FF Telestrator: Game 1
Last nights game started out like a great chess match. Early in the first period, it appeared that particular attention was being paid to the match-up game and a coaching duel ensued right from the drop of the puck.
A great statistic to back this up is a close look at Sean Couturier’s average time per shift in the first period. It was an average of below :30 TOI, which was significantly below the average of his teammates and any other play on the Flyers roster.
Couturier was the chess piece that Laviolette wanted to run against the Penguins big guns. When Malkin took his first shift, Couturier hopped over the boards. Bylsma answered by yanking Malkin and replacing him with Crosby, a move that turned out to have an impact on the games first goal.
When you’re facing talented players, you’re going to get burned if you give them the slightest breath of fresh air. That burned the Flyers and the Penguins last night.
The first instance we’ll look at came off an icing call in which the Flyers 4th line was stuck on the ice against the Penguins. In response, Dan Bylsma threw out the Crosby unit. In the midst of defensive zone pressure, Couturier makes his way onto the ice to shadow Crosby, but learns a tough lesson in marking one of the best players in the game.
At the beginning of this sequence, Couturier had Crosby’s hip as he attempted to cut through the middle of the ice. Couturier bodies up on Dupuis, and the puck squirts free to Sid in the boards. Crosby makes a play to the high point, and will then break back through the middle of the ice.
Despite the fact that Crosby has Brayden Coburn draped on him, Couturier needs to protect the middle and ensure that Crosby is disrupted en route to the net.
The puck was played to the point. Coburn finished a check on Crosby. Couturier has returned to the slot. A shot is taken from the point and deflects off of Grossman. The puck bounces to Crosby, neither Coburn or Grossman are able to make a play on Crosby down low.
Assignments can be tricky, you have to think that Couturier, who clearly saw Crosby head up ice with the puck in order make a play to the point, would have liked to get a stick on that rebound opportunity down low.
A similar instance occured on the Flyers game tying power-play goal. Let’s take a closer look at how Brayden Schenn was able to get free in front of the net.
The Flyers enter the zone by throwing the puck left and driving to the wide side of the ice, a move that they utilized on nearly every controlled breakout that they had.
Schenn is unmarked. Letang will eventually end up with this assignment down low, but he puts himself on an Island. The puck will eventually go to the far wall, where Hartnell will corral it. Letang’s mistake is not marking Schenn, the late man, and taking an absolute split second to pump fake towards Jagr, who was driving to the side of the net. Jordan Staal has also placed himself on an island here, and Schenn is located behind the defense in a prime scoring area.
Every player in black is staring at the puck.
By this time, Letang has his back to Schenn, and Jordan Staal just swiveling his head to notice that there’s a major issue going on behind him.
However, much like the Crosby goal, if you leave a talented player unmarked for a split second, it can result in a goal.
Schenn scores by deflecting a puck easily past Fleury, no defensive pressure was applied. It’s difficult to read the assignment here because of the quick zone entry, but both Staal and Letang failed in marking Schenn. The shot wasn’t blocked, and no one took Schenn as he drove wide.
I’d like to take a moment to point out the errors on the Flyers first goal as well. Turnovers have come back to haunt the Penguins in a major way.
Despite the fact that Daniel Briere was offside, this entire play could have potentially been avoided with some puck management skills.
Asham has the puck on the far wall exiting the zone. This play appears to develop as a 3 on 3. But the Flyers defense will step up in the face of Asham, as they often do, and force him to make a play with the puck to Joe Vitale, located center ice.
Vitale is about to lose control of this pass. The puck will kick free and head back the other way as indicated by the red arrow. The play is going north, and in a hurry. At this point, we cannot see either Pittsburgh defenseman OR Daniel Briere in the picture.
The puck is heading back into the zone. Neither defenseman can mark Briere, who is behind the play uncontested (and offsides.)
Attention to detail is key, if you can’t get the puck deep, then you had better communicate the dangers behind the play to your defenseman, who are going to be caught flatfooted.
The Penguins need to figure out how they are going to manage the Flyers forecheck while continuing to generate scoring chances. Too many mental lapses occurred last night with a big lead.