Who do you love?

Jason Strudwick
July 26 2012 09:59AM

All coaches have players on their team who they trust above others. Part of that trust comes from the coaches pouring over stats. Which center wins the highest percentage of draws? Which defencemen has the least number of turnovers a game? Which forward hits the net with a shot most often?

The Little Things

Those are all some of the stats that can be tracked, recorded and reviewed. However a coach's trust is earned in many more ways then from just a stat sheet he can review while riding on the team plane to the next city. It is the little plays made during the game that are not tracked by stats that really influence a coach's trust or lack thereof in a player.

Can a winger get the puck out on the wall in his own zone when it is rimmed to him? This is a huge play that directly impacts a game. The ability to perform this task properly, as in getting it out, immediately takes the pressure off in the defensive zone. How many times do we see a winger fail to get it out because of the pressure applied by a pinching defenceman and it result in a goal?

Can a defenceman retrieve a puck in his own zone and under pressure make a quick breakout pass? So important! This is one of the most difficult plays in hockey to do but when done properly it literally stalls the offensive teams forecheck. With the all out jail break forecheck many teams use now, with a sharply passed puck, an odd man rush going the other way is possible.

How likely is a player to make the correct decision with the puck? There are times in the game when there isn't a great play to be made. A one on three rush though the neutral zone is one of those times. Will the player try to beat all three while his team mates change and possibly turn it over which will result in a mess? Or will he dump it in the short side corner which will allow his line mates to change?

Krueger's List

The new coach of the Oilers, Ralph Krueger knows the players on his team. He has been with them for a while so I would expect he knows who he has trust in and who he does. Of course his opinion can change with a players improved attention to detail.

He is fortunate to have many offensive weapons in his top six forwards. I think scoring goals and a high power play efficiency won't be an issue for the Oilers. My concern is who will protect the leads?

It is game eighty two. The Oilers need two points in this game to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Wild are in town, it is the third period, one minute to go and the Oilers are winning by one. The face off is in the Oilers defensive zone. The Wild throw Koivu, Parise, Heatley, Suter and Spurgeon on the ice.

Ralph Krueger will put together a group of five players he has trust in to protect that lead and to do the little plays I outlined above with a minute to go. My question to the Oilersnation is...Who do you love? Who do you trust to be out there and protect that lead? Tell me your five players that you think will get the job done. Don't just tell me your favorite players, put yourself in Ralphs shoes.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 2004Z06
July 26 2012, 02:56PM
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Cannot wait for the Belanger haters to choke on it next year when he bounces back! One bad year over his entire career folks....Law of averages says he will bounce back.

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#52 vetinari
July 26 2012, 02:58PM
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@ Old Retired Guy -- There were times last year when Khabibulin was in net and I thought that maybe we would be better off if we pulled the goalie for an extra attacker!

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#53 OIL4LIFE
July 26 2012, 03:02PM
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Edit | Reply #17 Quicksilver ballet-heavily medicated, for your safety.

Your comments are less than helpful.

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#54 OIL4LIFE
July 26 2012, 03:09PM
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Hall, Horcoff , Eberle Nick schultz , Ryan Whitney.

Skill, heart, and Drive, seasoned with experiance. You can't beat that.

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#55 Rama Lama
July 26 2012, 03:17PM
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I would put the following players out there to defend a lead:

Forwards.

Hall RNH. Eberle

Defenseman

Petry Schultz

The reasoning is simple.......too often coaches in the past have put their defensive specialist out there and guess what? They play defense and the puck ends up in our zone very quickly.......and we all know what happens after this.

In the glorious past Slats would put Gretzky, Kurri, and Tikanen out there in the last minute of play........he knew these players would not play a lead like conventional players and would be trying to score a goal!

We do not have the players to play a strong defensive game in my estimation except maybe Horcoff, and Smyth .........we played these players way too much trying to defend one goal games and look what happened, they were gassed after the 40 game mark of the season.

Let's hope Ralph thinks outside of the box !

