Systems Analyst is a weekly feature where Bourne looks video clips and explains the rotations and responsibilities of the key players in a particular play. If an interesting breakdown catches your eye (or some flawless defense), please pass it along to email@example.com.
Last night the Vancouver Canucks headed into the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets down 2-1 before mounting a rally, eventually winning 3-2.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the Cody Hodgson goal that knotted the game up at two.
Under two minutes into the third frame, the Canucks lined up for an offensive zone face-off. Hodgson took the draw, Marco Sturm was on the wall, Mikael Samuelsson was in front of the net, Dan Hamhuis was on the boards-side point, and Kevin Bieksa got a plus for quite literally doing nothing.
For the Jackets, Jeff Carter is on the draw (therefore his job is to tie up Hodgson), Rick Nash is the inside winger in front of the net (his job is to get out to the boards-side d-man ASAP), Vinny Prospal is in front of the net (so he’s reading – either manning the slot, keeping an eye on Bieksa or helping down low if there’s a breakdown), Kris Russel is the D in front of the net (his guy is initially Samuelsson), and Grant Clitsome is on the wall (his guy is initially Sturm).
Phew. Got that?
When teams are struggling to create offense in a game, they’ll run one of a dozen or so faceoff plays, usually called by the centerman before the draw by a code word. Whenever I was a team captain, I always made sure our plays had Mighty Ducks-themed names, f’real.
This play here is a twist on the most basic of them, where a winger runs a “scissor” with a d-man. As in, the center wins the draw to a winger, who skates up to the point and drops the puck for the wall-side d-man who’s barrelling down towards the corner.
This is a twist on it, in that you usually use the wall-side forward. Here, the net-front winger Samuelsson gets the puck and heads up to the point, causing some “who’s got who?” confusion.
Here’s the goal, then I’ll carry on:
(If you’d like to see it numerous times, go to 3:30 on the video at the bottom of the page.)
Nash, who’s guy is initially Hamhuis, is immediately in trouble when he sees Hamhuis coming down the wall and can’t get through the pile to him.
The thing is, he shouldn’t be – if his area of the ice is that top d-man, there’s still a guy to cover there. He should be able to call a switch with Russel, who’s got Samuelssonwwwaiiiittt a minute. Russel didn’t go with Samuelsson. He saw him getting too far away from the net, and presumably didn’t want to be drawn that far out. A pretty good read, actually.
Here’s where we’re at, then: Carter has Hodgson. Sturm brought Clitsome over to the front of the net to clear the wall lane for Hamhuis, and to look for a pass or rebound. Prospal has Bieksa/a random area of ice. Russel has no one in particular (yet) but is protecting the net-front area of ice, playing it safe. And Nash was sort of beat off the jump, but still finds himself in fine defensive positioning.
So still, after a minor headache, the Blue Jackets should be fine in coverage here. They have numbers in front of the net. If everyone does their jobs here, there shouldn’t be any problem.
Clitsome sees that Hamhuis got a headstart on Nash and that he’s the closest guy to put pressure on him, so he leaves Sturm – being that Russel stayed at the front of the net, that switch can happen with ease. Russell picks up Sturm. Fine decision by Clitsome there.
THINGS ARE FINE. The Canucks have caused their minor confusion, but this would all get sorted out in about four seconds.
But Jeff Carter defends absolutely no one. The goal, one more time:
(You can pause the clip at 0:04 to see how Carter’s failure cost Columbus.)
He loses the draw to Hodgon, then loses Hodgson. While he’s busy making sure the red dot in the middle of the faceoff circle is covered, Hodgon leaks towards the net and gets a stick on the Hamhuis “shass” (shot-pass thingy), and the game is all tied up.
These faceoff plays aren’t designed to set picks and tic-tac-toe and wham-bam score with a dose of trickery. They’re just meant to create some confusion, and hope for a breakdown. All it takes is for one guy – in this case Carter – to lose track of his guy in the d-zone for, what was that, three seconds? And the puck can be in the back of your net.
If you go to 3:30 of the following video you can see the goal with many, many replays. Hurray!