Saturday, October 15, 2011

Speed Kills

You know the saying: "Speed Kills"

In hockey it's as true as anywhere else. Essentially hockey is a series of races to find open space so the man with a little black disc can get 2 free seconds to do what he has practiced doing 65,000 times in his parents' basement and score a goal.

Without speed, there will be no space -- even big men need quick turns and quick hands to make something of their barging around. Without space there are no goals (well few) and few wins as well.

All this is making it increasingly frustrating to watch the Canadiens so far this season. The team has speed in certain places (notably up front and in Carey Prices agile lateral sweeps) and is certainly presented to us as a lightning fast team that can kill another with the slightest whiff of open space.

What has been frustrating me as I watch them try to score when they actually need to is that many times the team is actually guilty of using speed to kill its own movements. Let me explain.

The other night against Calgary there were a few rushes I noticed where the forwards would have done better to cool there jets rather than turn again to the after-burners, to use a dangle and a missed stride to confuse the defence rather than to walk into their open arms.

One 3-on-2, I watched Desharnais dart in between the two defenders while the RW carried the puck for a shot. So quick that he was behind the net before the winger had chance to even think shot. DD had created the Canadiens most typical play again, the "make sure you're there to get the puck behind the net" play because odds are that a forward will miss to the short side. It's a very effective way to win the puck for a few more seconds before the other team dumps it after your outfit comes away without a shot.

Other times (and this is common) I see the forwards pouring on the speed as they cross the blueline right until they have closed the gap between themselves and the defenders. Now call me foolish, but isn't that gap a valuable asset to the forward? Isn't that gap what one needs if one wants to cut to the middle where the best shots comes from? It's the defence's job to close the gap, so doing the job for them doesn't seem like a good strategy to me. A little pedal off the metal and the defender would have to choose, and would likely have to either stop or slow down, or even come forwards, creating that change in momentum that could really be exploited by quick feet.

And the Canadiens unfailing confidence in their own speed must surely also be why each forward nearly always opts to try and beat a defender around the boards to execute the play from above.

The Canadiens have speed. But their unsophisticated use of it is becoming very predictable. Speed is a deadly weapon when used right in this game, it's such a shame to be using it to hurt your own cause. Let's hope the Habs recognize how speed can kill before they kill anymore opportunities to take easy points.

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