Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hockey Analysis

OK, so BG beat Windsor with a kingly score of 12-1. One might think that, in a game without much competition ,as the results show, one can't learn much. In some ways, I agree; the Notre Dame game coming up on the 23rd will be a better look for me at what BG can accomplish this year. I know the guys are feeling good about things, which warms my heart. Still, some mental notes I made:
Centering looked better last night; there were a few lost pucks and a few empty sticks, but on the whole the centering pass was cleaner and more effective than it has been in the last few years.
I was also delighted to see what the sports people tend to call "creative" moves on the ice--turning some not-so-pretty puck handling and body movement, and loose pucks, into productive moments, simply through being alert and adaptable. Our team has lacked that, and I'm interested to see if this is maintained. I hope so, because it's fun to watch, and gives fans confidence.
A big shout-out to the defense for keeping Windsor shut out on their power plays, and even enabling a BG shorthanded goal by frosh Dan Sexton (who hat-tricked, with Mazzei). Defense is so often a thankless job, and truthfully there were a few scrappy moments but also some good clears and some playmaking. I'm anxious to see how play looks when more pucks make it in front of the net, but for the moment knowing BG did well on the penalty kill is important. Also, I saw a lot of good puck stripping going on at zone's edge. Most of this was of the poke and hook check variety, but not only did it work, but the offense was ready to pick it up, which is happy.
I have been watching BG line changes with a shrewd eye in the last few years. Last year, they were ridiculously slow. They look better this year, and Brian Moore in particular gets my thief-in-the-night award--I know him, and therefore pay close attention to his time on the ice and I still can't figure out how he got on and off sometimes without me seeing. Sneaky.
My new favorite kamikaze player is one of my current students. Last year it was Kai Kantola because no matter what that guy would throw himself at whatever he was doing, and he never looked as tired as I assume he felt. Last night, I watched David Solway perform similarly; whether on his skates or on his knees, he was willing to throw himself at a play. He also spent more than his fair share of time in the penalty box...also like Kantola, who was eventually escorted off with a misconduct.
Areas needing improvement: I still say better passing is in order. Windsor isn't that great either, so I didn't have much to compare to, but having grown up a Spartan in the glory days I know what good passing looks like and we're not there yet.
This brings me to my biggest pet peeve ever: So help me, if they (and I don't just mean our team) don't stop beating on the ice every time they want the puck or are open, I am going to take their sticks and smack them. I have NEVER seen this work, usually it's just like yelling "throw to me! I'm open," which immediately means you won't be. It's distracting, and I hate it. The only man allowed to beat on the ice is the goalie, when power plays are almost over, which is just common sense. Please, men, just learn to sense where your teammates are.
I saw better skating last night than I am accustomed to, but some of the guys still could profit from some movement lessons.
Finally, TURNOVERS. These need immediate improvement. Even given the higher level of play I saw last night, the turnovers were ridiculous. MSU has occasionally had problems with this, too, and BG suffered in some late-season games last year. Better teams than Windsor will capitalize on these lost pucks and all the other good work we're doing will be for naught. This goes hand in hand with the passing, of course, making sure that passes are clean and that the skater keeps moving once he has the puck...having a plan for that puck.
That's about it. It was good to see three of "my guys" (Moore, Dee, and Solway) on the ice, and good to get back to the arena for some action. It was also good to see pucks make it into the net. Here's hoping we get some better luck with shooting this year.

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