A Dichotomy of two young players
23 Oct 2011
In this young season, no two Avs players have been on separate sides of the same coin more than rookie Gabriel Landeskog and 20-year old Matt Duchene.
Duchene is struggling, while Landeskog is flourishing. It’s early and both players could have a reversal of fortune, but there’s a huge difference in the two’s approach early in the season that I think is accounting for the difference.
I actually didn’t notice Duchene’s poor season at first, until I started playing around looking at stats.Then I noticed that Duchene was getting killed, just brutally beaten, in possession despite getting very favorable Ozone starts this season. After that I started watching him with a more critical eye. Now it’s entirely possible that I was paying the most attention during his worstt two games of the season, but this is what I saw:
Duchene’s not doing the dirty work. Now I’m not saying he’s lazy, or that he’s soft, but he’s avoiding the dirty work for whatever reason. No play epitomized his season, at least from my perspective, than the one with ~13:40 left in the second period against Chicago tonight. Duchene carried the puck into the zone while his teammates changed lines. 2 Blackhawks converged on him in the Avs offensive zone. The right, and safe, play here is to dump the puck in deep & try to dig it out of the corner. The reason for this is 2-fold. 1) Even if he can’t get the puck, It allows his teammates ample time to finish changing so they don’t get caught. 2) If he’s able to dig the puck out, or even just tie up the defenseman, it allows his fresh teammates off the bench time to get into an attacking position, possibly hemming the Blackhawks into the zone. At the very least it allows them to set up defensively in the neutral zone so that the Blackhawks have a hard time entering the Avs zone if they happen to get possession of the puck. Dumping the puck into the corner is the right play.
It’s also not the play Duchene made. Instead he tried to split the defense and create a scoring chance out of nothing. The puck was promptly stolen and the Blackhawks were allowed easy entry because the players from the Avs bench were unable to set up due to Duchene’s unnecessary turnover. The Avs (and Duchene) were then hemmed into their own zone for a while and Chicago got a few scoring chances.
This type of error is not isolated for Duchene, or his linemates, this season.Time after time Duchene is trying to make the perfect skill play instead of just making sure to get the puck on net, or just getting the puck deep. When his skill play works, it looks beautiful, but he needs to pick and choose his spots for that. Against Chicago at home the other night he did the same thing. He tried to work the puck for a perfect pass in front, and instead lost an edge on an ill-advised play, and the puck went for sustained pressure the other way. To put it in hokey cliché terms: He needs to simplify his games. He’s making simple plays complicated, and it’s backfiring.
On the other hand, you have Gabriel Landeskog. The most impressive thing about the kid is that every move he makes on the ice has the purpose of getting the puck towards the opponents net. Even in the defensive zone: he’s not making plays to get the puck out to center ice, he’s making plays to try and get the puck to the other side of the ice. His movement off the puck is meant to give his teammates with the puck the best possible option for putting the puck on the net. His game is simplified. Both his goals tonight were the result of off the puck movement with the goal of getting a shot on goal. The first one he crashed the net hard. Even had O’Reilly not passed him the puck, he was taking two defenders with him. There was going to be some one wide open with a glorious scoring chance no matter what happened on that play. That he got the goal was gravy.
Landeskog creates space. He knows if he’s can clog space up somewhere, his teammates are open elsewhere.
On his second goal, when Keith moved with Winnik along the blue line. Space created. Landeskog immediately filled the space Winnik created.
Space opens up,fill it.
Landeskogs game looks so polished because it’s so simple. The way a great minimalist piece of art works. Not to get all Buccigrossian, but Landeskog’s game is like Green Eggs and Ham. Legend has it Dr Seuss’ publisher bet him he couldn’t write a full book using only 50 words. He created a childhood masterpiece.