It feels right to end on a positive note. Even after an exceptionally underwhelming campaign for the Carolina Hurricanes, last night’s overtime victory suited the team well. The players seemed to genuinely enjoy going out with a bang, and the fans — despite their numerous well-founded fustrations — cheered their team’s win just like any other. And so, another season of Systems Analyst features will end on a positive, as well.
But don’t mistake this as a novel “feel-good” rendition; Elias Lindholm ’s game-winning tally is deserving of a dissection in its own right. From Cam Ward’s outlet pass on, the Canes ran through Tampa’s defense with ease.
As Tripp Tracy pointed out on the broadcast, Ward catches the Lightning in a line change, which allows Haydn Fleury to collect the puck with acres of space around him in the neutral zone. The 3-on-3 OT format already lends itself to open ice rushes as it is; remove a player or two from that picture and it opens up enough for goalies to launch breakout passes to defensemen at the red line.
From there, Fleury is able to enter the Lightning zone unscathed, and sets up shop at the top of the circles.
Fleury does well to avoid doing too much here. It would be easy for a young player in a meaningless last game of the season to try to be a hero, but he slows up and searches for passing options. He’s also smart not to force a play to Lindholm, who appears to be his only option as he enters the zone. Fleury’s patience with the puck shows confidence in himself and a solid understanding of his teammates’ tendencies. It hasn’t been a banner rookie season for him, but he’s clearly developed his physical and mental skills well as continues to adjust to the NHL.
With the Lightning still changing for the forechecking Brayden Point, Teuvo Teravainen is able to trail the play and take a pass straight through the middle of the zone.
There’s a nightmare for goalies everywhere — Teravainen untouched moving through the slot with speed. But with a defenseman in his way, the young Finn has a decision to make. Shooting risks a blocked shot and quick pass to spring a rush in the other direction, and there’s not much room to deke.
So he passes. And Lindholm finishes, beautifully.
But look again at the past two GIFs — it’s not an instant pass. Teravainen has his mind made up from the second he gets the puck to delay as long as he can, refusing to tip his hand as to what he’ll do. He freezes Domingue and the Tampa defender, and buys Lindholm the split-second he needs to wire his shot home. Much like Fleury, his patience with the puck creates the chance and his execution is perfect.
Credit Lindholm, too, for his shot placement. He knows Domingue will cover the bottom of the net, so he drops to a knee and gets his hands high to lift his shot over the outstretched netminder. Not the prettiest of shots, but it takes skill to pick corners with a one-timer.
That’ll round out another season of Systems Analyst. It’s been a ton of fun to take a deeper look into goals, saves and systems these past two seasons, and I hope you’ve all enjoyed these as I have. Thanks for reading along!