This may shock you to learn, but I did not watch the Carolina Hurricanes/Winnipeg Jets game last night, as tempting as it was. But in watching the highlights, I came across a pretty interesting goal.

Watching this play may just help us better understand why Eric Staal sits where he does in plus/minus:

822 in the NHL.

As I implied earlier, I don’t watch a ton of ‘Canes games, but I’m working on a theory that Staal’s narcoleptic and takes periodic on-ice naps in the neutral zone. Let’s discuss it further.

The play starts with Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd with full possession of the puck in the ‘Canes zone delaying (which means he’s already been in there for at least a second) and the clock reads 6:22.

He’s being covered by Tim Gleason, while Tuomo Ruutu and Bryan Allen are also back, waiting to read the play. Kyle Wellwood is entering the offensive zone from the far side:

Antropov does a nice job supporting the puck in the next screenshot, coming over to Ladd to provide an out for him. Since Ladd is up by the blueline in the “this is where you don’t mess around with the puck” area and Gleason is on him, he’s happy to get it a little deeper to his teammate.

Tuomu Ruutu reads the chip, and heads over to defend Antropov. Four Hurricanes are back in their zone now in good position, as they’ve been joined by the other forward Andreas Nodl.

(Apparently Ladd banks it off that lady’s head.)

After Antropov picks the puck up off the high cycle, you’ll notice that Tobias Enstrom does the same thing for him that he did for Ladd – he supports the puck.

However, because Antropov and Ruutu are so tight to the boards, there’s a clear lane to give Enstrom the puck:

Okay, so there’s still no Eric Staal in the picture, which is pretty incredible. There’s nary a spot on the ice he could have been at and not been back yet (even from the bench), save for maybe trapped under the ice like a Canadian loonie at the Olympics.

But here’s where we switch our focus: Andreas Nodl’s job, as the weak-side forward in the slot is two-fold – one, if the defenseman in front of him gets the puck, he is to defend him. Second, if there’s is a breakdown, he’s to collapse low. Like so many forwards do, he’s happy to be “in his position,” and is mentally turned off – Tobias Enstrom is a defenseman, and there are already three other (covered) forwards in the d-zone. That’s his guy.

He’s now put Bryan Allen in a tough situation – does he go out and front Enstrom?

You can’t exactly allow a guy a clear look, so he kind of has to. Plus, if he goes out on Enstrom, Nodl will help him out low on the breakdown, right? If only he weren’t so high – the weak forward needs to be lower in the d-zone. He needs to help Allen out.

Hey where’s Eric Staal?

Still no Staal….

Still no…

Aha! And only nine seconds later. Obviously the goal is not directly his fault, just…what the hell? Nine seconds to find the d-zone?

Nodl broke (way) late, and Enstrom made just a terrific pass to thread the needle between Allen’s wickets. And that was all she wrote.

It is possible that somebody made a bad change, and Staal got his skate stuck in the door or something. I have no idea. That’s just a crazy long time for there to be no centerman in the zone.