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#56 David S
July 26 2012, 03:31PM
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We might all have different opinions on this one but mega props to Jason Strudwick for asking a legit question during an off season filled with nothing but Oilers re-up announcements and AHL signings (*rolls eyes*).

If Wanye would stop abusing the corporate credit card at Pint Downtown and local fine donair shops ON could install that long awaited article props button. Then I'd be able to prop the hell outta this one.

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#57 David S
July 26 2012, 03:32PM
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And seriously. An article props button would take about 15 minutes to hook up, wouldn't it?

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#58 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 26 2012, 03:35PM
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Rama Lama for coach!

Those are the guys we'll see out there within two yrs anyways. Why set yourself up for disappointment with the other usual suspects.

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#59 book¡e
July 26 2012, 03:46PM
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@Rama Lama

Please see comment #35

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#60 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
July 26 2012, 04:55PM
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Forwards:

Smyth - Horcoff - Belanger

Defense:

Smid - N. Schultz

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#61 Marcel
July 26 2012, 04:56PM
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I think I'd go with:

Horcoff, Eberle, Petrell, Nick Schultz, Ladi Smid. But I get what you're saying, the defensively aware forwards are a much rarer breed on this Oilers team.

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#62 PutzStew
July 26 2012, 05:24PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

None of the above.

3 first overall draft selections in a row pretty much reveals there's nobody in your lineup capable of participating in such fantasies.

Maybe we could revisit this in 2 or 3 yrs when our Oilers are no longer the laughing stock of the league.

3 yrs down the road maybe the fab 5 have you up two goals and it's not as much of an issue.

This is the most Honest and truthful thing I have ever read on a hockey blog.

We are not worthy....

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#63 Bucknuck
July 26 2012, 06:31PM
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All you folks talking about RNH being your centre do realize that there will be a faceoff in the Oielrs end, right? Defensive zone faceoffs and RNH are not good bedfellows. I love RNH, but I wouldn't put him in that situation.

Since you don't have to score, Belanger or Horcoff will be just fine at centre. Smyth on one wing, and Eberle on the other.

I would definitely have N. Schultz and Smid on D. And please God if the season is on the line it better be Dubnyk in net, not Khabby.

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#64 Oiler Al
July 26 2012, 06:45PM
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Late note on the topic.... lets not foreget that the net is likely empty at the other end... If you win the draw and get puck possession, you might have the opportunity to send Hall down the ice to clinch the game. Thats always easier than playing defense in your own end for 60 minutes. We know how those can end up.

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#65 Dog Train
July 26 2012, 08:14PM
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The Oilers aren't exactly loaded with defensive shutdown options so it's not a clear cut decision. Smid and Petry would be my go to pairing. Smid is built for protecting leads and Petry has good chemistry with him.

As for forwards, Horcoff would probably need to be out there for the faceoff. I would also likely have Ryan Smyth and either Jordan Eberle or Taylor Hall. Eberle is a smart player and he is mature enough to handle the situation. Hall is not your typical shutdown player and his defensive game does need some improvement but his tenacity on the puck and his speed makes him a hard player to play against. Belanger is another guy who might earn the right because of his faceoff ability but he needs to up the intensity level 100% if he expects to draw an assignment like that.

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#66 Rama Lama
July 26 2012, 10:54PM
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You my friend are a genius! Honestly I had not read your post, but definitely like the way you think!

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#67 Oilcruzer
July 26 2012, 11:05PM
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Horcoff Hall Eberle Whitney Smid, honorable mention Smyth, but by game 82 and at the end of this close, important game, he probably has more will than legs.

Time to turn the page. This is how you mature. It's year three for your cornerstones.

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#68 Buke
July 27 2012, 09:02AM
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Belanger and Horcoff due to their ability to win the draw; with Hall because we all know he will take one in the kisser for the team to win.

Back End has to be smid and N Schultz.

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#69 NewAgeSys
July 29 2012, 12:03AM
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What a great question,and wonderful opportunity to be a couch-coach!!Game on!!

