The talent is controlling the puck. Anything that happens after that is just luck. Maybe. One of my pet peeves with the NHL playoffs is how often fans or media will mistake a “lucky” play for a “clutch” play, that indicates one player was more hard working on the ice than any other as opposed to just “better, and frequently puts himself into positions to score lots of goals at important times, as well as un-important times.”
We’ve been pretty saturated with overtime in the first couple of days of the NHL playoffs, so to showcase the fact that there’s a lot of luck involved in scoring, this stat-geek modified version of Systems Analyst will go through each of the goals that have ended games thus far in the playoffs and point out something that could have gone differently that allowed the hero of the game to score the winner. Sometimes it’s a bounce, a bad matchup by the opposing coach, or capitalizing on a bad play that puts a player in a situation to win it, one that he can’t expect all the time.
When I say above that “the talent is controlling the puck” you’ll see that three of the goals that ended games came as a direct result of putting pucks to the net, and plays made to keep the puck in the offensive end of the ice.
Jakub Voracek scores at 2:23 of OT1, Philadelphia defeat Pittsburgh 4-3
Well, first of all, fans everywhere luck out by being able to hear Paul Steigerwald call the OT winner as opposed to a real hockey announcer. At least Jim Hughson somewhat feigns excitement when a non-Vancouver Canuck scores, but Steigerwald, along with a few other NHL broadcasters (I put the Colorado guys on this) just suck the life out of a building when the opposition scores, particularly when it’s Jakub Voracek in overtime, capping a four-goal rally.
There’s nothing innocuous about this play, and what’s actually quite funny is that the Flyers weren’t credited for any shot attempts, despite clear video evidence that Voracek throws one on net at the :06 second mark of the video and Matt Carle at :09 after stepping around his man. But Carle’s shot appears to be blocked by Kristopher Letang in front of the net, and, in a bout of miscommunication, Letang and Marc-André Fleury both seem to think the other one is going to get this. Voracek, thanks to events completely out of his own control, has the puck bounce nicely to him on his stick.
It counts as a scoring chance, but it was created off a blocked shot by the Penguins and a bounce.
Chris Kelly scores at 1:18 of OT1, Boston defeat Washington 1-0
Lady Luck wasn’t exactly shining down upon the Boston Bruins on this goal, it’s a simple bang-bang play, Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot move the puck forward at a breakneck pace and Pouliot hits Chris Kelly right in stride. Maybe Pouliot doesn’t hit his man perfectly like that half the time, but Kelly gets away a pretty good shot as well.
I guess the “luck” quotient for Kelly on this play is that it shouldn’t have occured in the first place. Boston outshot Washington 30-17 and the shots were actually 26-7 after the second period. Most days, that’s a game that ends 3-0 or 4-0 without too much trouble, particularly against a goaltender as inexperienced as Braden Holtby. He kept Washington in it though, enough so that Boston’s hero would come in overtime, not midway through the second period.
Martin Havlat scores at 3:34 of OT2, San Jose defeat St. Louis 3-2
I was really weirded out by Antti Niemi out-goaltending Jaroslav Halak in a playoff game, but weird things happen when we restrict our sample size to one. I was also really weirded out by how exciting a game featuring the St. Louis Blues turned out to be. sure, there were just 10 scoring chances in just under 24 minutes of overtime, but there were several “chances at chances” that involved a hop over a stick in front or a well-timed clearance, and there were several deflections each way.
This was a great shift by Martin Havlat, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. They had hemmed in the Blues skaters for a good while—Barrett Jackman and defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk had been on the ice for 1:01 and 1:13 respectively. But the good shift didn’t yield any quality shots, but the Sharks kept cycling, knowing that the Blues were being worn down.
There are two change-ups thrown here. The first is Couture’s initial pass to Havlat, which either hit a case of bad ice or was just poorly passed. It bounces right onto Havlat’s stick. Despite the bouncing, the puck maintained a somewhat straight course, and Havlat didn’t get all of it, but he got enough of it to knuckle. If a puck is going at that velocity normally, Halak makes that save 99/100 times. But the delivery was wonky and it handcuffed Halak. I think the talent in this shift lies from the Sharks’ trio keeping the puck in, not necessarily the split second events that led to the goal.
Martin Hanzal scores at 9:29 of OT1, Phoenix defeat Chicago 3-2
This is somewhat similar to the Chris Kelly goal, as, remember, we were 14 seconds away from Mike Smith being the hero of this one and not Martin Hanzal. Rostislav Klesla (who was once a number four selection at the NHL Draft, taken by a man who [and I can't fathom why] is no longer an NHL general manager) shoots it wide right off the draw, perhaps purposely, perhaps not, and it ends up on the stick of Adrian Aucoin.
Aucoin just like Havlat and Carle in the videos above, throws the puck in the general direction of the net, and Hanzal’s stick happens to be there. Talent? Perhaps, but there are a lot of deflections in the NHL that don’t go for goals, and there are some that go for goals in the important stages of a hockey game.
Something else is outside of Hanzal’s control on this shift: his opposition. I’m just keen to guess that Patrick Kane-Marcus Kruger-Viktor Stalberg isn’t quite what Joel Quenneville had in line for a defensive zone faceoff, having had David Bolland or Jonathan Toews on the ice for his last five faceoffs wherein he was given a choice, but the three were caught on after an icing.