hit counter

Tide Turning in Pittsburgh?

June 4, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

260xStory Tide Turning in Pittsburgh?
The funniest thing about this series so far is that arguably the team to play best in each game has lost. In the first two games the Red Wings looked tired and broken down, were outshot by an enormous margin and yet they took a 2-0 series lead to Pittsburgh. On Tuesday night (despite scoring first) the Penguins looked outmatched and yet they were victorious. The difference so far has been timeliness goaltending and goal scoring but also in being first to the loose puck at the right time. Special teams have also played a major role as Detroit’s penalty killing woes continue yielding two goals (including the game-winner) to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. So what will be the difference in the series as it rolls on? Pittsburgh simply needs to get timely goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleuryp; but furthermore they simply need Malkin and Crosby to each have decent games at the same time! The great news for Pittsburgh is that Detroit has played Crosby extremely tough and yet he still has a point, if that is as bad as it gets for Crosby then Pittsburgh has a great chance of not only getting back into the series but of winning it. Detroit on the other hand needs to use the time they have on Wednesday to rest. They seemed more upbeat on Tuesday and should be in much better shape come Thursday and perhaps that will help their penalty killing. Detroit also cannot continue to allow Pittsburgh to get on the board first because if they do then the Penguins will eventually get a two goal lead and build from there which can get to Osgood as has happened many times this season. In the end however it all comes down to who can one less mistake than the other team because that will likely be the difference between winning a game and therefore the series; and at the moment momentum seems to be in Pittsburgh’s favor. The fans are pumped, the players seem relaxed and the hockey world in genearlly is strapping up for a great game four… See you on the other side!

Covering the Points; A Small Step Toward Immense Success

March 23, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

net traffic Covering the Points; A Small Step Toward Immense Success
As playoff time approaches and teams are dissected to find out why one team will be another in a playoff series, or even why one team will make it to the playoffs over another, the dissecting begins. Players and coaches are analyzed under a microscope as the tangibles and intangibles are plugged into a formula that the “experts” concoct in their minds to determine the winners and losers. And there will be many things mentioned about the various teams but one thing I’ve noticed as a major difference between winners and losers is penalty killing. Specifically, it is the covering of the point men—or lack there of—that often times determines the success one team will have over another. Good teams tend to be a bit more aggressive—but not stupid—when on the penalty kill by putting pressure on point men making them break their rhythm. Oftentimes the point players would like to dictate tempo and pace by distributing the puck at their leisure to create scoring chances. As a result, one of the biggest keys to a successful penalty kill is breaking the rhythm of a power play and one great way to do that is to cover point players. Put pressure on the points, make a guy skate around more than he’d like to or take an extra pass when he hadn’t planned to. Sure sometimes that aggressive play can yield a goal for the other team but at least the pressure you put on them forces the team to make some really good plays. Many teams will fall back into somewhat of a shell as their defense collapses into a box formation out in front of the net. This approach allows the power play to take its time to set up very well and also causes an enormous amount of traffic in front of goalies who now have almost NO chance at stopping any pucks fired at them. This conservative “we hope not to lose” approach generally has the oppositely desired effect. Teams are going to score on the power play, it’s no secret; but by putting greater pressure on point players a team force a power play to work harder to score which wear them down in time and also frustrate them to the point where they try to do more than they are capable of which can result in short-handed opportunities. Generally speaking it is a small change but it’s one that can make a world of difference. So the next time you’re watching a game look to see how the penalty killing units work and I am almost certain you’ll notice players not covering the points.

Top-Notch Theodore is Caps Only Prayer

March 16, 2009 by Big Tony · 2 Comments 

jose theodore 300x205 Top Notch Theodore is Caps Only Prayer

Monday night the Washington Capitals were defeated 5-1 by the Atlanta Thrashers who, although are much improved from earlier in the season and won their sixth in a row, are way out of playoff contention. There is no doubt the Capitals have a lineup that can make a lot of noise in the playoffs with incredible talents Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green. They are fantastic in 5-on-5 play, absolutely dominating on the power play, and have ok penalty killing that is made to look much better because of how good the power play is. Donald Brashear gives them size and toughness which added to the rest of the equation would seem to put them in great position to make a run at the Stanley Cup… and then there’s goaltending. Jose Theodore’s numbers do not appear to be all that bad (GAA 2.81 and .902 save percentage) but he seems to give up goals in spurts and cannot manage to make the big saves consistently enough. He also has a tendency to give up some soft goals which the forces the offensive talent of the Caps to bail him out. Once their first playoff series starts the Capitals cannot afford to have Theodore go through stretches where he doesn’t make big saves, gives up soft goals, and yields goals in spurts. When those things happen it spells disaster for any team and an early exit from the playoffs no matter who they play. The bottom line is this; if Theodore can clean up his game just a bit the Capitals are a legitimate threat to not just come out of the east but to win the Stanley Cup. IF Theodore does not then the guys in front of him will be forced to carry too heavy a load and the Capitals immense talent will be wasted because of bad goaltending.

The critics have ridden Theodore all year long because of his streaky play. If Theodore can step up when it counts then all will be forgiven, but if not then the Capitals and all of their talent will be eliminated early and Theodore will more than likely be the one who gets the brunt of the punishment.