They have been good in stretches, but as soon as the momentum turns against them, they’re fighting it big time.
How many times this season have we seen this team blow a lead? Well, in the last 12 games, they’ve held the lead and wound up losing the game 9 times. They have been crushed by momentum swings, often getting pinned into their defensive zone for long stretches of time, only to concede high quality scoring chances, one after another. Again, you cannot pin many goals on their goalies this year. They have been really good, all things considered.
But, this team has played like a fragile group. Once they lose any gained momentum, nobody wants the puck on their stick. This has led to shifts of over 2 minutes on more occasions than I can count, and I would venture to guess that if they could just play simple hockey with the lead, not try to do too much, they could alleviate a lot of their issues here.
Part of that problem is youth. Another part of that problem could be roster construction. This would explain why the Voronkov-Fantilli-Marchenko line is having so much success. They play fast, simple hockey. They’ll get the puck in deep and then go to work – the key here is, they are not trying to force offense when it’s not there.
If you think about it from that perspective: of course Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine are struggling. They’re rush players, ready to counter and get a quick strike goal. This would also explain why Boone Jenner has had success this season, even though he’s been on a line with one or both of these guys most nights. He likes to get in on the forecheck and create havoc down low. Johnny and Patty, well, they do not.
Momentum is incredibly valuable in a fast moving sport like hockey. And, keeping that momentum, sometimes means not trying to tack on a quick goal, or make the home-run pass out of your own end. Sometimes, that means just spending a shift in the other team’s end of the ice, to do nothing but kill minutes off the clock and wear their players out.
I can’t recall a single instance of this team doing that yet this season. And that’s a big problem. We saw this team killed by momentum just last night. They held an 18-9 shot advantage after the first period, then took a lead in the second. After Damon Severson’s first goal of the night, Arizona then had 7 of the next 10 shots, and tied the game up. We see nearly every other team gain momentum off of a goal. So, why does this team lose it? I think I know…