Everyone knew that from the drop of the puck yesterday, Penguins/Flyers Game 6 was going to be a seriously intense affair.

Well, not everyone actually. Steve Sullivan didn’t.

Claude Giroux came out and ran over Sidney Crosby, then scored a goal 32 seconds in. I could see an early goal happening because of some terrible bounce or something, but I did not expect a breakdown right when everyone’s focus is supposed to be their sharpest in such a big game. It was poor enough to add an additional Systems Analyst post this week though, and that can be fun.

Here’s a look at the goal, followed by the breakdown.

We’ll pick it up right around the time Kris Letang’s attempt at a dump-in is thwarted by some strong stick-work by Jaromir Jagr. Sullivan has done a very responsible thing right here – he sees Letang has sort of pinched up, so he head’s back to cover for him. So right off the bat, good play.

By the time we look at the next frame, Jagr has started advancing the puck towards the Pens zone, and we can already identify a problem with how Sullivan is playing: no stops and starts.

If you watched the video, you saw him swoop all the way back to where he is now from the other side of the ice. Because he wants to keep that momentum, he gets himself too far to the outside.

And now he’s in a footrace. Sullivan did a little pivot maneuver that’s sort of like a stop, but still allows you to keep momentum. Whatever it was, it wasn’t putting on the breaks in the smart position, inside the dots.

Jagr pushes the puck too far ahead of himself in the heat of the Letang puck battle, and Sullivan gets on his horse.

Because Jagr is tied up, Sullivan is able to get to the puck first. As you can see below, he has a number of options. He could bump the back to Orpik who has the play in front of him (the way soccer players do to the keeper), he could keep skating, cut off Jagr and take possession, or he could fire it hard out of the zone.

He chooses the latter, but for some reason, decides to go with the tomahawk chop. I don’t know if Jagr had him intimidated or something, or he just panicked, but this is not the ideal play. Actual, let’s re-phrase that. It’s a really bad play.

He fans on it, and sends a dribbler that’s going to stay in the zone to….Claude Giroux.

Now, because Orpik had backed off to let Sullivan/Letang make the play on the puck, he’s backed in way too deep.

Giroux has the puck, and Sullivan is the nearest person to him, as you can see below. Letang and Orpik only have Jagr to contend with.

Sullivan has inside position as you can clearly see, which is nice. You always want to make the guy go outside. With numbers back, he also has the option to step up and pressure Giroux/try to throw a hit.

Sullivan though, seems to think Giroux is going to shoot, like, immediately. I don’t know why. As you see below, the puck isn’t on Giroux’s forehand, and he’s already cutting in. Sullivan has opened his skates up eagle-turn-style (as some guys do to block shots, creates a bigger barrier), which is going to make stopping very difficult.

After that, it’s nearly inexplicable. I understand getting beat on a good move by a good player, but watch where Sullivan ends up. He refuses to stop.

Okay, you can see he’s clearly cutting in below. By now, it’s CLEAR. You know you have to go the other direction to defend. Don’t you?


Okay, put on the brakes, push back, I think he’s going to shoot now, Steve.

For the love of god man, now you’re gliding backwards. Dig an edge in.

Okay, now you’re just too far gone. Carry on.

And just like that….BEAST CLAUDE, BEAST.

It’s never as easy as it looks when you break it down like this, but that’s such an odd fly-by – which coaches HATE – at such a crucial moment of the game….I just don’t get it. Maybe his legs were tired – it was 30 seconds into a shift.

But a guy like Steve Sullivan (an NHLer in playoffs) should have the energy and the smarts to at least influence Giroux’s play there more than he did. Oh, and he should clear that puck out in the first place.

Not a great start to the game for the Pens, and Sullivan didn’t do them any favours.