Wow! You wake up on a Wednesday morning, and you don’t expect the first thing you read to be a poignantly articulated look at the most dangerous snipers in the National Hockey League in a story penned by Jonathan Quick in The Players Tribune. And yet, here we are. Today’s absolutely-must-read piece is a dissection on what makes players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby, and duos such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane the elite players that they are.
Immediately, Quick gives us a checklist of what’s running through his head during a compressed stretch of play in which he’s aware of Kane with the puck, in a dangerous area, during a tense moment of the 2013 Western Conference Final.
“The thing is, that save has very little to do with my hand-eye coordination. Actually, the first part of it has nothing to do with me, period. If my defenseman Drew Doughty doesn’t go down and smartly take away the cross-crease pass here, I’m dead in the water. You can tell that Kane wanted to pass, because his eyes and hips are facing away from the net at first. Thankfully, Drew had my back. Next, I see Kane turn his skates toward the goal, so I stack my pads to take away the bottom of the net. Again, if he has a passing lane here, I’m toast. Thankfully my other defenseman is locking up the off-side winger. Finally, I see Kane’s weight shift and his hips open up, and I know he’s going high. So I lift my glove as high as I can and just pray,” Quick wrote about the play from the 2014 Western Conference Final.
“You can call it lucky if you want, but it actually involved four different variables that unfolded in a matter of 1.5 seconds. For some reason, when you’re on the ice, time tends to slow down and it actually feels like about seven seconds.”
Other astute observations in Quick’s story, Elite Snipers 101
On facing Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and the Ducks:
“A minute of them playing in your zone is equivalent to a minute and a half of another team, just because they play behind your net so much. So you have to be deep in your stance and on full alert a lot more and your legs start to really feel it by the third period.”
On Pavel Datsyuk:
“He’s a magician in the way that he’s able to hide the puck on his stick. Part of that is his hardware. He uses a type of blade that is pretty unusual in the league. It’s a lot thicker from top to bottom, and somehow when you combine this with his quick release and the fact that he’s hardly ever looking at the net when he shoots, it’s extremely difficult to track the puck coming off his blade.”
On Sidney Crosby:
“His blade is almost completely flat, which combined with his ridiculous forearm strength gives him the ability to go forehand to your five hole instantly or turn it over to the backhand and roof it (a lot of guys can’t do this with a flat blade). Sometimes I’ll see him on TV coming down on a goalie and it’s like, Oh boy, here we go. Crosby will be stickhandling it front of him and then he’ll go five hole so fast that it’s like he barely touched the puck. The goalie won’t even react.”
On Alex Ovechkin:
“Guys like Ovi shoot it so hard that it’s almost like you’re a batter in baseball. You see the blur of the puck coming at you in frames. One frame, two frames … by the third frame it’s already hitting you. If you’re trying to make a reaction save against Ovi, you’re already beat. You better already be at the top of the crease cutting off the angle.”
On Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews:
“If Anaheim is hard minutes physically, Chicago is hard minutes mentally. You have to constantly be tracking the movements of Kane and Toews because you’re paranoid that Kane is going to float back door and Toews is going to know he’s there without even looking up. And I think that’s why hockey is such an interesting game to break down. Most people think of hockey as this brutal game (and it definitely can feel that way when you get hit with a Shea Weber slap shot below the belt) but it’s really a mental game more than anything.”
Again, the link: Elite Snipers 101
The entire article may spur an evolution in the way you watch certain players. Perhaps Quickie wants to serve as a columnist for LAKI?