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How Vancouver’s forwards must adjust to support offensive defencemen



One of the things that makes hockey great is that you’re welcome to be as offensive- or defensive-minded as you like, and either strategy can work. You can claim your defence-first plan leads to your offence, you can claim that your all-in offensive plans mean you don’t play in your own end, and you can live anywhere in between those polar examples.

The only caveat is, for each to be effective every player better know exactly where the team has the slider set on that aggress-o-meter, because strategic changes have to made based on its location.

In Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Canucks played in a way that I believe gave them a chance to win. At times the aggressive needle teetered into the red, which again, isn’t necessarily bad. They kept their defencemen active in the offensive zone, which allowed them to extend O-zone possessions, and in general, leaned into a team strength.

Watch Alex Edler down the left wall here keeping pucks alive, which leads to a Jake Virtanen chance in the slot. This chance could’ve just as easily ended up in the back of the net (there were offensive options past “smash it wide” here), and had it gone in, we’d be lauding Edler’s play for allowing the play to develop.

Knowing Edler is green lit to play like that influences how the forwards should react, which we’ll get to momentarily. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that “being green lit to pinch down the walls” does not equal being green lit to stay in the zone and just hope everything works out so you can create more offence.

Here’s how it all plays out after the two Edler pinches and Virtanen chance:

What kills me is the score (3-3) in a must-win game, the time (middle of the third period), the situation (JT Miller heading into a 50/50 puck battle with multiple Vegas players above the Canucks forwards), and that Edler appears to think “I’m going to just wait and see how this plays out. I might get a puck in a good spot here if he wins that battle at the blue.”


Three Vegas skaters have legs clearly loaded to head up-ice, you’re a defenceman, and this has 2-on-1 against written all over it if Miller and a Vegas forward nullify each other (though that never quite unfolds). I honestly can’t believe Edler isn’t in full hustle on the way back given that picture right there.

As I said, though, if Vancouver’s defence is going to be aggressive coming in from the offensive blue line, the forwards have to know that can create rushes against. With that, they need to be not just covering off behind those defencemen (like Miller above), but F4 and F5 also need to be coming back hard too, because Vegas’ defence jumps like pets near fireworks, and their forwards are savvy enough to find them trailing the rush as second and third waves.

There are a number of issues with Vancouver’s play on this particular goal: Miller covers for Edler, but he doesn’t really settle into a proper defensive spot. They have bad body position (really bad) in the puck battle in the neutral zone. You can quibble about tying up sticks. But the bigger picture is that this was part of a small trend, where Vancouver’s defence made dicey decisions thinking offence, and it fell apart going the other way partially because teammates weren’t prepared to cover off for those pushing defenders.

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Rush chances went Vegas’ way in each of the three periods, with Sportlogiq crediting Vegas with a total of 13 to Vancouver’s 7.

This all comes back to the aggress-o-meter, and the classic line from The Wire: “If you come at the king, you best not miss.” If Vancouver’s defencemen are going to get aggressive, fine, but they better make Vegas pay, or be ready for retribution.

Here’s the Knights’ second goal, which saw Quinn Hughes do something you’d like him to do 100 times out of 100: skate at a loose puck on the wall and take it down deep into the offensive zone. You’d want him doing that every time (emphasis on specifically Hughes and his skill set here, and not all defencemen), because more often than not he’s going to do something good with it. He does that so well so often that you actually forget it is, in fact, a real risk. When you don’t do good things with the puck, well…

Knowing that it’s a risk — and that Vegas is good with jumping defence — let’s return our attention to Vancouver’s F4 and F5. When Ryan Reaves buries Hughes here, Vancouver’s forwards have to get on the right side of the play. As soon as it looks like he’s not in the clear, really.

Tanner Pearson does, by filling in on defence. Elias Pettersson gets on the right side of a guy. Tyler Toffoli, though, has essentially to make the same decision as Pearson here — though if Pearson told him he’s covering high, maybe Toffoli can take a stride or two and see how this plays out.

He just keeps drifting deeper, though, hoping Hughes can get the puck somewhere advantageous. Toffoli’s the deepest guy here, again, just hoping the puck shows up.

