There were a few interesting points to this game. First and foremost, Todd McClellan was happy to play power versus power, as he did in the first two series against the Avalanche and the Wings, but Joel Quenneville would have none of it. Quenneville did everything he possibly could to get Jonathan Toews away from Joe Thornton and out against Manny Malhotra or Joe Pavelski. There are a few people that still can't get away from the "choker" narrative with Thornton, but he's gone power versus power for eleven games and he's outchanced in these playoffs. That Quenneville was running like hell when the matchup came about speaks volumes for the Sharks top centerman.
The second is the notion that Chicago is deeper than San Jose. They may be deeper, but Quenneville was not utilizing it in any noticeable way last night. Adam Burish, John Madden, Ben Eager and Jordan Hendry remained stapled to the bench for long stretches.
The third thing that is being bantered about is that Evgeni Nabokov "wants that one back" in reference to the Patrick Sharp goal. As someone that has taken to watching every play at the net in slow motion to record a scoring chance, I knew what was going on during this play before the play-by-play crew and I knew immediately that they were wrong when they blamed Nabokov. More analysis after the jump...
This wasn't a "soft" goal by Nabokov, as he was completely screened on the shot. I can't find a replay of the shot from behind the net, but that replayed showed, in frame-by-frame at least, that Nabokov never saw the puck until it was on him. The puck comes through two screens, and then out of the pants of the defender in front of him, Douglas Murray.
You can see here that Nabokov was at the top of his crease, in proper position for the play. Sharp is throwing the puck on net and Troy Brouwer has cut through the slot taking Douglas Murray through the slot with him.
You can see here that Nabokov slams the pads shut, but it's too late, the puck is already through him. He's still at the top of his crease but moving down and back. The end result is the picture at the top of the article and it led to the goalie being blamed for being too deep in his positioning, when he was not.
Before blaming Nabokov, NBC Color Announcer Ed Olczyk immediately jumped on Dan Boyle and Murray for giving the shooter too much space, but that's not right either. As we can see in the next picture, this goal is on either Patrick Marleau or Dany Heatley.
As the Blackhawks rushed into the zone, Joe Thornton is back and marking Marian Hossa, the first man up the ice. Douglas Murray has backed off a bit, but he's clearly marked Troy Brouwer. Dan Boyle has stepped up and decided to take on Duncan Keith. Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley are not to be found - they are just exiting the Blackhawks end. As the play develops, Brouwer drives the high slot taking Murray with him and Keith drives wide, dropping the puck for Sharp. Thornton recognizes what's happening, but it's too late as Sharp is wide open. The first screengrab shows Thornton getting to the scene three steps too late. Even if Thornton had recognized this earlier, Sharp would have had time to hit a wide open Marian Hossa, Thornton's previous mark, for a one-on-none. I've read a couple of comments that blame Thornton, but the people writing those are out to lunch. The blame here is squarely on Marleau and Heatley for not hustling back into the play.
Scoring Chances for game 30321
For those of you who are new to the concept of tracking scoring chances, a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. Vic Ferrari makes this all possible with his tools to evaluate Corsi, head-to-head ice time and scoring chances.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
As has become the custom, the Sharks narrowly won the battle at even strength and got the lion's share of the power plays. The Blackhawks muttered about this a bit, but the Sharks winning the power play battle is not news. They are doing it to every team, every game. Unless you can find a grand refereeing conspiracy, the conclusion must be that the Sharks are playing a game that is drawing penalties.
This was a game for those that like to use "momentum" and the newly-coined "push back" as a narrative in hockey. The chances seemed to come in strings, and then the ice would tilt back the other way for a string of chances against.
One thing that bothered me during the game was that the Sharks were underutilizing Logan Couture. I realize that Quenneville was trying to get Toews and Patrick Kane out against him and Malhotra whenever possible, but with the home chance, the Sharks should have been able to find more ice time for Couture. He's won his battles at every turn.
Joe Pavelski played eighteen minutes at even strength, nearly eleven of them against Toews and Kane and went 1/3 against them.
Quenneville's work to hide Toews worked well, as his 6/1 is lights out for a playoff game. Using Dave Bolland in a defensive role against Pavelski and Thornton might not be the best idea. Of his fifteen minutes of even strength time, twelve of them were against the Joes, and Bolland took it on the chin.