There may be no NHL games, but at least there’s some form of hockey back for us to analyze! It’s been awhile since we’ve got to do a Systems Analyst post.

Quick preface: after my senior season of college hockey, I joined the Alaska Aces of the ECHL to gain a little college experience. My first game was in Long Beach, in front of nearly 800 people (!), and it was “bring your dog to the rink day.” That really happened.

Anyway, I figured the ECHL wouldn’t be very good – NCAA D1 hockey is straight-up fast, so I figured I wouldn’t have any problem. The first time I got the puck in the neutral zone, I headed up the middle – not lollygagging by any means – and got caught from the back just like the guy in today’s video.

The thing is, the ECHL has a huge range of players – some excellent (about 500 players who spent time there went on to play in the NHL), some terrible (about five million haven’t), so you never know what you’re going to be dealing with every time you get the puck.

My point is that I feel like that’s what the KHL has become with the influx of talent that’s come across from the NHL. Zherdev may not be considered an “NHLer” at this point, but he certainly fine-tuned his craft over here, and pitting him up against whoever the hell that was defending him on this goal just didn’t seem fair.

Let’s get to the analysis of the goal. First, the video:

Damn, what a beauty. Not quite Matt Duchene against the Penguins, but a beauty nonetheless.

For starters:

Denis Bodrov of Spartak (2nd round pick of the Flyers in 2006) picks up the puck behind the net and starts to wheel. He uses the net as a good defenseman should, cuts hard, and starts heading up ice. Zherdev is caught behind the net.

Bodrov has a few options, but he’s got his momentum up and has a stride on the guy chasing him, so hey, why not wheel it up ice?

Right about here, Zherdev gives him The Backcheckers Warning – a one-handed stick-to-pant slap that means “Hey dude, I’m seriously still pressuring you.” The idea is to make the guy with the puck rush a decision and force a play before he’d like to.

Incidentally, it’s also when Zherdev drops it into fifth gear, annoyed that Bodrov seems to think he can’t catch him if he wants to.

Bodrov then skates into some of Zherdev’s Atlant teammates and has to cut laterally (he doesn’t really – make a damn play with it already. He chooses to cut), and that allows Zherdev to catch him, and pull off the from-behind stick lift I wrote about the other day.

Annnnd he’s off.

Zhukov is on the backcheck, and the play develops…

Hey guys, have I written about gap control before? It’s at this point that Zherdev knows he’s about to have some fun. He has unlimited options.

That Spartak d-man is Jakub Nakladal, and he’s inside the circles and multiple stick-lengths away from a very talented player. Honestly, here’s where I’m going to get all pro-NHL-the-KHL-just-isn’t-as-good: have you ever seen an NHL d-man with a gap that bad?

To give him the benefit of the doubt, his partner turning that puck over in a heartbeat probably made it hard, but still, stay up with the play.

Here’s why I tweeted this the other night:

The reason obviously-talented players fall out of favour with coaches is because they “try stuff.” They try fancy, swing for the fences stuff that works 1% of the time. They fall in love with their talent, and they’d rather demonstrate it than do the higher percentage stuff that’s asked of him. All of that is to say, “most players would’ve happily taken a free shot from the slot here.”

Here, Zherdev is setting up this dangle already. This is not a “take what’s given,” this is a “check out what I can do” all-or-nothing moment.

Zhukov, the back-checker, has his legs stuck on the tracks. He could definitely make a play on Zherdev with a couple extra strides. And then, it happens. Head down, across the middle of the ice, Zherdev pulls it through his legs and picks it up on the other side of Nakladal, without getting touched.

The initial part of the move is to look shot, which you can see him doing a little bit of two pictures up, which has somehow already put ex-Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Mike Murphy on his knees.

I’ll give benefit of the doubt to Zherdev (as I did with Nakladal moments ago) here that he knows the goalie will be moving laterally and he could possibly slide one five hole on him, but part of me feels like this was him just putting it on the net and hoping to find a hole on an opened-up goalie. (Tenders, how do you feel about a shot going in from the hashmarks, five-hole, on the ice?)

I do want to point out: I tend to look for the defensive errors that lead to a goal, and I don’t want to take away from the obvious talent Zherdev displayed on this play. It was awfully nifty.

