by Doug Stolhand
April 12, 2017
The playoffs begin tonight but before the puck drops I want to make a few offbeat predictions of what we are about to see. If you listened to our Playoff Preview & Awards Show you already know who I predicted to win the Cup and how they get there so this will not be about who wins/loses a game but rather some things that will get people talking and may change the game in future years.
First – at some point we will see a goalie get run over and it will cause him to have to go to the concussion review room. The hit will be debated as to whether it was intentional or not and the fans of the team whose goalie gets hit will be outraged that the guy who hit him doesn’t get suspended, and many not even get a penalty. I suspect we will see this in a series where the backup goalie is not strong. If you’re the Sharks and it’s a tied game with seven minutes left why not run Cam Talbot and force Laurent Brossoit into the game? Vice versa with the Oilers running Martin Jones to force Aaron Dell into the game. Would you put that past Milan Lucic? I wouldn’t. The deeper you get into the playoffs the more this tactic may be used. I’m not saying it’ll be a deliberate steamrolling but I think we’ll see a player crash the net and not really give it his all to avoid contact with the goalie. If you’re the Penguins and Sergei Bobrovsky is standing on his head stealing wins you’re telling me it doesn’t cross your mind? You don’t want to see if Joonas Korpisalo can beat you? Get real. Teams have always made it a point to crash the net in the playoffs and now, with a concussion spotter sitting thousands of miles away with the power to pull a goalie out of a game I think it’s going to be emphasized more than ever. We’ll see if the goalies flop and writhe on the ground to try and draw a penalty, and as a result get pulled off the ice by someone in the Situation Room in Toronto, or if they pop up quickly and make it clear they are ready to continue.
Second – A key goal that ties/wins the game either late in regulation or in overtime will be taken off the board because of a miniscule offsides violation that had nothing to do with the play. It’s happened all year, it’s annoyed us all year and it will happen in a key game in these playoffs to change the outcome of the game/series.
Third – Watch for goals scored from AWFUL angles. Goals are hard to come by and when you’ve got a goalie who is hot the other team often shoots from everywhere to try and beat him. This will include shots from below the goal line more often than in the past. When Sidney Crosby shot the puck at Henrik Lundqvist’s head and banked the puck into the net off his mask it was not an accident and it won’t be the last time someone does that. Shooting at the goalie’s feet/head/back from below the goal line will be utilized often this postseason and at least one game-winning goal will come as a result of that. Will it be an overtime goal or a Cup clinching goal? We’ll see.
Fourth – Watch the feet in faceoffs. They’ve made rules to make the faceoffs more fair but one of the “cheats” is to pivot immediately and use your leg/hip/feet to block the opponents stick. The best in the faceoff dots are not just the ones with the best reactions but often they are the guys that are the best at using their entire body to win the draw. When it’s a key faceoff late and teams put their best faceoff men on the ice watch their feet and their bodies as the puck drops and see who wins the positioning battle.
Fifth, and finally – Look for goals to be scored as a goalie shifts from side to side or drops down to the butterfly position. I’m not talking about the obvious cross-ice passes that result in a goal I’m talking about the subtle movement by a goalie to shift from one spot to another or as he drops down to the ice. In that split second when he’s not stable on his skates the elite scorers will throw the puck on net and try to catch him by surprise. It’s been utilized by great goal scorers all year and with goals at a premium in the playoffs I think you’ll see it more in the next two months. It’s not something you’re likely to notice at full speed but watch the replays and see what the goalie was doing at the time the shot was released.
I hope we go through the entire playoffs with no injuries or controversy, but I expect both and I expect them to start tonight. Enjoy the games and may the best team win.