How about that game last night? The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-0 in the season opener. Scoring five goals is always a sign of a good night, but rarely does a team dominate play in the way the Wild did last night. This post will dig a little deeper into the game and some of the key plays.
First, let's look at some possession stats. You don't need a Corsi calculator to tell you who controlled the majority of the puck possession last night, but it may surprise you just how dominant the Wild were in generating shots. The following chart shows all unblocked shot attempts by both teams throughout the game:
What is most surprising is how the shots never let up. Usually when a team goes ahead by a few goals, they retreat and play a defensive game that results in giving up more shots. Not last night. The team kept piling on the shots, setting a franchise record in the process. Now let's look at the individual numbers:
Wow. The table is tracking Corsi, which is the total number of shots on goal+missed shots+blocked shots while that player is on the ice. Jason Zucker and Kyle Brodziak had a perfect night, generating 14 and 15 shots while giving Colorado nothing. The top line of Parise, Granlund, and Pominville was also impressive, putting up 90+ Corsi percentages. In fact, the only players to have a negative night were Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. These numbers won't be sustainable for the entire year, but it is fun to see how much the Wild actually controlled play,
Next, we will look at three key plays of the game. You could literally pick any shift last night and find something good about it, but we'll stick to the scoring plays.
Play #1: Suter's Amazing Stretch Pass
The Wild dominated most of the first period but were held off the score sheet through the first fifteen minutes of the game. Then, Ryan Suter hit Mikael Granlund on a long pass which led to a shot and Pominville scoring off a Varlarmov rebound. Let's take a look at how it happened.
Colorado dumps the puck in and sends only Maxime Talbot in to pressure Suter and Brodin. The other two Avalanche forwards hang back around the blue line. However, as the forwards drop back, defensemen Brad Stuart decides to jump up for some reason. Granlund immediately recognizes this and heads up the wall.
Erik Johnson is in position covering Parise, but you'll see Stuart playing in the middle of the ice and is about two strides behind Granlund. Suter banks his pass off the wall and Granlund is off to the races. Parise takes Johnson with him, leaving Pominville a pretty free lane to break to the net and snag the rebound. It's a bad miscue by Stuart, but a great heads-up play by Suter and Granlund to take advantage of it.
Play #2: Spurgeon Jumps Into The Play
Mike Yeo has talked about getting his defensemen more involved in the offensive game. You could definitely see this strategy playing out last night as defensemen would jump into the play and rush the net. The strategy paid off in the second period when Parise found a streaking Spurgeon to punch a shot through Varlarmov. Here's how it happened:
This play was set up after a long shift of dominating possession in the offensive zone. Colorado's defense is noticeably tired as the puck goes to the wall. Alex Tanguay is supposed to be covering Spurgeon at this point, but as the puck gets jammed along the boards, he starts to cheat over a bit. Spurgeon then recognizes that every Colorado defender has drifted over to one side of the ice. As soon as Pominville can get the puck past Tyson Barrie along the wall to Parise, Spurgeon instanly breaks to the net.
By the time Parise has control of the puck, Spurgeon is already halfway to the net. He easily beats Tanguay and Parise finds him for the goal. Great instincts by Spurgeon to recognize the Avs' bad positioning and getting to the open area.
Play #3: Brodin Uses His Foot To Keep The Zone
After the Spurgeon goal, the wheels kind of came off the Avalanche. Parise got a hard earned goal off a faceoff, and Nino Niederreiter scored a dirty goal after a strong forecheck to make it 4-0. The fifth goal may have been the prettiest of the night, coming off a Ryan Suter slap-shot. The key moment of the sequence happened when Jonas Brodin kept the shift alive by making an athletic move to stop Marc-Andre Cliche's attempt to clear the zone.
Brodin knocks the puck down with his foot and immediately sends it deep off the wall. Charlie Coyle and Parise both go after the puck and for some reason four different Avs feel the need to cover them. Coyle gets to the puck first and gives a nice touch pass to Parise.
Parise carries the puck out just long enough to see a wide open Ryan Suter at the top of the slot. Parise gives a nice easy pass to set up a stinging one-timer. Suter gets the goal, with Parise and Coyle with the assists, but this goal belongs to Brodin. He makes a split second play to turn momentum and cause the mismatch. How about those defensemen, eh?
Overall it was an exciting start to the season. The Wild will have to be ready to bring its top game to Denver on Saturday. There's no way this Avs team can play as bad as they did last night. (But we can always hope). <div class="likebox-float-right"><iframe allowtransparency="true" style="border:none; overflow:hidden;" scrolling="no" src="//www.facebook.com/plugins/likebox.php?href=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fhockeywilderness&colorscheme=light&show_faces=true&show_border=false&stream=false&header=false" frameborder="0"></iframe></div>
Data collected at war-on-ice.com