Authors note: I received a bunch of feedback the last time I did this regarding how I shouldn't be dwelling on the negative stuff after we've just won a game. I just want to make clear that the point of this series is not to harp on certain players or bring the mood down. I try to be as fair and impartial as I can when assessing blame on a play, and even then the "blame" is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I'm not saying that player is terrible and should be sent to Hartford, I'm just observing the play as it unfolded. Think of this less as "examining how/why the Rangers played terribly" and more as "explaining hockey strategy through the medium of Rangers hockey". To cease any confusion, I've changed the title from "What Went Wrong" to "Goals Against". I hope this clears up any issues.
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Last night the Rangers beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3. It was great to see the offense clicking and putting goals in the net, especially in the third period. There were, however, two even strength goals scored by the Blues, and so after a long hiatus (remember, I'm only reviewing even strength, regulation goals), let's take a look at how St. Louis scored.
Goal by: Dmitrij Jaskin (Asst - Colton Parayko, Kyle Brodziak) Video
This was not pretty. After Kyle Brodziak wins a faceoff back to Colton Parayko at the point, he lets go a booming slap shot that Hank thinks he has handled. Unfortunately, it bounced to his right while he is frozen, and Dmitrij Jaskin is right there to bang it home.
Player to Blame: Henrik Lundqvist
Yeah, this one's on Hank. Now, before you get your pitchforks out, this doesn't mean he had a bad game or I hate him. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. He had a stellar game last night and made some incredible saves. That being said, despite lots of evidence to the contrary, Hank is still a human and as such is prone to errors. If he holds on to that puck, it becomes just another routine save and we do another faceoff to his left. Instead, the puck is dropped, and gets put in the back of the net. Yes, Yandle and Boyle could've done a better job tying up Jaskin in front, but with a free puck and frozen goalie, you know he was going to do everything in his power to get his stick on the puck. But don't worry, we still love you Henrik.
Goal by: Vladimir Tarasenko (Unassisted) Video
This was an absolute beauty from Tarasenko. One of those goals where you sit back and say "I'm not even mad...that's amazing." This play starts with a long pass from Lundqvist just in front of his crease, to Viktor Stalberg at the far blue line. The Blues were in the midst of a change, and Hank was trying to catch them in the middle of it.
Unfortunately, Stalberg can't handle the pass, and turns it right over to Tarasenko (the one guy on the Blues you don't want to turn the puck over to). Tarasenko gets control and skates into the zone on the near side as Girardi prepares to defend him.
Now as you can see in the picture above, Girardi's skates are turned, which means he is in the process of pivoting to skate backwards. This is not the best of ideas, as it gives Tarasenko more time and room to stickhandle and prepare his shot. What I would rather see is Girardi take an angle right into Tarasenko and play the body on him. With Stalberg backchecking and McDonagh to his left, the Rangers had players back to pick up a loose puck. Instead, Girardi doesn't close the gap as quick, and Tarasenko is able to get to the faceoff dot before ripping a shot.
There you can see the moment before Tarasenko shoots. With Girardi backing up and giving him room, he's able to come down the wing and get a better shot. Now, I realize I'm nitpicking here. Tarasenko is an incredible player with an incredible shot. I understand that Girardi was probably giving him room so he didn't get dangled into giving up a breakaway. Still though, I would've liked to see him take the body sooner here.
Player to Blame: Viktor Stalberg
I use the term "blame" here very lightly, since I mentioned earlier, Tarasenko can create a scoring chance from practically anything. But in the end, a goal was scored, so I'll try to boil it down to one play. Basically, if Stalberg does anything else to corral the puck or get it deep, this play doesn't happen. Instead, he turns it over and gives a very dangerous player a wide open lane down the ice.
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These goals against were very different than the ones in the Washington game. While those were more the product of defensive breakdowns and blown coverages, these were much faster, lapse in judgement plays. And that's just the nature of the sport. It's easy to forget with replays and screenshots, but it's a quick game, and players have to make split-second decisions. Just look at the second and third picture from the Tarasenko goal: they're one second apart. That's how fast these guys have to decide what player to cover, what path to take to the puck, to play the body or stay conservative.
Let's hope it's another 8 days before I have to do one of these again.