I didn’t write about the game when it happened. I wanted to process it.
is this a finesse team?
I wouldn’t say yes. The parts of last year’s team are still mostly intact, and the free agent additions were to the tune of PIMs and jam. I didn’t see a lot of wide-open rushes down the ice resulting in great cross-crease goals. Granted, that’s quite an expectation. What I did see was what I thought mirrored a bit of the Ducks’ play style. On offense, the team appears to employ a 1-2-2 forecheck. A forward-typically a winger-leaks out early to hit the blue line while a defender makes a pass to the forward, who carries it in. The team attempts to get the puck deep, win battles, and force shots to the net. Defenders aren’t necessarily up in the play. They patrol the blue line to force the puck deep. There’s not a lot of possession, and it results in turnovers.
Both even strength goals are made more or less this way. Louis Leblanc wins a battle against the left boards and then finds Nathan McIver at the right point. McIver then aims towards the net, where Nic Kerdiles is setting a screen. The puck deflects in. Somehow, Andrew O’Brien is given credit for the goal.
Chris Wagner’s third goal is perhaps a better example. After a defensive zone draw by David Steckel, the puck is battled for along the boards. It ends up in the left wing area, where Brad Winchester grabs it and runs it down toward the goal line. The Admirals set up along the right boards, and the puck ends around some Bears near the top of the right ring. Mat Clark clears it and backhands it towards the net. Chris Wagner, in the slot, finds the loose puck and fires it past Philip Grubauer. John Kurtz-who shifted in for Steckel- screens a Bear near the net. The idea is simple: get it deep, win battles, throw it towards the net.
so this team is physical?
In some aspects, sure. Physicality isn’t what lead to Chris Wagner’s two shorthanded goals. Instead, it was all about positioning. On the first goal, Mat Clark poke checks a puck near the right wall and then Chris Wagner uses stickwork to get it away from two Bears. Wagner streaks down the wing, uses his defender as a screen, and fires from the right circle for a goal.
His second one is pretty impressive, as well. Brad Winchester, on the left wing side, corrals a loose puck and passes it at the red line to Wagner. Driving down the slot, Wagner beats Stanislav Galiev, dekes Grubauer, and fires it backhand for a score.
As great as this is, the penalty kill actually gave up goals in response to both of those markers. Both were defensive breakdowns were the team forgot a player backdoor, such as a wide open Philipe Cornet on the first Hershey PPG.
the power play?
Outside of a great delayed penalty possession, there was nothing to really talk about. The team is employing the 4Fs 1D package that Anaheim is running. The only power play goal was simple in its execution. Nic Kerdiles shoots from the right wall toward the net, where it hits Stefan Noesen in the slot. Noesen shoots, hits the post, and Louis LeBlanc comes in from the left wing to pick up the rebound.
I’m hoping to see a more effective power play for tonight’s game.
Jason LaBarbera looked every bit the 34-year-old veteran with declining save percentage. He is not going to help this team, and he may very well sink it. The team needs to score a lot and keep pucks away from him. Unlike Igor Bobkov, who is trending upwards, LaBarbera is very much on the downswing of his career.
Norfolk’s team this year is not going to be the same as last year. It’s never the same in the minors. Defensively, the pairings appear to be locked. Mat Clark, who is an alternate captain, made a couple of mistakes that may have lead directly to goals. He needs to solid, especially at this stage in his career. Kevin Gagne and Brendan Bell still look like excellent puck movers. Josh Manson, despite early detractors, may develop into something. The bottom pairing looks decent but I’m not quite sure yet given their dearth of minutes.
Forwards are hard to read outside of known quantities. This team will definitely try to score at the net, rather than create razzle dazzle plays. Saturday’s game was not a particular good example, either. Max Friberg went down early with an upper-body injury essentially leaving the team at 10 forwards. I say 10 because Steve MacIntyre played maybe three shifts.
I’m hoping for a lot of goals, and to see more tonight.
next game is tonight at 6:05 at Scope…