Mike Babcock was the first coach I ever heard use the term puck management. I heard it when he was coaching the Ducks. The idea behind Babcock’s idea of puck management was controlling the puck. That can be puck possession, or smart plays, like dump-ins.
More and more coaches talk about puck management, but they seem to mean it as a shorthand for either holding the puck or shooting the puck. But nothing else.
Two of last night’s games illustrated that.
Over in New York, the Rangers controlled the puck, spending extended periods in the Pittsburgh zone, and getting off 39 shots and scoring three times. Pittsburgh put up just 17 shots but converted on five of them. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t super sharp, but none of the five goals were horrible. Pittsburgh just made the most of their chances, without really managing the puck. The trick is, when they did manage the puck (which I guess makes the linesman middle management), they managed it well. Jaromir Jagr actually pointed this out before the game:
When you look at Pittsburgh, they don’t shoot the puck…They make cross-ice passes, making four guys tired and then somebody is going to be open.
“It’s not about just shoot the puck on the net, especially in the first 20 seconds. If you do that when guys are fresh, it’s easy for [penalty killers] to get the rebound. [After] you make them tired by passing it around, then it makes more sense to shoot.”
The Rangers didn’t do much of that. They stuck to that half-court style that works against static teams like the Devils but gets killed by fast teams like the Penguins. And sure enough, the Rangers got killed.
The Rangers are down 3-0 in the series because coach Tom Renney refuses to give up on his puck management philosophy. If someone gives him some kind of primer on puck transitioning (WHO MOVED MY PUCK? WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PUCK-ACHUTE?), maybe the Rangers will avoid a sweep.
Over in Dallas, it was a shockingly similar story. The Sharks went down in overtime when Dallas got the puck moving east-to-west (and north to the point), rather than just planting their feet and shooting. It’s funny that the Stars would win like that, too, given their reputation for defensive, north-south hockey.
Also, in case there’s any confusion, puck management is just a ridiculous name. It sounds like an Excel formula.
Also, to the surprise of no one, the Avs lost last night. Peter Forsberg was back but Ryan Smyth wasn’t. Paul Stastny is the latest injury. If Colorado does somehow get a game five, they’ll probably dress eight players.
How weird will it be if there are three second-round sweeps?
Also, this is pretty funny: 5 Reasons why Non-hockey Fans should Start Watching the NHL Playoffs. Read it for no other reason than the Versus cracks. Although Versus has been improving. At least they’re not just rebroadcasting the TSN feeds for their second games of back-to-backs.