Josh Bailey has been back from AHL Bridgeport for only five games, and he only has six goals on the season, so we're not going to read any grand patterns into his play or production. (That's your "I'm not going to say this is a pattern, but ... look at this pattern!" CYA caveat.) Still, while Bailey's typically thought of as a great pass-first guy -- and John Tavares is seen as the goal-scorer from in close -- have you gotten any déjà vu from how Bailey plucked five of his six goals this year?
They've come from getting to the net at the right time and using his quick hands to collect the puck and score from in-tight. The total distance traveled of his six goals this year might be no more than 50 feet or so. What follows is a media-heavy post (five videos after the jump), so apologies in advance if it takes a while to load. Some of these goals not only look like each other, they look like in-tight, falling-down goals he's picked up in two prior NHL seasons.
Last Night (Dec. 29) against Pittsburgh
Frans Nielsen tries to set Bailey up but the pass goes to his skate, where defenseman Zbynek Michalek is able to swat it to the corner. Under pressure from Bailey and on his off hand, Michalek is able to retrieve it and clear it up the boards -- but only right back to the point, where Travis Hamonic is waiting. Bailey anticipates that interception and heads straight to the front of the net as Hamonic receives puts a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury, where Bailey is there to corral the rebound and score:
2nd Goal (PPG) against New Jersey (Dec. 23)
Bailey had already scored on a breakaway -- gifted by Jamie Langenbrunner -- earlier in the period for his first goal since his recall. On this one, he's the man in front of the net on the powerplay, providing the screen, picking up the rebound and shoveling it in:
PPG against Colorado (Oct. 16)
This one wasn't a crash-the-net-for-scraps type of goal, but rather Bailey trailing the net-crasher as Colorado's PK tries to regroup after almost clearing the zone. Bailey does a nice job being the second guy to the net, collecting the cross-slot pass and settling it just enough to lift it high over Craig Anderson's desperate push across the crease:
PPG in Pittsburgh (Oct. 15)
This one was a rebound, again with Bailey gliding to the front of the net -- and displaying some nifty stickwork to grab the puck, pull it back against the grain, and put it around Brent Johnson:
First Goal (NYR, Oct. 11)
Watch this full sequence and you see how Bailey led the rush and single-handedly created three chances. The final one, on which he scored, he anticipates Mike Mottau winning the puck at the blueline and putting it back toward the net. Michael Del Zotto bobbles it, Bailey pounces on it and makes a quick move in tight on Henrik Lundqvist to score his first of the year.
Shoot, Kid, Shoot
In his young career, the urging of Bailey's NHL coaches has been for him to shoot more -- he went through a forgettable 10-game stretch last December in which he took only two shots (both were goals). He averaged just over one shot on goal per game his rookie year (74 shots in 68 games), 1.5 shots per game in 2009-10 (112 in 73 games), and is currently averaging 2 per game in 2010-11 (46 shots in 23 games).
Maybe getting more shots is a sign of him being more active in the offense overall. But this year (in an admittedly small sample), his success has come from his passing vision and two-way play as always -- as well as good anticipation and use of his hands around the net to turn rebounds and in-tight chances into goals.
No telling how many goals he'll put up year to year over his career, and where his shots per game figure will settle at (and if you're his agent heading into his second contract this summer, do you go long or go short and bank on a more impressive stat line in a couple of years?). But you get the feeling that no matter how many goals he scores, we're going to see a healthy portion come via this route: Reading the play, getting to the net at the right moment, and doing more than just whack at the thing and hope it goes in. Whacking at rebounds in a cloud of dust is all well and good, but when you have quick hands like Bailey's, there's a better option, and Bailey's looking like a master of that option.