Ilya Kovalchuk didn't initially score a whole lot of goals as the 2011-12 season started. He only scored two goals in October and three more in November. However, he lit the lamp much more in December with seven goals. One could say he found his rhythm, his groove, his spot, or so forth. Kovalchuk continued to light it up in January with eight in the month and that carried into the first half of February. It's important to note that it was the first half of February as Kovalchuk followed up his Valentine's Day Massacre of the Buffalo Sabres with a nine-game goalless streak.
Still, thirteen goals over two months that was accomplished in one-and-a-half is still rather good. He became the top scorer on the Devils as he jumped from thirteen to twenty-five goals. His rise in both goals and assists led him up the league's rankings among all skaters. He was "Doing Work," as nobody cool says anymore. While we can say that in retrospect by the numbers, let's take a closer look at the goals themselves. We can learn how he scored those thirteen goals. We can determine the kinds of goals they were and how Kovalchuk shot it. Of course, we can relive those moments, be it a consolation goal or a game winning strike. This is the second part of a four-part series looking at all of the goals Kovalchuk scored in 2011-12 and it focuses on those he scored in January and February.
About the Review
As explained in the first part of this series, I will be documenting the game situation, the type of shot, and the type of goal for each one of Kovalchuk's scores. Each are self-explanatory. If not, I'd be more than happy to clarify either here or in the comments. I'm also noting whether the shot he took would count as a scoring chance. I'm using the definition of a scoring chance as defined by Jonathan Willis in this article for the Edmonton Journal. I am also judging whether or not the goal was scored on some kind of fluke play. This would account for events such as if a shot going off a defending player which re-directed the puck to beat the goalie, or if the goalie simply misplayed the shot. I'll go into those as appropriate in the commentary. Lastly and most importantly, I have included a link to the NHL.com video for each goal. These are the videos I used to review each goal; I did not and will not look for any other video of the goal for the purposes of this review. What I use is what you can use.
Goals #13 - 25 Scored by Ilya Kovalchuk in 2011-12 - A Chart
Note: You may need to maximize your window or modify the window size to see the whole chart.
|Date||GF||Link||Shot Type||Goal Type||Situation||SC?||GF Description||Fluke?|
|1/6/12||13||Link||One-touch||One-timer||5-on-5||Yes||Kovalchuk leads breakout, passes it to Elias, drives to the net, one-times it from Elias for the score||No|
|1/6/12||14||Link||Forehand||Empty Net||4-on-6||No||Salvador lofts the puck, it goes over the defender, and Kovalchuk takes it to the red line for the ENG.||No|
|1/7/12||15||Link||Slap Shot||One-timer||5-on-5||No||Parise wins puck off faceoff, hits Kovalchuk with a pass for a slap shot one-timer goal||No|
|1/10/12||16||Link||One-touch||Rebound||5-on-5||Yes||Parise's shot leads to a bouncing puck; Kovalchuk slams in the rebound||No|
|1/11/12||17||Link||Forehand||Shot||4-on-5||Yes||Kovalchuk steals the puck at the point, roofs it to finish the breakaway||No|
|1/17/12||18||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-5||Yes||Parise blocks a shot at the point and springs Kovalchuk on a breakaway. 5-hole finish.||No|
|1/17/12||19||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-4||No||Clarkson finds Kovalchuk open above the left circle. Kovalchuk moves to the center and wrists a high one in.||No|
|1/31/12||20||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-4||Yes||Clarkson picks up turnover, drops it for Elias, Elias finds Kovalchuk heading into the slot. The shot gets in.||No|
|2/4/12||21||Link||Forehand||Shot||4-on-5||Yes||Zubrus knocks down the pointman and starts a 2-on-1. He gives it to Kovalchuk, who skates to the left circle and fires one up and in.||No|
|2/5/12||22||Link||One-touch||One-timer||5-on-5||Yes||Parise dumps it in, Elias wins it behind the net and wheels out to see Kovalchuk driving to the net. Pass, shot, 5-hole.||No|
|2/14/12||23||Link||Forehand||Shot||5-on-4||Yes||Elias and Kovalchuk perform a give-and-go through the slot. Kovalchuk finishes it on the goalie's right flank||No|
|2/14/12||24||Link||One-touch||Deflection||5-on-5||No||Henrique takes puck from the point to lead a 3-on-2. Kovalchuk re-directs Henrique's pass with his backhand into the net.||No|
|2/14/12||25||Link||Forehand||Empty Net||5-on-6||No||Parise blocks the breakout pass, Kovalchuk picks up loose puck and fires it into the empty net.||No|
Surprising to me, none of these thirteen goals were a fluke. None of these came off wacky deflections or bizarre bounces. The closest goal to one was GF #24, when Kovalchuk deflected a pass with his backhand that beat Ryan Miller. One could argue it's flukeness because it isn't clear whether Adam Henrique intended to pass it to Kovalchuk or across the width of the rink to Zach Parise. I think he did intend to make that pass to Kovalchuk because it would've been real difficult to force it all the way to Parise. It's still a noteworthy goal because it was the first goal he scored on a deflection this season as well as first time he scored with his backhand.
