Victor Mete’s first NHL goal
It took Victor Mete 127 NHL games to score his first goal in the NHL, but it was a memorable one. Not only was it the record-long wait that made the event incredibly anticipated, and the standing ovation, but the fact that his goal was a throwback to his Junior days.
Mete could have been called a proficient scorer for the London Knights. In his third and final season with the team, he led the team’s defencemen in goals with 15 in 50 games. Scoring in Junior isn’t exactly an indication that a defenceman will score at the NHL level, but the way he scored suggested that at least some of his markers would translate — and they did translate, even if it took a while.
Mete’s biggest asset has always been his speed. His feet move incredibly quickly and he can reposition on the ice in an instant. This is very useful defensively, but also when his team has possession as he can jump up into seams to support the attack.
The diminutive defenceman was adept at back-door plays in his days with the Knights. He would wait until the opposing players had their heads turned toward one of his teammates behind the goal line and then quickly sneak down from the offensive blueline, getting behind the defence to one-time the puck in.
This is exactly what happened last night against the Minnesota Wild.
Their first forward in the defensive end made a late, weak pass. Nick Cousins stole the puck, and acted with instinct to slide it toward the slot. Mete had anticipated the steal and jumped down to be a pass option.
The puck didn’t get to him in a perfect position, and this is where all of his work with Tim Turk paid dividends. Mete got on his outside edges, repositioned his feet as best he could, and controlled his release and his aim by getting down on one knee to place the puck perfectly short-side on Alex Stalock.
The above video also features a parallel goal Mete scored in his last season with London. The two goals didn’t come from the same offensive situation, but Mete’s read and willingness to support his forwards down low by becoming a slot-pass option are evident in both sequences.
Mete also used the same celebration in both of those plays. Some things don’t change, even with two full NHL seasons intervening.
Cale Fleury’s high effort
There are always a few plays in a game that show the true fibre of players, that give insight into their confidence in their abilities and general engagement level. Those moments often come when there is a choice to be made on the best course of action.
In the sequence below, most defencemen, considering the 3-0 lead and the easily available outlet, would have made the pass to their partner on the other side of the net. But Fleury read the incoming forecheck, and knew that if he sent his puck to Ben Chiarot, the stay-at-home defenceman would be faced with immediate pressure.
Fleury faked sending a pass toward his fellow defenceman, attracted an opponent onto himself, and separated with a powerful push to free his body from an attempted check. He got just enough room to send a pass toward the middle of the ice, where his centreman had the necessary support to exit the zone cleanly and organize the attack.
He can sell himself to the coaching staff with plays like this, proving to be someone who can execute difficult plays to make life easier for others — plays that some of his internal competition isn’t as comfortable trying.
He didn’t do it consistently last night, but Fleury has it in him to make regular controlled breakouts an integral part of his game.