I think we forgot to set important parameters here especially the type of system we are playing at the moment I am chooseing my players,so I guess I will pick one for us before i give you my answer,if that seems fair.

I am the creator of Moma2s NewAge Hockey System,this is a 100% offense orientated style of play that absolutely disregards traditional hockey perspectives of defense and its core value importance,the need to consider a defenseive mindset is viewed as simply failed offense,which initiates an immediate need for an offensive re-set,there is no "defensive mode"included in the NewAge Hockey Systems core value package.So lets keep in mind that I am simply going out to score another goal,not to defend against the five players out on the ice.There is NO defensive consideration put into the players I will ice,Just physical and system dimensions,not defensive awareness or ability.

By observation of last years games where a version of the newAge Hockey System was being used by the Oilers,the players I am picking are Sam Gagner,Jordan Eberle,Taylor Hall as forwards with Laddy Smid and Corey Potter as d-men.

Gagner has the NHL experience we need and has elite puck pursuit and recovery abilitys,so we need him to take the face-off,he also has a low center of gravity and has bulked his upper body so he has the ability to take the puck down to the ice off the dot and push it FORWARD which is where we are all headed in my world,i dont think Parise will have sucess predicting Sams forward push so he is negated IMHO right off the face-off,Taylor halls explosive first and second steps make him a lethal asset off of that face-off comeing in from the side and pushing forward at the defense if he gets to the puck first which with that All-Star burst of speed he is likely to do,Koivu has the speed to compete but its a saw-off==because he isnt expecting Taylors immediate push to the puck from inside position after Sammy pushes it down to the ice Taylor gets the positional and speed edge along with the surprise advantage{our system comes right at you from everywhere ALL the time for 60 mins} ,Heater is WAYYY out of his league off the hop so he is no threat as he has already lumbered himself towards the net following conventional wisdom and his brain hasnt yet registered the fact that he was basically untouched on his way in,as I see it so far the puck has been dropped and Parise has tried to use his size to muscle the puck through Sam into the zone,Sam haveing only an offensive focus has intentions off the hop of simply dropping down and useing his center of gravity as a lever to push the puck to the ice and through Parises feet,as a result after the puck is dropped Parise goes hard and high trying to bust Sam and the puck into the zone--and a split second sooner Sam is explodeing DOWN to use his assets to force the puck forward--we now see Sam beating Zack to the punch because his travel distance is shorter and he is useing ALL of his assets to push the puck down and forward along with his upper body,parise is forced to bend and recover from Sams explosive push from UNDERNEATH his own center of gravity,he will have to "respond" to Sams first move and momentum dominance,and these factors support our edge in puck pursuit and recovery from Hall and Ebbs,Laddy has dropped back into his natural position in front of the net in the middle running interference on Heater who likes to take the short route and use his size,potter with his reach has maintained dominant body position after the puck dropped and is simply body blocking Koivus way in and useing his tremendous stick reach to support our three forwards absolute forward push--looking for the chance to step up and support the rush if the puck squeaks loose behind Gagner .Koivu will already be chaseing Halls backside{Koivu isnt blind he will feel the push},remember Gagner took the puck down to the ice and he is literally laying on the ice owning the puck angles into his o-zone,Hall has busted past Koivu towards the puck and is on the outside of saku supporting Sams immediate right side and pushing forward to close the envelope on the puck or cut off the angle the puck can squirt into the zone through,with sam down low and flat out and Hall useing his natural speed and killer puck pursuit which is natural to assist him in beating saku to the puck zone on sams right ,we now own all the down low real estate from the dot to the boards on Sams right and we are pushing forward,because heater is automaticly going by instinct to the middle or the shortest route to the net we have allowed him to go right at Smid untouched,Ebbs will be on the outside of Heatly now as Hall is on the outside of Koivu in our forward push,remember their d-men have already fallen a step back anticipateing the forward push by Parise and the cut through the middle by heater,Koivus only job is to take Hall on head-to-head in a puck race.This is where Ebbs natural ability and special dimensions come into play,there is no one on our team with better hands in close under pressure than Ebbs,because he is closeing on Sams left side with speed and forward focus,his skills are highlighted,I cannot think of a better guy to be cruiseing for the puck at this moment-- he will be the man anticipateing any play to Heater,and useing his barracuda like strikeing ability to pressure the puck on Sams feft side,Ebbs will be a serious break-out threat on the left side if the puck is bobbled and his spooky hands ensure he WILL suck the puck in if it is near him.

