Today’s Systems Analyst post looks at two consistent errors hockey players make. One is missing the net wide on a rush chance, which essentially works as a really great breakout for your opponent (while simultaneously trapping your own team deep), and the second is getting caught in-between on pressure (you go or you don’t, halfway kills you).

We’ll start with the Oilers on the rush while down one goal to the Kings in the third period. Behind late, it makes sense that they’re pressing.

Have a look at the goal, then we’ll break it down.

Today’s goal starts off with something a lot of coaches have likely said while doing a lot of video over a lot of years: Ryan Smyth is doing everything right.

He had the puck in the middle so he moved it out wide to Sam Gagner. He stayed onside and started driving the middle lane between the two Kings defenders, forcing them to back in deep, which allows Gagner room if he wants to move the puck across to The Player Whose Jersey Number Never Becomes Clear, or as he’s labelled below “A guy on the Oilers.” While on his way through, Smyth is also looking to see if Gagner is going to sneak him a pass under the defender’s triangle.

Gagner takes a few more strides in and decides to make his coach happy by making the simple play. After all, he’s in a decent shooting spot, and has two teammates driving the net looking for rebounds. “A guy on the Oilers” finds himself sorta open with Smyth locking up one defender while the other tries to stop Gagner, but once you decide you’re shooting, you’re shooting, so….Gagner is shooting.

Wow, after looking at that still a little longer I think he should probably pass that, but hey, it’s easy while sitting at home, right?

So here we go, nothing fancy, just a hard low shot at the far pad.


Okay, now I’m pretty sure (watch the tape again and I’ll think you’ll agree on this) that Gagne tries to go fake shot, bounce pass off the end boards here – his follow-through certainly implies so. Whether it was a horrible shot, or he wanted it to come out directly in front to one of his linemates, or he was trying to bank it behind the net to Rodney (I think that’s Rodney, anyway – who’s #19?), I’ll never know, but I think we can all agree on one thing: that bank-angle was good for nothing.

I’ll use this as a teaching moment: never miss the net on an rush. As I mentioned in the intro, you have all your guys skating full bore ahead in the offensive direction, so wrapping the puck around the offensive boards can often create odd-man rushes going the other way, as it eventually does here.

Here’s what the wrap/pass/slap/dump thing caused:

“Happy” is also known as Dwight King. As the late forward back, he’s now in a great position to turn around and go on offense, which he does, because Mike Richards is the REALLY late forward back. They’re gonna have themselves a little rush.

Here’s where we’re at now:

At first it looks as though Mike Richards may have a chance at a clean breakaway, as he’s got a step on the now-backchecking Nick Schultz, and the puck.

But in the equivalent of an NFL receiver starting to run with a pass before he remembers to catch it, he over-skates it.

You can see here, his eyes are up to see where’s he’s going just a second too soon.

Richards sees he has tons of time, and like the savvy player he can be, he slows down, regroups, and admits they’re going to do this like a 2-on-1.

The thing he doesn’t anticipate, is that Schultz isn’t so willing to let him get his legs on the tracks and start coasting just yet. He comes at him.

And keeps coming at him.

Schultz is a milisecond away from making a play on the puck, forcing Richards to make some forced, panic play with it. Maybe delay, maybe dump, maybe try to dangle.

But then, like some wizard casts a spell on Schultz, he backs off entirely, allowing Richards to once again regroup, get his head up, and have some fun.

If I may… NO.

I hate this halfway stuff. Schultz has committed SO FAR. He was a mini-hockey stick from at least attempting to defend him. Then like a dog at an electric fence, he recedes and falls back in line with the old-school coaches’ “How to play a 2-on-1″ doctrine. (For the record, this is how I think D should play 2-on-1′s.)

He just backs right off.

And of course, Richards is talented. So, he threads the pass…

And King scores.

Game over.

Never miss wide when your team is on a rush, and when playing 2-on-1′s, make that puck carrier do something, especially when you’re close enough to read “Made in Slovakia” on the side of the puck.