The Blues' game three against the Sharks was clearly not the performance Blues' fans were hoping for. The largest difference in my opinion was stellar neutral zone defense by the Sharks coupled with a quick strike counter attack offense, and the Sharks have plenty of dangerous offensive weapons to be successful with this strategy. Two of San Jose's three goals came on the rush, and the third was the result of a simply inhuman pass courtesy of one of the greatest passers in history, Jumbo Joe Thornton.
I want to talk about the first goal, because as a former defenseman and defense coach, it got my blood boiling. Kevin Shattenkirk is a strong skating, puck moving defenseman who tends to spend more time in the offensive zone when he is on the ice because of his clean breakouts. His possession numbers support that and the net effect of his play is a positive one, but I couldn't help cursing his name on this goal.
Leading up to the first goal, Shattenkirk had possession of the puck and, along with Parayko, was retreating into the Blues own zone for a deep regroup. Shattenkirk goes D-to-D with Parayko who starts up ice. Parayko sees Thornton shadowing Backes who is the only forward coming back deep on the regroup (something I have issues with, but that is a different conversation). Instead of the short pass to Backes, Parayko opts for a long cross ice pass to Lehtera. This was probably a mistake, I think Backes had enough space to either gain the red line or find a second pass to get through the neutral zone. Hockey is a game of mistakes, everyone is going to make them, and how a team collectively responds to those mistakes makes the difference.
Notice in this first look as Parayko is beginning to move up ice what is in the bottom right of the shot - NOTHING. Shattenkirk made a pass and failed to move his feet to get into position to be an outlet or close the gap on the play. This is a lazy play by Shattenkirk, and if this weren't the first period I would allow more arguments for fatigue, but it's the first period.
As the turnover occurs, here is where Shattenkirk is, the play is on the far side of the red line and he has still barely made it to his own hash marks. He's standing up, he's not moving his feet, and watching the replays it appears he takes all of two half strides when attempting to close the gap.
Now back to Parayko. Since Parayko was moving up ice with the play, he had a much tighter gap to the puck. Backes forces Thornton to move the puck to Pavelski who skates to the weak side, where Shattenkirk should have been, because that is the space available to him. Parayko, only a couple of stick lengths away, follows to continue to pressure the puck carrier. I've heard other terms for it but I know this as a swing pinch, and here is how it is supposed to go:
One defenseman "D1" is tight to the play, while the other "D2" gets caught back, giving up too much room. The puck carrier "F1" will move to where the space is, buying himself more time. "D1" follows to maintain pressure while "D2" swings back to the side just vacated by "D1" while closing the gap to join the play. This allows "D1" to pressure "F1" rather than give up an uncontested zone entry while "D2" gets into position to cover "F2" who is not a threat at the beginning of the play, but will become one if left unchecked.
On this goal Parayko swings to pressure Pavelski, Shattenkirk misses this read entirely. As a result, Hertl is left free to enter the play and become an option. Some people have said that Shattenkirk and Parayko don't play well together, and this break down in communication could be indicative of that.
As a result of the missed read, Pavelski simply pushes the puck back against the grain to open space. And wow, there is a lot of it. At this point there is no chance for Shattenkirk or Parayko to recover, and Hertl has all the time in the world to lay all 210 pounds into a slapshot.
Parayko made the ill advised pass that led to the turnover, and that should be noted, but when played properly there are layers of coverage to recover from those turnovers. Shattenkirk's lazy gap closure and poor read turned this play from an "oops" to an "oh shit!"