Well, Avalanche fans, I’ve worked to stand my ground for you by showing off some of the good things the Avalanche has done on my previous mishaps. Unfortunately, now is the time to look at some things they could work on defensively. And while that goal was largely an outlier, there were many factors that led to Brock Boeser’s goal in the first minute of the game on Friday night.
This game begins with a clean zone entrance from Alexander Kerfoot into the Vancouver Canucks zone. Note in the picture that Derrick Pouliot actually does a good job of maintaining a decent defensive gap at Kerfoot. At the top of the screen we see Colin Wilson hacking into the Zone after just stepping onto the ice from a line change. The Canucks have pretty decent looking coverage as this zone entry turns out to be. Troy Stecher also moves to Kerfoot, meaning both Canucks defenders isolate an Avalanche player. This leaves Nickolay Goldobin behind to cover the grazing Wilson.
Kerfoot would make a great game of parting with both defenders and turning the boards back up, causing Pouliot to take the pressure off. Stecher continues to pressurize Kerfoot, but Kerfoot has good body positioning and leaves himself open to play with his head held high and see all of the avalanche options that go into the fight. Wilson does what he does best by approaching the net and creating chaos in front of it. This piece looks like it has legs at this point.
How does the saying go? “Hockey is a customs game”? This is where the game takes a massive turn when Kerfoot attempts to hit a wide-open Sheldon Dries as he steps into the slot. A game that, if played, would at least have resulted in a high chance of scoring. Unfortunately for the Avs here, Kerfoot misjudged Dries’ speed and the pass ends a couple of inches past the Avalanche forward. Also note that Erik Johnson is very deep into the game here and expects it to be an option for Kerfoot as well. As you can see there are 4 avalanche players on or below the face-off circles in this game and none of them are able to return defensively as we will see in the next picture.
The last Canucks player in the defensive zone is unfortunately the most dangerous player, 19-year-old Elias Pettersson. He collects the missed pass and Boeser knows exactly who is going to get the puck and takes a break for the avalanche zone as quickly as he can. Notice again how deep and out of the game four of the Avalanche players are here with a likely a little too aggressive game of EJ.
Well, Nemeth is hardly to blame for that goal, but it becomes clear in the next few pictures how he makes some interesting (and damaging) decisions. He is well aware that Pettersson has the puck and is passing it, and he stays between those two burgundy lines (which in itself is not a bad position when aiming for an angle-off game). As much as it hurts, check out the highlight and iteration of this objective a few times to get a feel for how amazing Elias Pettersson’s pass is in this game (and many other games in this game).
This is where Nemeth lost me a little on this piece. He turns around and watches the puck go to Boeser. Go back and look again at the last picture. Given his head position and the position where Pettersson passed the puck, he should have known someone was there if he didn’t know 100% who or what was in that direction and just keep walking forward to the angle -Play off game. His decision to turn around here costs him about half a second to move back to Boeser later, which would cost the Avalanche a lot of time.
Nemeth turns back to run forward. Notice here that Boeser is a right-handed person coming in from the left wing. If Nemeth changes his angle of attack on Boeser (the dotted arrow) slightly from the angle he is at (the solid arrow), he has a change to better position himself on Boeser here. This is because Boeser needs to get the puck where Nemeth is from in order to get a good forehand shot. Instead, Nemeth takes the shortest route to where Boeser is now, rather than where Boeser will be.
And as we can see in this shot, this decision enables Boeser to achieve fantastic posture on Nemeth. He slides the puck on Nemeth on the other side, leaving the avalanche defender with almost no way of stopping the Canucks from playing a game. Here we also see the beginnings of a somewhat poorly advised piece by Philipp Grubauer. He has a decent positioning in this picture, but in the end he plants himself right in the crease and does the poke check.
And as we can see in the replay and in this picture, Boeser has already raised the puck when Grubauer’s poke check approaches the place where the puck was once located. To be fair, it is difficult to do anything about what Boeser is doing here. He manages to pull the puck back from his one-handed pull from the backhand that we saw in the previous shot and chop it over Grubauer’s blocker on the forehand with one swift movement. It was an incredibly skillful sophomore game for the Canucks to finish an incredible breakout pass by young Pettersson.
This picture was supposed to show a very small but important detail about Boeser’s posture on Nemeth. Notice how he has pushed out his right knee and is holding his cane to the left of his right leg. There is absolutely nothing Nemeth can do with his stick to disrupt Boeser’s play.
Finally, that’s what a missed poke check does to a goalkeeper. Grubauer’s stick and blocker are on the ice and he’s out of position, so Boeser has a relatively wide window on the left side of the net. This is because Grubauer’s Blocker falls while Boeser’s Chip Shot rises.
The biggest takeaways from this game and the goal against are the following.
- A missed pass in the offensive zone can quickly turn in a different direction, especially if a defender has jumped deep into the game.
- Defensive awareness is key when trying to thwart a partial runaway the other way. This includes walking where you want the puck carry to be instead of chasing after the puck carrier.
- Goalie poke checks are great fun when they’re well timed and working, but not so much when they aren’t.