Of course, it's also a noteworthy goal because it was a part of his first hat trick of the season. That's why this part has thirteen goals as opposed to twelve. I can't cut off a hat trick, even if GF #25 is an empty net goal. Interestingly, Kovalchuk didn't get any empty net goals until the new year and this was his second in this set. The first was GF #14, where he just slung a puck from the red line to ice the game against Florida. This one had him score in the slot, thanks to a good bounce after Parise blocking a breakout pass. I considered calling it a scoring chance given the shot's location, but I decided against it since it was an empty net.
Incidentally, Kovalchuk did score more on shots taken in that scoring chance area in this set. Eight of his thirteen were in that zone. One contributing factor for that increase is the number of breakaways he had in January and February that he scored on. In the first set, he didn't have any. In this set, he had two. GF #17 was all Kovalchuk as took the puck away and beat the defender from the get-go to score a shorty. The breakaway that led to GF #18 was created by Parise as he sprung Kovalchuk with a leading pass. Those were clear chances.
The increase in chances was also bolstered as Kovalchuk finished several plays while driving towards the net. I counted four. GF #13 featured Kovalchuk starting a breakout, moving it on to Patrik Elias, and Elias gave it back for a big one-timer. The play that led to GF #20 was really a counter attack, but the same principle applied. The puck went to a Devil out wide, Elias in this case, and he saw Kovalchuk driving into the middle. Kovalchuk didn't one-time it but he delayed enough in the slot to find the net past a defender and the goalie. The third was GF #22, which started with a dump-in. Parise eventually won the puck and found Kovalchuk streaking towards the crease. The pass became an instant shot through the five-hole. The fourth and final one in this set was the impressive give-and-go on the power play between Elias and Kovalchuk for GF #23. Kovalchuk was off to the side a bit, but he was in-close all the same. Generally, driving to the net is a good idea for any attacker and so Kovalchuk was able to do his part in turning scoring chances into scores.
This isn't to say that Kovalchuk didn't show off his shot from distance. It's just that he didn't do it a lot in this set. I saw him get to the dot for that infamous GF #21 (it's infamous because Dainius Zubrus may have gotten away with a foul to start the two-on-one), where he wristed a strong near-post shot. While that's a chance, GF #19 was more traditional wrister from distance that he's able to pull off. Actually and almost surprisingly, Kovalchuk only tickled the twine with one slap shot in this set. That would be GF #18, which has the most interesting camera work of all of the NHL.com videos so far in this review. Good job, local Pittsburgh feed. As great as that one was, it goes to show that Kovalchuk doesn't necessarily need to grip and rip it from outside the scoring chance area.
I think it's coincidence to a degree that Kovalchuk scored most of the goals in this set inside the scoring chance zone. It's even more striking if we disregard the non-empty net goals. But that speaks to Kovalchuk's strength as a shooter and an offensive player. He can beat goalies and defenders both from a set spot on the point and in motion. He's that talented and strong with his shot that he can mix it up. I don't think it's coincidence that he tends to favor his forehand. It's easier to control and put more power behind the shot on the forehand. So whenever he can do so, even on one-timers and one-touch shots, he'll use that side. Even his one rebound goal (GF #16) was on his forehand. I haven't reviewed the rest of the goals just yet, but now that we're halfway through the review, I don't believe we'll see too many goals with his backhand or even off deflections. Of course, that will remain to be seen.
Until the next part comes out, I want to know what you think of these thirteen goals. Which one of these goals impressed you the most? Do you think it's coincidence Kovalchuk drove to the net more on these goals compared to the last set? Will we see more goals come from outside of the scoring chance area by Kovalchuk in the remainder of this review? How sweet was that hat trick? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about any or all of Kovalchuk's thirteenth to twenty-fifth goals from this recent campaign. Thank you for reading.