There is a chance that Spurgeon will try to bust in from Sams left side,but thats ok because we have Potters stick covering his way in and because we let Heatly come inside Ebbs is giveing Spurgeon the dead-eye look,I asy he backs off,and because they HAVE to put Suter on the boards we can count on him stepping back because he is smart enough to rationalise that Hall is going to beat Saku to the puck,Suter will end up staying on the blue-line covering parises back after Sam has forced the puck down to the ice,Suter will be torn between comeing in to try to pick the puck out of parises feet or sitting back watching halls speed,with no room to move and hall busting in my money says Syter steps back,which is exactly what the newAge Hockey System is designed to make him do.

We should have men on the outside of their wingers pinching the puck into the circle and forward--hall has beaten Koivu to the puck lane and is outside of him on Sams right side and Ebbs has allowed Heater to cut through the middle towards laddy diagonally left to right as Heater always does and in doing so Ebbs also gets outside of his man---now we have two forwards in a dominant up-ice position and one tied up in a saw-off down low on the ice--faceing two d-men and a center with support from Potter,and we should have three men on the inside of the opposition owning dominant position with their butts faceing the goaltender and the threat of forward motion imminent in Smid in front of the net engageing Heater,and Potter ignoreing Spurgeon who Ebbs has pushed back and comeing up the middle to give us a sudden numbers advantage of four to three as he relieves Ebbs and closes to support Sams left side ,Ebbs will be fadeing and dropping inside Spurgeon and over with Spurgeon,with all four Oilers being in a position to or moveing forward with momentum and pressure{and remember everyones butts are faceing the goalie so we are all locked and loaded to bust forward}

I think Laddys protective instincts will come out and this is his strength,he will lay Heater out with a vicious cross-check as he comes across to do his diagonal cut,trust me when he sees red Smid is a beast.

I think Potters size footspeed and reach will put him in a perfect position to be sucessful in either gaining puck possesion and skateing it up,or makeing a quick accurate pass to move it out to a forward,and because of his ability to own a lot of real estate with his size and reach he will own the left side of Sam on the dot immediately,because Ebbs is so effective Potter can simply step up and pressure the puck forward while only worrying about cutting down a very short puck angle on Sams left side--remember Potters stick length and reach--he just needs to poke the puck forward out of the zone.

Because all 5 of our players will have dominant body position and be cocked to push forward,we are prepared for sucess,remember that Ebbs has let Heater go in so we have used their weakness to our advantage,heater "needing"that move and liveing by it means we can use him and let him come in getting tagged by laddy when he arrives,this lets Ebbs go from an outside position on heater as he goes in to an INSIDE position on Spurgeon the d-man ----but only long enough to let Potter come up the middle and cover Sams lefts side,and remember that our only player who is still outside the opposition is Hall because he pinched koivu out on the boards on sams right side.And because we are pushing forward with all 5 men Halls position as our spear-tip or outside threat is considered dominant because he has eliminated Koivu and forced Suter to step back,other than this dynamic his being outside the opposition at this point is big trouble,but because we dont ever think defense Hall is now our offensive spear-tip and doing the right thing which allows him to utilise all of his extra dimensions as a player,in fact IMHO all 5 of our men have been put in a position where they can utilise all of their natural reaction speed and special dimensions to their upmost potential.

