For most teams, the style of play where you get over the center red line and throw the puck deep into your opponent's zone is called "dump and chase" and it can be an effective game strategy against certain teams and at certain times of a game. For the Anaheim Ducks, that strategy is known as "dump and go crush your opponent into the end boards" and it is becoming the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th play in the offensive rush playbook. In fact, it is the only play in the playbook right now. I have to wonder if this is a result of getting the crap beat out of them by their coaches for neutral zone or just-inside-the-offensive-zone-blue-line turnovers. Do I sense some creativity crushing going on by the coaching staff? For the Ducks or any team, it is an effective strategy against certain teams and under certain conditions.
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1) It is not an effective strategy against all teams. When a team knows that the Ducks will employ this style 100% of the time on an offensive rush, that makes their pre-game practice a "no brainer" and their own game approach much easier to implement. One question. If a team (say the Ducks) did something different on nearly every offensive rush down the ice, what does their opponent plan and practice for? How do they defend what they don't know is coming? That is why teams had such a difficult time defending Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, and Chris Kunitz last season. Selanne made his line be creative and try something new on offensive rushes. That is why Daysyuk and Zetterberg are so dangerous. That is why St. Louis, Lecavalier, and Prospel are so dangerous, that is why Crosby and Malkin are so dangerous. That is why Kovalchuk is so dangerous. I know it doesn't happen very often, but I love it when a rookie or recent AHL call up tries to beat 2 NHL defenseman as he comes in all alone. Often times, those veteran D-men just expect the forward to dump it in and wait for help. But every once and awhile, the forward catches the D-men sleeping and then we see it on the highlight reel later a la Toews or Ovechkin. Like the Vermette goal against Dallas the other night. The next time I see an NHL player on the Ducks dump the puck into the corner when they are on an odd-man rush, I am going to throw the keys to the camper or a tire iron at them.
2) Also, when the Ducks are tired, it is NEVER an effective strategy because the intent is to throw the puck deep and then have one or two forwards with enough speed and forward momentum, catch the opposing defenseman just as he arrives to the puck in the corner, and then make him pay dearly. When you are tired, that opposing defenseman has time to retreat, pick up the puck, turn and find someone to pass to before a tired forechecker can even get there.
3) When the Ducks do manage to get in on the forecheck and stop a breakout, they are 100% committed to "the cycle." Once again, it seems to be the only play in the play book. The cycle works for awhile, but eventually the intent should be to find someone open to the front of the net in the slot or someone with the courage to drive it out front themsleves. You CAN'T score regularly from behind the opposing team's net. Cycle the puck and then bring it hard to the front of the net or pass it to the high guy or a defenseman who is sliding down. Cycling to cycle is a waste of energy and a waste of time. I have seen many scoring chances created when the cycle takes the puck from the corner to the half boards and the man with the puck on the half boards makes a hard push to the center of the ice. He can take a good angle shot, feed the winger in the front of the net, or feed the far side D-man for a shot. All three options create scoring chances. Why not do it more often? Instead, we are in this endless loop of just throwing it back down into the corner to start all over again. Reminds me of a dog chasing its own tail. Pointless. Last night, the two best players on the ice were 2 AHL forwards from the Canucks. Mayson Raymond and Jason Jaffrey. Those 2 AHL players beat the Ducks. Not by dumping and chasing or by cycling. They beat the Ducks with their creativity on an offensive zone odd man rush and by passing the puck to the front of the net and into the scoring zone. Very nice. I was impressed. Let's hope those two can retain their creativity and not allow it to be crushed out of them by the NHL.
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