You might even want Pettersson (on the wall) to pull out here if you don’t think he can get to the puck first, but he’s pretty pot-committed at this point, so if I’m Travis Green I’m fine with his read.

The worst of it, of course, is Toffoli not back-checking the rush against, and instead choosing to confront Reaves for hitting Hughes, playing into exactly everything the big Knights forward wants to happen. They’re in a square in the below pic, because it’s an utterly blockheaded decision.


Reaves even jumps by him as a next wave threat, which Toffoli can’t contest. Were there a save and a rebound Reaves would’ve finished the job from start to finish.

Finally is an instance where a team just seems like they’re forcing it, trying to make something happen when it isn’t there. The score is 4-3 Vegas now (“let’s go get one”), it’s an O-zone draw (“let’s go get one”), Vancouver has two more offensive-leaning defencemen out there (you get the point). But trying to make a move at the blue line against perennial Selke-nominee Mark Stone isn’t the offensive aggressiveness the Canucks are looking for from their defencemen. There’s nowhere to go even if they get by Stone. Just put it in deep and let Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Miller get to work.

This whole sequence is a big ol’ 0-for-3 from Myers. It’s a bad offensive play that starts a rush against, he gets back but fails to break up the play, and he ends up standing by the guy who scores the goal, all but holding his hat for him.

Fun fact about this return-to-D-zone from the Canucks: at no point do any of Miller, Hughes, or Myers really seem to have anyone. They’re all vaguely circling roughly about where they should maybe stand, with zero total incidents of us being able to just ‘X’ out two players and say “OK, that defender is cancelling out that Knights player.”

Like in the frame below, who has who? Max Pacioretty is dropping the puck to his stick at this very moment behind the net.

Hughes is clearly about to re-attack Pacioretty, but just a moment earlier it looked like he was leading him in a speed skating event around the oval.

So, nobody is marked overly well.

If you watched a highlight package for this game, most of the clips wouldn’t start early enough to identify where the Canucks had their trouble. The takeaway for me is that if the defencemen on the Canucks are going to try to do offensive things, that’s fine, but they need to: A) do better offensive things, and B), the rest of the team can’t be impatient and get ahead of the play. You saw it from Edler after Vegas tied the game, you saw it from Myers after they fell behind. You just can’t be on the wrong side of “maybe” piles against a good team with active defencemen like Vegas.

So keep the needle flirting with the red on the aggress-o-meter, create those chances, and just don’t miss. Because we’ve seen how it plays out when they do.


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Mickelson struggles Thursday at Winged Foot –



For a few brief moments Phil Mickelson’s dream of conquering Winged Foot to complete a career grand slam was on track at the U.S. Open, but inaccuracy off the tee once again gave him nightmares.

A week after hitting just 12 of 56 fairways at the Safeway Open, Mickelson managed to find the short grass off the tee just twice in Thursday’s opening round on the way to a dismal 9-over 79.

The 50-year-old’s chance at redemption from 2006 looked a chance after he rolled in back-to-back birdies out of the gate. Perhaps he truly had let go of the infamous 72nd hole double bogey that helped Geoff Ogilvy claim the trophy over 14 years ago.  

Mickelson’s early birdies came despite missing both fairways left into deep rough and the fairytale writers lifted their eyebrows and dared to think something special might be on its way.

However, the inaccuracy quickly caught up. From the moment a four-foot par putt on the third hole lipped out, Mickelson found himself in a deep spiral not even his 44-time PGA TOUR winning experience could fight.

Bogeys on the fourth, fifth and eighth followed with Mickelson not chalking up his first fairway until the par-5 ninth hole. It didn’t help as he would go on to make par after another missed putt.

Bogey at 10 and another at 13 came soon after the turn with the latter the start of a six-hole finishing stretch that the six-time U.S. Open runner-up played in six over. Ultimately, he would finish 14 shots off the pace and all but officially be eliminated from contention. Only U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel (80) was behind him on the leaderboard.

The words he said as he left Napa must have been ringing in his ears throughout the round.

