on top of the play supporting it just as they do through the neutral zone. Again, a turnover here creates the chance for an odd-man rush the other way, but using this kind of "Phalanx" attack form gives us a chance to use the momentum of 4 guys to bust right at the net and get in the goalie's teeth.

It won't work to come through the middle doing it that way; that's the Kovalev special where he's the headman with the puck and tries to skate through 4 oppossing players while the rest of the team trails him in a futile attempt to collect his dropped pucks. It can only be attempted coming down the wing as a group and pivoting either into an open seam (if one exists by good fortune) or by bodily crashing the net en masse -- our guys will be in stride while the other team will be backing up trying to collapse. Or caught standing still.

None of this is perfect and without counters (their collapse may just stand us up anyhow), it's just an idea pulled out of my.... sleeping bag.

Last edited by Lord Horse: 12-18-2008 at 02:00 AM.
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