I’m starting to think the Capitals and Maple Leafs might be the NHL’s two worst teams when it comes to defensive coverage. Every week I could (and usually do) pick apart one of the goals they’ve given up, despite going through every game to find the biggest defensive lapses from the previous night.

What that means for fans of those teams: there’s room for improvement. If your team is doing all the right things and losing, well, your personnel probably just isn’t good enough. When it’s constantly brain farts, you can’t blame talent, and it’s fixable. (For what it’s worth: Toronto actually almost is the worst – they give up an average of 3.05 goals per game, good for 28th in the League. Washington is a bit better at 19th – 2.78 per - but that’s still pretty unimpressive.)

Let’s take a look at Josh Bailey’s goal from last night – he makes a fantastic play, but has some help from three Washington Capitals.

Whoa, nice move Bailey. If you’re an Isles fan, you desperately to need to see some flashes like this to keep up hope. It’s the guy’s fourth NHL season, and he has 15 points in 61 games. That ain’t good enough, and he only has one more year before the Isles have to decide whether to cut bait or not.

Let’s take it from the top:

The Isles are breaking the puck out of their own zone – you can’t see him right now, but Josh Bailey is low and wide on the weak side, as he should be (in case MacDonald runs the puck back to his d-partner Hamonic). Andrew MacDonald has solid possession of the puck, Frans Nielsen is providing an option in the middle of the ice, and Mathieu Perrault is trying to take that away.

MacDonald makes a predictably skilled play for the most underpaid player in the League (four-year deal through 2014, cap hit: $550k), saucing it over Perreault’s stick onto Nielsen’s.

Something to note from here out: check out Chimera’s legs in every pic going forward. Locked on tracks, not trying to rush back to help. Just because you “have numbers” doesn’t mean you don’t come back into the zone with a little zest.

Things look good for the Caps. They have three guys back on the Islanders three (knowing Bailey is just out of the picture), so what should they do? Everybody lock on to a guy, and we’re cool.

But, Semin lets Ullstrom beat him up ice, leaving the D to take care of him. By doing that, he’s essentially made this a three-on-two for the Isles, since he’s too far away from Bailey to take him.

Nielsen has moved the puck to Bailey, who’s afforded a ton of time and space thanks to Frans “I do everything the right way” Nielsen and David Ullstrom, who have driven hard to the net once they got across the blueline, pushing Green and Schultz back.

Schultz is backed off deep, So Bailey takes the puck to the slot, and does what most forwards do with a d-man backed in deep – walks the puck to the slot, and uses the defender as a screen. Schultz does the only thing he can do: try to block the shot.

He winds up! Here comes the hammer!

Oooo, just kidding bro, I’m not shooting that. U mad??? (Reminder: note Chimera’s backside non-pressure.)

Annnnd now we’re here:

Here’s the only thing that bothers me about this play by Bailey, which ultimately pans out – how does he not pull the trigger from there? In the NHL, you don’t get that look very often. There’s traffic around the net. Don’t bring it in there and allow their defensemen another shot at you.

Butttt, he does.

Now Semin has resumed his coverage of Ullstrom, Green has Nielsen, and the world is Bailey’s oyster.

Had Chimera taken a single stride, he’d be on him. Perreault has come all the way back and is reaching, but can’t quite get to him. And Schultz is just completely out of it.

Like basketball players when a guard calls for an isolation play, Nielsen and Ullstrom wisely back out and take their defenders with them. For my money, that’s too good of a scoring spot, and Green should jump in on Bailey and force a play quickly. But then, Green has never exactly been Nick Lidstrom.

Green often does this poorly: he doesn’t bail out his d-partners when they fail. He thinks sticking with his guy is the right thing to do, but sometimes you hope a defenseman’s “Don’t let them score” instincts will override his obsession with “his job.”

This means Bailey is able to make a move. He shows forehand….

He goes backhand….

And eventually, it ends up in the net.

