And defensively, play the puck or the body? Make the hit or the poke check? Block the shot or let the goalie make the stop? Take this man or that man on the rush? Play the shot or the pass?
They are decisions that have to be made literally hundreds of times a game and all within a fraction of a second. Mistakes, inevitably, are going to be made, and often forgotten.
But for the Anaheim Ducks lately, those mistakes all too often have ended up in the back of their net.
“I thought we played a pretty good game against a hot team,” Teemu Selanne
said of last night's 4-2 loss in St. Louis. “We’re playing way better than we did a couple of weeks ago. But mistakes are killing us. We can’t get away with a mistake. That’s the story of our season.”
St. Louis is indeed one of the hotter teams in the NHL, winning last night for the sixth time in the last eight games and improving to 10-2-3 under new coach Coach Ken Hitchcock. In other words, they are a team that right now will capitalize on the little mistakes, and that happened a couple of times last night.
The Blues' first goal came in the opening period, when Jonas Hiller
seemingly stopped a Jamie Langenbrunner shot, but the puck leaked out behind him. It sat silent in the crease before Chris Porter reached out and dragged it into the net.
Late in the second, with the Ducks looking poised to go into the break down just a goal, Cam Fowler
's dump-in attempt wasn't forceful enough and was picked off by Ian Cole. He swiftly transitioned it to T.J. Oshie, who scored a back-breaking goal that made it 3-1 Blues.
“He has to dump it harder,” said Bruce Boudreau of that play. “We’re too flimsy. That comes from being cute. That’s not just from Cam, but skilled players have a tendency to think they can do everything perfectly cute instead of getting it deep. If you do that, you take the worry out of it.”
Anaheim got within a goal in the third thanks to Devante Smith-Pelly
(who the Ducks will loan to Canada's World Junior team
for a few days). But that was as close as the Ducks would get, being buried by Oshie's empty-netter after Ryan Getzlaf
couldn't get the puck off the wall for a dump-in.
“A confident team, with a record opposite of ours, would have put one of those shots in, in the third period,” Boudreau said. “This team’s got a lot of heart, but they need to get on a little bit of a roll to get that confidence. It’s a little bit lacking right now.”
Boudreau talked about his team's "unforced errors" and used another non-hockey reference to describe the state of the Ducks.
“This team reminds me of the Miami Dolphins,” he said. “They lost their first six games or whatever and the coach (Tony Sparano) said they were playing hard. Then they turned it around and won four out of five. I think we’re ready to do that.”
That will have to start tomorrow night in Nashville in an intriguing match with the Predators, revisiting a newly fierce rivarly that was sparked by last year's playoff series and a couple of contentious battles already this season. Both of those have been Nashville wins, and the Ducks would like nothing more than to break that string while starting one of their own.
Unfortunately, the Preds (ninth in the West) are kinda riding high right now after what they did last night in Columbus. Trailing by two goals late in the third period, they scored twice with the extra attacker, including the tying goal from Sergei Kostitsyn with just 12.1 seconds left. Inevitably, they won it in overtime on a Colin Wilson goal just 1:45 into the extra period.
The Preds will also get Ducks favorite Jordin Tootoo back tomorrow after he was suspended two games
for a hit last Tuesday on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
The Ducks, by the way, lost Saku Koivu
last night to a lower body injury in the second period, and he is reportedly day to day. Anaheim did call up the Kyle Palmieri
(leading the AHL with 17 goals for Syracuse ) and brought back Brandon McMillan