Parises size ,skill,and experience are negated by Sams surprise drop and stop as he uses his lower center of gravity,his size and downward/forward momentum to force parise to counter his attack useing his lower center of gravity as Sam pushes the puck forward and sprawls down to cut the puck angles of zone entry down,Parise will come out intending to simply Hammer Sam back useing his size and as a result he will be extra vulnerable because although he himself will be comeing forward at Sam and closeing the distance between them off the hop,Sam has the advantage because he can drop forward and down faster than Parise ,the downward motion being the edge.And remember Sams dual intent is to both engage parise AND drop down to take the bottom of the ice away with his entire body.Advantage Sam Gagner.Bonus--in dropping down Sam allows ebbs to let Heater go through to Laddy with less risk because no one is shovelling it through for the deflection or tap in like Heater lives off of.

Taylor Hall uses his DOMINANT FIRST STRIDES and incredible puck pursuit effort combined with a surprise forward push to beat Koivu to Sams right side and in doing so he pinches koivu out along the boards and Hall then becomes our offensive speartip staying outside of Koivu and pressureing Suter to stay back.Halls superior speed and superior puck pursuit instincts give him the edge --even up against Saku Koivus skill set its Advantage Hall.Bonus--Halls push and pinch forces Koivu to chase him and turn his body position around takeing the heat off of laddy who is waiting for Heatly to start his diagonal cut across.

Jordan Eberles incredible sense of the moment and elite anticipation make him perfect for closeing the gap on Spurgeon long enough for Potter to step up and over,Ebbs scares EVERYONE and he can pick passes out of the air with the best of them giveing us the weapon we want between the puck and heatly as he cuts inside,and truly even Spurgeon is backing up with Ebbs closeing fast.And as a fall back,if something breaks loose around the net Ebbs is the MAN to recover it with his timeing and elite positioning,we have our best hands playing the safety position,just where we need them.Advantage Ebbs,Heater is still lumbering to the net,ha ha ha.

Laddy has seen this rodeo many times and has lain some really good licks on Heatly already,our team is aware of heaters diagonal cut and we take him head on every time.Because laddy is already zoned in and he himself has elite hitting and closeing out skills--he will time his lick perfectly and because heatly is lazy he will go toe to toe with laddy--this is the error because laddys natural protectiveness around the net comes out when he is under pressure,and because he is high octane in spirit Smid has been known to visciously lay guys out to stop the play,I mean take them out with attitude and pain.Classic collision,maybe an injury after the play.Advantage Smid,he is a yard-dog,and he has some kind of serious mean streak under prssure.

Potter only has to step up to Koivu if he comes through--which he wont--and then step up and forward to cover sams left side ,allowing laddy to take Heatly as he comes past,Potters long reach allow him to delay and be able to cover Koivus lane with his body and to poke at the puck if it is loose because he is faceing down ice,and his decision makeing under pressure is high calibre Potter will close the gap to Sam with great timeing and probably panic Spurgeon with his push up the middle.The real upside is that if Suter somehow breaks through like he can,Potter is a big long body,and he has a long stick and reach so Suter will be covered well and because of his delay potter will also be in a position to step up on anyone cutting up the boards and he could drop Suter with his footspeed and lateral movement.

In this set-up out goaltender is very important,because we have a dynamic with 4 men haveing inside position we are effectively blocking their path to the net,only Hall is outside of Koivu,so if we do lose possesion and they get it deep,we will be able to slow them down considerably because of this inside position and an alert goaltender can make great plays with the extra second.

Remember that hall is out spear-tip,and if we can maintain dominant body position with all 5 men we will always have our butts faceing our goaltender threatening forward momentum and offense.This forces them to push the puck past us hard and fast and deep and puts us in a position to delay their pursuit enough to let a quick goaltender pop the puck up to Hall who is our only man on the Outside and is our deepest asset up-ice---our spear-tip.

Now heres the kicker,all 5 men will cycle counterclockwise in a forward motion,as the puck dictates,replaceing each others positions but ALWAYS maintaining the one outside man or the spear-tip.This is called a half-rink cycle and it ensures we maintain dominant body position all the time.It keeps us on the inside and them on the outside,but our sticks always own the inside lanes as we cycle around.

We ALWAYS have a constant offensive posture and spear-tip threat in position to bust out because we DO NOT consider defense,we just try to constantly cycle into our next offensive thrust,even from our d-zone face-off----we are not thinking defense at all,we are trying to make it a two goal lead with 30 seconds to go,and then we pressure from center ice with a full rink cycle and we try to end the game with a three goal lead and final second puck possesion.

Potters strengths--laser long pass--exceptional reach-very good footspeed--upright style heads up vision,offensive instinct--good terminal decision makeing.

Smids strengths--Net coverage at elite level-nasty streak-very good instinctive reaction speed likely to be ahead of the play and in dominant body position,excellent nerves under pressure and ALWAYS makes the simple play under pressure,very protective.Upright-heads up style.

Gagners strengths,very tricky and shifty he is a cerebral player who has learned to be ultra-coachable and will manifest plays by willpower,is a dogged competitor and has put on enough size to assert himself,he has mastered the NewAge Hockey System and is a very good communicator.Most noteable is Sams ability to get the job done under pressure,if he has an assignment he will get it done,it is a leadership quality he is growing into he is becomeing reliable under pressure at key moments in games,his NHL experience is showing up in his game already at his age---and he hasnt even peaked yet.I trust Sam to do as asked and to outsmart parise on the dot,not overpower or out-duel----simply out smart and out-manouver him bodily.Which is key to this face-off,and any potential move to pull the puck back to suter or Spurgeon by Parise is terminal because Hall and Ebbs are already closeing at top speed haveing surprise and focus on their side.And Potter will see the play and step up pressureing the middle immediatly,our forward intent immediatly gives us many advantages in this dynamic.

On this play I see an outcome of ,a drop and stop by gagner,him absorbing parises attack and useing it to drop down and forward blocking the puck and then dropping on his back,Parise trying to poke it through him,Hall busting in from sams right pinching out koivu,and freezing Suter at the blue-line,I see Spurgeon makeing an error and cutting in to hack at the puck as Ebbs meets him at Sams left side ,i see Spurgeon useing his reach and lateral speed advantage to beat Ebbs to the puck and he bangs it across towards the boards as Suter immediatly drops back to cover his abrupt decision to chase the puck,ha ha ha,the puck squirts past gagne and Parise toward the boards whereupon Taylor Hall picks it up like a hot potatoe and drools as he looks down ice at Suter as the only man back!!!Halls explosive first two strides have put him in second gear as he clears the blue-line,as hall has entered the neutral zone Suters brain computes Halls trajectory and he decides to challenge Taylor and step up to cut the angle down and initiate body contact,after haveing been brain-trained already in his career in situations like this Hall uses his sophmore experience to slip the puck between Suter legs as he dodges a hit,and then its just Hall and the tender,if I knew who he was I would provide halls shot selection,but seeing as Suter is an All-star with excellent decision makeing skills he will engage hall early,so hallsy will have a few strides to close on the tender,I see five-hole,or top right corner from the middle as he cuts across to his left.

The key to the sucess of this play is a total disregard for defense and the ability of our centerman to beat parise,this is the key first step,and we need to trust each other to effectively execute the half-rink cycle if we dont get immediate possesion,and beating Parise doesnt mean winning the draw it means dictateing what happens after the draw.Its the only time a tie is actually a win.

And with a minute to go they would probably have an extra man by then,so we will simply fade Ebbs over to the far left side and allow Potter to make his move earlier,we still let Heatly cut in and we still base our attack off of this dynamic.

Now heres the final part of my answer,I would trust any five men on our roster to execute this face-off under these circumstances,all we would do is make small adjustments to maximise THEIR skill sets,all players who make it to the NHL level have a very very functional skill set--lets respect the league for what it is ,the best pro hockey league in the world.

All of the tasks I asked the 5 men we discussed can be accomplished by EveryMan---every man on our roster is capable of executeing any one aspect of this face-off we just outlined.And I trust them all to accomplish these tasks if required.The question is,do they trust each other this much yet?Because they have every reason to do just that,trust each other to always think within the system,the NewAge Hockey System.

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