I apologize for the amount of Systems Analyst posts that have been Leafs-or-Caps-centric, but hey, they just keep getting involved in goals with noticeable breakdowns.
Last night was another one of those times, as the Leafs poured in six on the hapless Oilers defense. We could’ve gone over a number of the goals from last night, but this one was the best example of defense gone wrong (and offense gone right).
First, take a look at the goal:
As you can see from the first screenshot, the Leafs have just dumped the puck in, and Oilers’ defenseman Jeff Petry is in a footrace with the Leafs forward Matthew Lombardi for it. Phil Kessel is providing east-west support, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the first man back in the zone (and the centerman), so he’s going to be playing low.
We’re two on two.
Lombardi is going to get to the puck first (the puck is being wrapped, if you can’t tell by my awesome illustration). Since they’re two-on-two, what Petry should do when he sees Lombardi getting to it ahead of him is glaringly obvious – get body on Lombardi, and try to separate him from the puck. At least get in a puck battle. Instead, he sees Kessel and tries to outsmart Lombardi by taking away the place he would have gone with it – behind the net to his F2, Kessel.
That guess-read by Petry puts the Oil on their heels – Lombardi reads off Petry’s read, and curls back. This means he now has solid possession with time and space.
Nugent-Hopkins initial thought was that he had Kessel (seeing that Petry and Lombardi were in a footrace for the puck), but now the separation between Lombardi and Petry is too big (Petry came to a full stop), and somebody has to put pressure on the puck, so RNH switches – he’s going to head out to cover the puck carrier now.
Lombardi gets his head up, and sees his linemate Tim Connolly coming into the zone. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Petry lets his new check after the switch, Kessel, skate by without any pressure.
Just take stock of how bad this attempt at defense is right now. As of this second, nobody is within a stick’s length of their (or any) guy. They’ve barely sorted out who has who – I’ll assume Petry is playing soft (?) on Kessel and waiting for him to come to him. Barker, on the other hand, defends ice this entire shift instead of players. When the third forward enters the play here, he doesn’t go through with him. All in all, it’s the exact type of non-physical defense six-foot skill guys drool to play against, and kill.
So as the arrows showed above, Lombardi is moving up the wall so he can become the high guy (he’s out of frame in the next shot), so Connolly pushes low and goes east-west. He grabs the puck, and Cam Barker still hasn’t decided who or what to cover, so he heads to the front of the net as most d-men do.
Take a moment to reflect on Petry’s shift so far. Passes up a hit. Make a wrong guess. Covered for by RNH. Beat by the Lombardi rim coming back. Still hasn’t really had a check. And now he’s….dogging it out of the corner while Kessel heads to the net.
Connolly takes the puck all the way back behind the net, and being that he has no pressure, he has time to carry on and get his head up. Lombardi does something I’ve talked about loving before – he basically leaves the zone entirely, gets lost, and comes back in. But we’ll get to that in a sec. Here’s where we’re at:
Barker is now going to head out to cover Connolly, but he’s given him too much space. Now Connolly gets to here, and sees Lombardi returning to the slot:
Between Hemsky, Petry, Barker and Smyth, they’ve left a comically big soft spot. You’ll notice where Nugent-Hopkins is looking – directly at the puck, and he forgets his guy for just a second. Please note the amount of contact that has been made, which is precisely none. These Leafs forwards might as well be at McDonald’s, cause they are LOVIN’ IT. Also note that Petry/Barker have taken turns defending the crease, despite there not being any Leafs there.
Lombardi gets the puck, and Petry tries to come out to front the shot. Dubnyk braces for the shot. But Lombardi’s vision here is insanely good. He sees the direction Kessel is moving (look where Kessel is when he makes this decision, wow), and sells the shot.
RNH realizes his guy is heading behind the net, but that the step he gave him with his momentary puck-stare lapse is going to double if he tries to chase him the long route, so he opts for the shortcut. Kessel essentially uses the net to run a pick.
Once everyone else has bitten hook, line and sinker, it’s just a matter of execution – he moves the puck to Kessel on the backdoor…
And Kessel’s a goal-scorer, man. That’s going in.
If I’m running the Oilers video session on this, I’m losing it. You can handle breakdowns, but as I tweeted earlier today, that defense was listless, unfocused, and a whole bunch of other things that have nothing to do with your talent level. John Tortorella would give someone a Stone Cold Stunner in that dressing room to send a message.
Don’t get me wrong, when you see bad defense, you still have to convert - full credit to the creative Leafs forwards there, but overall, that was one poor d-zone showing (for more on the Oilers D showing those traits, watch what Corey Potter does on Lupul’s goal after the 2-on-1. You still have a guy, man.)