WASHINGTON — The hockey stick is used to pass, to score, to hack, to slash, to cross-check, to trip, and to find ways to use it in any combination of the above.
This ‘Three views’ explores a few of those uses in Sunday’s 3-1 Capitals win to even the series at one en route to Games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh.
1. SERIOUSLY, JUSTIN SCHULTZ NEEDS A NEW STICK
I love a Bauer twig, but as I pointed out last week, the Bauer 1N isn’t working for Justin Schultz. On another attempted shot off of a faceoff, Schultz broke his stick just above the blade. I don’t know what the flex is on the stick that he uses, but I do know that the flex point on that particular stick isn’t working for the Penguins’ defenseman.
Straight from the description on Bauer’s product page for the 1N: “EASY-LOAD TAPER — With the new moderate taper as the shaft nears the blade, players will get an easier loading shot that results in more consistency and more goals.”
That taper has cost Schultz more sticks in a week’s time than I could afford in half a decade at $299 a pop.
Sticks break; that happens. But, even if you’re willing to accept that this string of broken composite “lumber” is simply a string of bad luck, Schultz makes a really odd decision following the snap.
At first, he chases Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway chance. Not much you can do besides take a penalty there when you don’t have a stick. No penalty and a Murray save. Kris Letang follows the puck and the man to the corner, and Patric Hornqvist slides to the front of the net to help. Letang plays the body and gets separation, but he, Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby can’t get the puck out of the zone.
Where is Schultz? Well, he’s gone clear to the Penguins’ bench to retrieve a stick leaving Hornqvist to defend a 3-on-1 from the Capitals. A few seconds later, Letang is tagged for holding and the Penguins give up two minutes of 5-on-5 hockey, essentially because of a broken stick. Two crucial minutes when you’re trying to fight back from a 3-1 deficit.
2. HEADS-UP GOALTENDERS
On multiple occasions Sunday afternoon, Matt Murray and Braden Holtby aggressively played the puck to make a difference in the small sample course of play.
Murray was able to play the puck within the trapezoid while his feet and back protected the Capitals forecheck. It was confident and reminded a whole lot of Sergei Gonchar’s blue line play when he captained the power play for any team.
His box-out control of the puck wasn’t the best example of a goaltender being involved in the play, however. Probably not penultimate or third, either.
The prime example was Holtby’s aggressiveness to play the puck and fire it up ice, catching the Penguins’ penalty kill acting a little too aggressive following a line change. The Capitals scored seconds later, their second of the game, and it proved to be the game-winning-goal. Bravo, Holtby on that one.
3. HOLY FLEX,
Normally when I share an image of a stick flexing, it’s because Phil Kessel is leaning into a wrister with his Jr. flex stick. Not today, folks, not today. I’ve never seen a stick bend like this, actually, and it has nothing to do with a shot being taken. Well, not a shot on goal at least.
Brooks Orpik delivered a lumber shot to the back of Conor Sheary who used his own stick for stability. Check it out:
Not the kind of thing you see every day. The stick is a bit more Salvador Dali than ice hockey, if you ask me. In all my years of watching hockey, I don’t remember ever picking up on a bend like that on TV, either. Maybe it’s the overhead angle that doesn’t show it off?
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY