The New Jersey Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 last night, but the goal we’ll be picking apart today was one of Tampa’s. Steve Downie buries off a pass from Matt Gilroy, scoring what would be the first of two cross-box-passes-for-goals given up by the Devils on the night (the second being Steven Stamkos’ late game snipe).

First, watch the goal, then we’ll break it down.

To start things off, the Lightning had just dumped the puck in, and are forechecking. The relevant players are labelled below.

You can’t see him until the frame below, but Hedburg misses the wrapped-in dump, and Downie is about to be the first man on the forecheck, trying to put body on Mark Fayne. (I’ll note that Malone’s a little low here – had Fayne got possession all three Lightning players could have been beat with one pass.)

Downie achieves his goal, and as is the case with all ideal forechecks, F2 – in this case Stamkos - ends up with the puck.

Carter’s ready to help down low if that’s where the puck goes, or cover for Palmieri if he sticks with Stamkos, so he’s just reading the play. Palmieri, heading to his spot on the right side, is right to attack the puck carrier here. Zubrus is in a fine spot, but he should (and will) work his way lower in the slot, as he’s the weak-side defender.

The problem is, Palmieri gets torched by one of the best players in the league, and anytime you lose a d-zone one-on-one battle, people have to start covering for each other, and problems start.

Palmieri, currently burnt. He took too direct an angle on Stamkos (too eager to get there), allowing 91 to jump up, and get a step to the inside on him.

It’s a really tough read for Carter since they just got back in the d-zone and things are still developing, but he either has to head up and take over on Stamkos (with Palmieri clearly beat), or head up to cover Palmieri’s point and let the guy keep chasing (if Zubrus takes Stamkos, the left point guy becomes his). I love his head on a swivel in front here.

In the screenshot below, Zubrus has recognized that Palmieri is beat, and that Steven freaking Stamkos is skating towards the slot with solid possession, so he has to front that shot. He defends perfectly here. Even more perfect is Matt Gilroy recognizing that Zubrus can no longer defend him, and jumping down to get involved.

As a coach my “tough to recognize the situation” patience with Carter has officially expired. He’s got the old Microsoft “loading” hourglass flipping over and over, and is officially covering nobody. And, as you can see, Fayne has dumped Downie, but then leaves him to join Carter and Urbom in covering one guy (Malone) near the net.

I love this next slide. Five defenders looking at the puck, and three guys in front, none of them defending the only player there. So reminiscent of junior hockey. Downie is getting up, and Palmieri realizes “hey, my job as the weak side winger is to get low in the slot and take away any passes that attempt to go through our defense.”

Ahh, below we see that Carter finally has a guy (he’s correctly come over to front Gilroy with Zubrus out of the picture), and has nicely taken away his shot opportunity. Malone has body position in front because they inexplicably gave it to him, but other than that, they Devils are fine. Palmieri has recovered, and come down to take away the pass through their defense, being that Downie is back standing and cocked.

Yep, that looks perfect.


Look at how aggressively Palmieri is stopping in this picture. Like, he didn’t coast to that spot, he was just cruising, heading to go ram his head into the post (I presume) before realizing that there’s a reason the weak side winger covers the slot and not the crease. It’s even more bizarre to watch in real time. Where was he going?

Gilroy’s pass barely got by Zubrus, but hey, it did. And, he hit a stationary Downie right on the tape.

Malone was able to use his big body to make life difficult for Johan Hedberg, and as will happen when one player has multiple brain farts….

Boom. Puck’s in the back of the net.