Small errors were made by people away from the puck, and the snowball grew into an avalanche. Semin releases Ullstrom to the D. Chimera makes no effort to help. And after Bailey gets Schultz to bite, Green finds it easier to sit on the post and hope his goaltender bails them out.

And just like that, the Capitals are back in another Systems Analyst post.

Comments (11)

  1. I was going to comment when i saw the headline that it seems like Washington gets picked on quite a bit for poor defense, but man do they deserve it. Watching guys coast back on D when they think they are out of the play drives me nuts… and that’s in my rec league. If i was a coach in the NHL watching that I’d be handing out game misconducts to my own guys. 5 min into the first? Hit the showers Chimera. Be sure to scrub extra hard to get that stink off while you’re at it.

  2. God, Green is the absolute pits. How do you sit there like a sheep and give away a mini breakaway. At least throw the stick out there to give an impression that youre coming at him.

    Always believed that d man should “take away the pass” only up to a certain point. By taking away the pass you cannot give a free reign break at the net. As the shooter gets closer you have to at least eliminate a ‘cut back’ type of move to help the goalie out. If the puckhandler is good enough to make the quick slam dunk pass, hats off.

    • This has become more and more common from coaches over the years. Make the guy make the tough play – if he can, nice work. He likely won’t be able to.

      • That’s really great advice for people who are looking to apply things they read here to their beer league teams (as I do). Even in a straight up 2 on 1 there’s a point where you have to ask whether or not the guy coming down on you can put a pass on the tape of his teammate, or if you’re better off taking away the shot on your half-drunk 47 year old goalie.

  3. Man, these posts and the whiteboards just rock, Bourne. Keep it up. Can’t get enough. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for somebody to notice this huge hole in the way the league is covered and discussed on the web. Brilliant.

  4. Great stuff. And I’m a long time critic. Certainly, the “take the pass” mantra should never be too literal. It may mean, “give him the shot”, but the really important thing is, “give him the BAD shot” – the one he doesn’t want to take. As far as rec league, I say challenge constantly, and you only get burned when the guy is amazing. Actually though, Bieksa and Hamhuis do this all the time – constant aggressive challenging – the key though, as Bourne shows, is BACKSIDE PRESSURE.

  5. Great Stuff! I coach a PeeWee team and have used several of your Systems Analyst Posts as off-ice teaching material. The boys respond to the Videos of NHLers to learn lessons that they can apply. I like how you pick out one play and focus on one or two learning points only. It seems to work for my boys. Thanks!

  6. I watched that video, and good lord, even full speed I’m thinking, Why does Bailey have that much room? Oh no, he’s there, shoot! Nope, oh, but they’re going to let him skate in… yeah, goal.

    That’s what I love about hockey. When things like this happen, all of a sudden you just get a sense that a goal is imminent. And that’s what I love about these posts – it describes why I get that feeling.

    Keep it up! These must be pushing your traffic waaaay up.

  7. I play a lot of deck hockey – all of us on foot – and though the roller and ice guys make fun of us (and frankly they should, I make fun of me too), there’s one thing we can NEVER do, that they do all the freaking time. They COAST like Chimera here. On foot, you move your feet or you predictably stop between the red and the far blue, where everyone can mock and point because you aren’t doing a blessed useful thing while your goalie (ME) bails out your lazy carcass.

    “Fantastic Hustle” indeed. I needed something to cheer me up after that debacle ending, and I found it. Thanks, JB.

  8. I was sitting in the upper deck behind the Capitals goal as I watched this play unfold. Most of the arena was asking themselves how they could let that play happen as it did. Thanks for making it crystal clear how it came to be. These Systems Analyst posts are the best technical analysis for hockey on the web.

    Now if only the Caps could stop earning their way into the column …

  9. Little late to the party with this one but I think the most awesomely amazing part of this goal, is that from the far blue, all the way down to his fly by of the net, Jason Chimera does not lift his feet off the ice….not one single time…..amazing!

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