Here I am writing another article about how the Tampa Bay Lightning can come back in a series after falling 2-0. During the Eastern Conference final, I pointed out that, against the New York Rangers, there was no panic. This time? Maybe a slight concern.
After a defeat, what we often talk about is: “This team must get back to basics, to fundamentals. Too often this is closely linked to skills: skating, shooting, overtaking, etc. However, what we really talk about behind closed doors is Game fundamentals. Constant competition is at the heart of all aspects of the fundamentals, and in no way would I accuse a team of not competing on this stage, but now is the time to outperform in some key areas.
The reality is that no one wants to be down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals or lose a game 7-0, but it doesn’t matter how badly you are beaten in a game. I would say it’s easier to bounce back emotionally and the players accept the adjustments that the coaches present. I understand we’ve seen incredible speed with and without the puck so far from the Colorado Avalanche, but perhaps the most impressive thing was their forecheck and forcing their opponent to return the washers. Game 1 vs Game 2 are statistically two very different stories, so IMHO it’s just one bad Lightning game, not two.
So how can they regain their identity, style and composure and be two percent better than in Game 1, which they lost in overtime? Here are my top seven 5v5 “fundamentals of the game” that can turn the tide.
1. A good start. Many players talked about it in post-game interviews: “The first 10 minutes.” During this window, enter it and run into bodies. Many who are married to analysis might not like this approach, but playing 200 feet from your net and crushing the opponent’s “D” creates more analytically approved strategies as the game evolves. This team and the D-Corps you force to get the pucks early and often will end up not holding the blue line as much. The quality of entries with possession will increase. It helped Tampa against the Rangers and is part of his team’s DNA.
2. Decision making, if accurate, it will lead to executing the appropriate response in all facets of the game.
3. Cleaner breakouts. That’s easier said than done as the Avs pre-pinched and took the walls off with a full press and their forwards consistently backed them up and carried the middle of the ice high into the zone. How do you fight this? (And no, I don’t think I know any more than the Lightning staff, but it’s a suggestion I’ve made in the past in my role as a coaching consultant during the NHL playoffs.) Tampa absorb hits against the forecheck, then go strong on the strong side or the weak side with rims or direct passes to the winger. However, the area that is wide open for the wing is the weak side face-off spot. The winger introduces his stick early, and the “D” or low forward rolling the net can just put it there. Now start blowing into the zone and force Colorado’s “D” to retreat. They are not stretched in the offensive zone. Tampa will sometimes have to fly over the area to back them up early, giving them more room below.
4. Own the points. Inside the points, whether it’s a backcheck or the ‘D’ holding the points against an odd man, you keep the game on the outside or in the defensive zone by outnumbering the attacking team inside and denying as many passes as possible. Currently, Colorado wins the Odd-Man Rush category.
5. The inner slot is an area I touched on in my previous post on Major Battlegrounds. Tampa from Game 3 had that against the Rangers, getting two inside players, screens, a crisp presence that could force Igor Shesterkin back. Release the pressure with the net cycle and play through the trapezoidal area. Make the Avalanche defend longer in their area. Tampa is currently losing the offensive zone possession game and inside slot attempts, shots and chances.
6. Management of the puck, to my analysis buddies – OK, I don’t have many. But if having the puck is gold, then what you do with it as a team is extremely important. Sometimes a player needs to eat a puck down the wall, retreat or regroup, place and chase (dump ins) to relieve the pressure and fight another day, not force plays with a “hope pass”. and then the offensive strategy comes into play. In terms of offensive strategy, nothing is out of place: setting and chasing, funneling (throwing pucks at the net from the half-wall or lower), point shots, trick bases, face-offs and entries. Ultimately, have a plan and execute what works for your team. A final key area is that once your team has the puck in the O zone, scoring chances increase when you attack within seven to nine seconds. To that I say: measure a team’s offensive zone time by the number of opportunities. Quick Strike – Recover – Own – Repeat.
7. Possess the neutral zone, because it’s the backbone, the conduit of how a team breaks out and defends or how they attack offensively. Slow down the Avs and try to disconnect them from the puck earlier and pick up the pace offensively with the puck.
Former QMJHL Head Coach Jon Goyens has 28 years of coaching experience, from the lowest levels of minor hockey to serving as a special consultant for an NHL team during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He is the most successful coach in the history of the Quebec Midget AAA League with the Lac Saint-Louis Lions and has contributed to the development of more than 25 players who will be selected in the NHL Draft. He also worked as an individual skills and development coach with future Hockey Hall of Famer Hilary Knight, as well as NHL players such as Jonathan Drouin and Mike Matheson.
PointsBet Canada is officially launched in Ontario! Get more details here!