“The last couple of months I’ve been missing it more to the right and not worried about the left and the left crept in again,” Mickelson had said after the Safeway Open. “For years I missed it left. I haven’t been fearing that at all lately, but this week I missed it left, which is not good. I can deal with missing it right now, but not left.”

He went on to say he was confident of being able to turn it around before the opening round in New York but sadly that was not the case. Prior to the Safeway Open he had won his debut start at PGA TOUR Champions.

“I actually have had some nice breakthroughs in the last year and I feel like I’m on the precipice of playing really well, but I’ve got to get it to click,” he said.

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Jays lose third in a row to Yankees – Bluebird Banter



Blue Jays 7 Yankees 10

Well, game three end up a lot closer than the first two games.

There were lots of Yankees home runs. Lots. Yankees seem to have that swing down to loft the ball to the short porch to left.

Julian Merryweather ‘opened’ and he managed not to give up a home run. But he wasn’t good, 2 hits, 2 walks, 2 earned. I hoped he could go two innings but no such luck.

Chase Anderson followed and threw a very good second inning. Then he gave up 5 home runs in the third, while getting just 2 outs. He gave up three consecutive home runs on three pitches.

It did remind me of a joke from my youth. What goes whoosh, crack, whoosh, crack, whoosh, crack. A pitcher going down to the minors.

Wilmer Font finished out the third inning and got through the fourth without allowing a run. Our pitching MVP of the series.

T.J. Zeuch pitched 3 innings, giving up just 1 run on, you guessed it, another homer. He allowed 3 hits, 3 walks with 3 strikeouts.

On offense, it was the Lourdes Gurriel show, with 4 hits, 2 homers, a double and a single. Danny Jansen had 3 singles.

We had a rally in the ninth, giving us a few moments of fun. . With one out:

Aroldis Chapman came in:

  • Bo Bichette singled home 2. 10-7, bringing the tying run to the plate.
  • Randal Grichuk struck out.
  • Teoscar Hernandez struck out to end the game. Hernandez was 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts in his first game back. It will take couple of games to get his timing back

Jay of the Day: Lourdes (.124 WPA).

Suckage: Anderson (-.319) and Merryweather (-.140), Grichuk (-.111, 1 for 5) and Teoscar (-.093)

Matt Shoemaker can’t come back quick enough.

Tomorrow is a double-header, in Philadelphia. first game is 4:00 Eastern.

We had 753 comments in the GameThread. 13yearoldbaseballfanatic led us to defeat.

The series had me thinking of this song, the chorus is ‘Burn this cabin down’. I’m thinking we should do that to Yankees Stadium, burn it to the ground.

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Blue Jays lose big again – Bluebird Banter



Blue Jays 2 Yankees 13

We held them to a couple of touchdowns today. Progress of sorts.

Yankees hit 7 home runs. 4 off of starter Tanner Roark. The first, a solo homer in the first inning, was a Yankees Stadium special, one that would only be a home run with the short porch in the Bronx. But the other ones were crushed.

Roark went 4 innings, allowed 6 hits, 6 earned, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.

Jacob Waguespack pitched the next 2 innings, giving up 5 hits, 5 earned, 1 walk with 2 home runs.

Hector Perez got into his first MLB game. He pitched 1.2 innings with 3 hits, 2 earned, 3 walks, 1 k with 1 home run.

Anthony Bass got the last out.

Someone named Kyle Higashioka (the Yankees backup catcher) hit 3 home runs.

Offensively, we only had 5 hits. We didn’t get our first hit until the sixth inning, when Jonathan Villar led off with a double. He would score our first run on a wild pitch. Joe Panik homered in the ninth, to get our second run.

Villar, Grichuk, Vlad, Panik and Espinal had our hits.

Can’t blame the defense today.

No Jays of the Day today. Danny Jansen had the high mark at .007 WPA for his 0 for 2 and a walk.

Suckage: Roark (-.246).

It’s possible that the Jays will send out Wags before tomorrow’s game, if they decide they need someone who can give them a few innings.

We had 643 comments in the GameThread. FlipDown Shades led us to crushing defeat.

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