Yesterday Sportsnet published a few quotes from Max Pacioretty talking about how the team was playing on their heels too often instead of pushing the offence. He made the observation that offensive defensemen often get criticism about their defensive play, but it doesn't matter as much because they have the puck more.
Pacioretty is a smart man, and he may not be 100% familiar with hockey analytics, but what he spoke of is a lot of what we talk about on this site. There seems to be a general perception in the NHL among fans, media, and even managers, that good defensive defensemen do their work in the defensive zone. Thinking like that leads to signings like Douglas Murray.
RDS was apparently mad at Pacioretty before the game, as they perceived him as ripping Michel Therrien's system, but it was all well and good again when Max backed up his words and scored a natural hat trick in the second period, converting on two David Desharnais passes, which to my ear, is what RDS focused on.
Pacioretty's dominance included 10 shots on goal, and singlehandedly scoring more goals on Josh Harding in a game than any other team has managed to do. That's right, outside of the Montreal Canadiens, no team has beat Josh Harding more than twice in a game this season, and the Habs have done it twice.
Montreal is also one of just 4 teams to manage 30 shots against the Wild this season, and they likely would have done it for a second time tonight if they hadn't been up 3-0 just over half way through the game and sat back. It was an earned route of an extremely good defensive team, the best in the league in the early going of the season.
After Pacioretty's hatty, the goals just kept coming, with Michael Bournival grabbing his 6th of the season, tied for third among all rookie players, and playing just 12:33 a game. Next up was Danny Briere, who scored his first real goal of the season, where he actually shot a puck through a goalie, and he was pumped.
After Nino Niederreiter had a shift that made a lot of jaws drop and forced a goal for Minnesota with pure effort and talent, Alex Galchenyuk replied on the powerplay with a wicked wrister.
And that was all the scoring because I'm pretty sure Dany Heatley isn't in the NHL anymore.
The only real negative to the game was that after a stellar first effort against the Rangers, Alexei Emelin showed some real rust last night. Brutal turnovers in his own zone caused a bunch of scoring chances against, but I honestly don't think that's anything to worry about.
It looked to me like Therrien may have pushed Emelin into tough minutes a little bit early, and these mistakes were mostly timing issues. He did still paste a few guys into the boards, and his skating looks solid. More than anything the confidence that he's playing with already is a positive thing, and it frees Raphael Diaz to play easier minutes.
And wow was Diaz good in those easier minutes. He still can't get a shot on net to save his life, but Diaz was only on the ice for a single shot against in 14.2 minutes of even strength ice time, which turned the third pairing into something solid instead of a black hole where defense goes to die.
There are so many reasons to be positive about this now healthy team, and if Briere and Desharnais can actually get going, watch out.
Don't forget to check out Hockey Wilderness for reaction from the losing side.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Max Pacioretty's natural hat trick against the Wild
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- Bulldogs Player of the Week: Dustin Tokarski
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- Catching The Torch: Nov. 11-17 Edition