In my previous post, I mentioned how I was concerned about my recent performances, and how I sharpened my skates. I spent warm ups just getting used to the edges and I felt good with them. I felt better and more prepared for this game than recently too. I can't put my finger on why. I think maybe I'm getting too much sleep, because last night I just didn't sleep well.
The opposing goalie was weak. He loved to handle the puck, and was good at it. Unfortunately, he just flops around on the ice. It was clear we just had to get pucks to the net and traffic to bang in loose pucks. The opposing team also didn't have anyone who could handle the puck, nor anyone who I felt was a stand out player.
On one of my first shifts, while back checking, I was trying to just lift the stick of the winger. He was moving his feet as hard as he could, and I just was going about half effort. I didn't realize it until about the blue line. I stopped trying to lift his stick to get next to him, and then I was able to break up the play a lot easier. This was the pattern for me all night. If I back checked hard enough, I could catch them and force turnovers. This makes sense as they're carrying the puck, and I'm not. I know I skate a lot slower when I have to take care of the puck.
Going in the opposite direction, I felt I did an outstanding job along the boards again tonight. At one point I was able to beat two different individuals along the boards and move the puck into their zone very quickly. I don't think my line realized that I was winning these battles, as when I finally did gain control, they still were not in the offensive zone. I took the puck to the net, but the goalie brushed it aside. After that work, I was very tired, and went and changed. I came off, sat down, and then the opponents scored on an odd man rush. That was very frustrating to me as we had a potential scoring chance but it just didn't happen.
Because our line adopted the plan of throw everything at the net, we had a lot of face offs in their zone. While our center does win way more than his fair share of face offs, he was tied up a few times, and then I was able to get in, and get a quick backhand on net. I think at my level, a lot of wingers don't realize that sometimes they need to get in there and help win that face off. I know I don't do it enough, but I'm going to focus on it a little more now.
At one point, I picked up the puck below the goal line in the opponents zone. Usually I've been just throwing it into the slot, but that has not worked out well. I've needed to take my time, and make the right play. This was a case where I did just that. I didn't have any options, so I went behind the net. The center read it perfectly, and I was able to give him a backhand pass. It was just an inch or two too far for him and he missed it. The puck went past the traffic, and exited the zone. This is the type of scenario that I need to think about, and make sure that I'm connecting on passes.
It did get a little chippy for me in the second. I was standing in front of the net, like I enjoy doing, and the defensemen kept attempting to lift my stick. It didn't do a whole lot of good. I would keep moving when he came by me until my heels were almost in the blue paint. This caused the goalie to start giving me good shots to get out of the way. This is a good thing as it does distract them. Had there been any shots at those times, those players weren't focused on the play. During one board battle, I came to help the center. The opponent had his top hand on his stick, while he was using his other hand to keep the center pushed up against the glass. He was doing a fairly impressive job of working the puck one handed. I came in, tangled his stick up, and tried to rip it out of his hands with my stick. He dropped it, and wanted a penalty called. He whined to the ref for a second, and then gave me a good shove. It was a shame though that the shift in his focus caused him to lose that battle, which would ultimately result in us clearing the puck out of our own zone.
We would win the game 3-1 with an empty net goal. I had another solid defensive game, where I felt I was effective. I really didn't have any scenarios where I was unhappy with my decision, or my results. I'm seeing more and more that I'm not as bad of a skater than I thought I was. I've got greater than average speed in this league, and I need to use it.