Hitchcock's latest offensive experiment is paying off! What? No, no -- not the Wilson at wing experiment. The "Get The Puck To Commodore" experiment!!! 7 shots on goal, including a beauty from 50 feet to tie the game in the 3rd (aided by a nifty Umberger screen), just when fans thought another great effort was going to go to waste.
This was a total team effort -- stifling defense, solid goaltending, generally heady play. Some highlights, and a few "Needs Improvement" notes:
Defensive Coverage -- we were strong throughout our own zone for most of the night, played a good neutral zone game, for the most part, and had a persistent forecheck. Commodore was huge, Russell, Hejda and Tyutin all played well. Wingers did a good job of coming back and assisting. Erat's goal was a perfect shot -- just inside the far post in the upper corner, going at full speed. Nothing to be done there.
Special Teams -- Yes, you are reading right -- special teams. Perfect on the penalty kill, including a magnificent kill of a 1:07 5 vs. 3 advantage. Interesting choice of Modin, Commodore and Hejda to defend that at the outset. Power play will not show any tallies, but Commodore's goal, 1 sec after expiration, is almost as good as, and we showed some real flashes of great puck movement and greater willingness to shoot.
Goaltending -- Mason was stellar -- again. Erat's goal was a perfect shot to the high corner far post at full speed. No stopping it, period. Showed great presence when traffic was around, but the defense also helped by giving him some good lanes. He also handled the puck well outside the crease.
Possession -- Though we sometimes struggled to gain possession, once we had it, we kept it moving and in possession in the offensive zone for extended periods of time. We missed a few drop passes where we thought someone was going to be there, but overall showed much improved communication.
Kudos To: Nash (monster all night, great forehand to backhand move in the SO), Voracek (much more energy, very strong on the puck, nice fake to the post then 5 hole backhand in the SO), Russell (another assist and generally strong play), Chimera (not much on the shooting side, but in lots of plays and made a lot happen).
A few nagging items on the negative side:
Faceoffs -- OMG, we were awful in the circle!!! We are lucky we got away with it. Winning faceoffs has been Malhotra's one saving grace of late, and if he can't do that, well . . . .
Defensive Puck Control -- We have trouble gaining control behind our own net. Way too many casual passes along the boards in our own zone or just at the blue line. We need crispness from our defensemen on these passes
Offensive About Face -- Nashville is tough this way, but we spend too much time in the offensive zone with our backs toward the middle of the ice, trapped along the boards. Back to Dave King hockey at times. Difference is that our skill players are now able to get and keep possession. Let's try getting more stuff to the middle and firing more on net. Still a woeful shooting percentage. . .
Nitpicking items aside, this is one to be enjoyed. A lot of pressure on the boys tonight, as many were calling this a "must win", at least from the emotional standpoint. They stood toe to toe with Darth Vader and knocked his light saber off. Well done!!!
Next up, an Islanders team that escaped with an OT win over us at home, after we had a sterling 3 goal comeback in the 3rd. They might be a tad on the irritable side -- Pittsburgh 9, NYI 2 tonight. Ouch!