Canuck fans didn’t quite know what to make of Alain Vigneault’s decision to play Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy on the same line in Nashville. If the acquisition of Roy was motivated by a desire to make the Canucks deeper down the middle, playing a member of Vancouver’s recently upgraded stable of centres on the wing doesn’t exactly jibe with that plan.
That said, you can see why Vigneault might want to try it now. With 10 games to go in the regular season, he was handed the tall task of trying to get familiar with a team that suddenly had Derek Roy and a rebuilt Ryan Kesler on it. The addition of these two gives him a lot to assess in a short time, and on Monday, he began an assessment of the potential chemistry between the pair, with Kesler in the middle between Roy and Jannik Hansen.
Five minutes into the game, the chemistry experiment paid off as Derek Roy got his first as a Canuck to push the club’s early lead to two. But make no mistake — it wasn’t exactly chemistry that led to this goal. It was the only thing better than chemistry: terrible, terrible defensive coverage. Take a look:
If Barry Trotz had a neck, this play would have made him pop a vein in it.
The play begins simply enough, with Jannik Hansen dumping a puck into the Nashville end, behind the defence pair of Jonathan Blum and rookie Mattias Ekholm, who is playing just his third NHL game. With Ryan Kesler bearing down on him, Ekholm turns to retrieve the puck and move it behind the goal to Blum..
At this point, things looks okay. Filip Forsberg, who is playing just his second NHL game, is waiting along the wall for Blum to move the puck to him and David Legwand is trailing the play for support.
That’s when Blum misplays it. With Hansen after him, Blum attempts to tip the puck safely by him. Instead, however, Hansen intercepts, taking control of the puck on his forehand and skating up the boards, looking to make a pass. There’s a pretty obvious option available to him.
LOOK HOW OPEN DEREK ROY IS.
Note the four Predators around Hansen and the zero Predators around Roy. The closet yellow sweater to him is the amusingly named Daniel Bång, who is playing just his fourth NHL game. He’s completely out of the frame here, behind Roy, and in nobody’s passing lane.
Safe to say the inexperience on the ice is the Predators’ downfall here. Blum made the giveaway, sure, but it’s the poor positioning by Forsberg, Ehkolm, and Bång, who have a combined nine NHL games between them, that leaves Roy completely unguarded and Hansen with so much time and space.
David Legwand comes across the crease to challenge Hansen. While it contributes to Roy’s complete lack of supervision, he’s supposed to do that. It’s Ekholm behind the goal who should have come out on Roy. Instead, satisfied with his little tip to Blum, he follows the puck behind the goal and takes himself completely out of the play. He’s still back there when Hansen starts up the boards.
Forsberg is no help either. Rather than coming down or coming off the boards to force Hansen up towards the blueline, he backs away slowly like Homer Simpson:
Thus, Roy is completely alone, and nobody is in position to prevent a pass to him.
Even worse, so is Dan Hamhuis. To the reverse angle!
This angle also gives us a better understanding of how ineffective Bång is on this play. I’ve circled him as he just sort of stands there doing nothing. Seriously, if Hansen looked off both of his superior passing options and fed Garrison, he’d be completely flat-footed if Garrison decided to take the puck wide and around him.
Lucky for Bång, Hansen feeds Hamhuis, who steps into a one-timer. Roy might have been the better option, since Pekka “Mecha” Rinne was going to see this shot all the way, and Roy could have taken it in closer, but there are two things working in favour of this pass:
First, no one is expecting the pass to Hamhuis — Rinne included, I think. As a result, he’s not at the right angle to absorb this shot into his body. Second, when he just manages to get a pad on it, Roy is still all alone, meaning he can be the first on the rebound.
Exacerbating things for the Predators: Ekholm tries to recover and get to Roy in time but he’s got nowhere to go. Rinne’s in his way. He tries, in desperation, to cut across the crease to get to Roy, but he actually winds up getting in the way of Rinne’s stick, forcing the goaltender to drop it. Any chance he had of getting a stick on the puck dies there.
Just like that, it’s 2-0 Canucks.Tags: Breakdowning, Canucks, Derek Roy, Predators