Did he accomplish his goal, does he like what he saw in the games prior to last night in Pittsburgh?
TM: I thought we had pretty good transitions in the first three games we played (after the break). The first game we went middle-away and the last two we kept the center in the middle, with the weak side low and away. That’s a little better look for us. It offers the defenseman a couple more passing opportunities. When you go with the middle-away it seems like that longer pass is a more difficult play to make sometimes. So, with the change, you get the puck in the hands of your center iceman, your best puck handlers in most cases, and they’re coming up now with low speed and you generate it through the middle of the ice with the weak side. You can have more of a possession look in those situations. I thought that’s the way it ended up. There were some attacks and some good plays to the net that came off those counters. We’re going to stay with that look (on) this road trip.
MM: So, you went into the break looking for speed – was there anything you uncovered unexpectedly though?
TM: It’s more what you’re seeing in front of you. It’s what the opposition throws. So, it depends on their neutral zone forecheck. In most cases where you go away with your middle or keep him in the middle, that 1-1-3 look that you’re seeing often in the league right now, the forwards have to get the D backed off – they have to push up with their speed, so you’re going with your center away and your winger coming through diagonally. That creates reads. Often you have the defending team now backing away, giving a little space, and your D can take ice. You find your weak side, your center low and away, at least now you can get to the offensive blueline. Maybe now you gotta get it in deep on a chip, then recover on forechecks. On the other side of it, when you have teams playing the 1-2-2, you can have more possession entries. You just have to get through that first layer of forecheckers and it’s in the hands of your center iceman. But, the weak side low and away, that’s another option so you can generate that speed and possession look and attack and get plays to the net right away.
Class will be back in session tomorrow morning. Beware, there are rumors of a pop-quiz at 9:30 am PST.
[UPDATE: Although he said no a few weeks ago when I asked if he had any plans on moving Loktionov back to his natural center position (Q and A exchange here), it looks like Murray has changed his mind. Rich Hammond reported today’s practice lines had Michal Handzus at left wing and Loktionov at center.]