I’m just saying there’s a reason it didn’t quite pan out for the guy in the NHL. Trying something like that wouldn’t result in the pictures below against NHLers:

One more time at full speed for ya:

Systems Analyst: she’s back!

Comments (19)

  1. As a former college goaltender, I feel for Murphy.

    If I have Nik Zherdev swooping down the wing 1 on 1 with a Dman. I’m going to be way up on the top of my crease preparing for the ”drag and rip it through my Dman that’s screening me” shot. Because frankly, Zherdev doesn’t like to get dirty and drive to the net, so there’s a real high chance he’ll take a shot.

    So as Zherdev is loading up his shot, or that’s what it looks like (nice fake), Murphy is hoping for the best. All of a sudden the puck goes from the top of the circle to the middle of the slot in about a half second. Your legs turn into to Jello and your brain is full on ”oh noesss” mode because you just don’t see plays like that often. Your not worried about stick position, just trying to get over there to get a piece. Guys never try to pull that crap off, even in the practice. And the 1 or 2 times they do try, it’s a disaster and they get the full on ”get back in line hotshot” and shamed for wasting time.

    It’s a super highly skilled shot. Sure the Dmans gap control is bad, but I don’t blame the goalie.

    • Makes sense to me. Zherdev has all the time in the world to figure out how he’s going to try to put the puck in the net and Murphy knows it. I don’t blame him for cheating a little on the shot from the slot.

      Honestly, Murphy is probably counting on his defender to step up and do something before Zherdev can move laterally forcing the netminder to move with him opening up all kinds of holes in the goalie’s protection. It’s a smart move by Zherdev to move the puck to the center of the ice.

      I would say the blame is 95% defender and 5% goaltender since he could have controlled his stick a little better while moving side to side. Maybe it’s not fair to compare Murphy to Jon Quick, but when Quick moves side-to-side the stick is always in front of him. Again, this is 95%, maybe even 99% on the awful defenders, but still, that shot never goes in on an NHL goaltenders (Toronto Maple Leafs excluded).

      • I would disagree here. Murphy basically made his own bed and was forced to lay in it on this goal.

        1 – you can see that he was not ready for this shot as evidenced by the fact that he is standing flat footed 2 feet outside his crease. His depth is fine but he has ZERO backwards momentum which means he was very late in getting out to the top of his crease and had JUST stopped and set himself for a shot.

        2 – Murphy plays this like he is still playing Junior B. i get that Zherdev is a decent player but Murphy has already commited to a butterfly save on a shot from the top of the circle. A good goalie should be able to read the shot from that far out and then decide to butterfly or stay standing and make the save (ESPECIALLY given that Murphy is only 5’11″ he cant just be going down on shots from the tops of the circle before its released because the puck angle can easily beat him high over the shoulders anyway)

        3 – Now he is A- flat footed (static) and B- already down in a butterfly position he then attempts to recover and move to his blocker side and with the speed that Zherdev has he is already dead to rights if Zherdev goes wide but he still throws the kitchen sink at the save and ends up doing a star pose rather than a controled butterfly slide. In doing so he opens himself up completely. (pause at 9 seconds to see just how open he is.)

        The fact that he goes for a desperation save here is good and bad. Good in that it shows his compete level is through the roof but bad in that if he had remained composed and done a proper butterfly slide it would have been a bog standard save because Zherdev takes his backhand shot SO quickly despite having the entire half of the ice to walk around Murphy.

        ( I would be curious to know if Zherdev shot it that quickly on purpose or if he just let it go without considering that he had the entire net if he held onto it for a fraction of a second longer.)

        Having said this the D – Gap was horrific and the turnover was brutal as well but on the goalies end this whole thing was a result of him not being prepared for such a quick turnover and transition despite the fact that the puck never made it into the other teams end.

        As a goalie and as goalie coach i am all for goalies relaxing when the puck is out of their end but this was simply Murphy falling asleep in his crease and the everything that follows is the results of him doing so.

    • I think you have to really take into consideration the turnover here…

      The opposing team was within a few feet of entering the opposing zone, so you have to imagine the teammates are pushing up. When Zherdev steals it he catches the entire team off guard.

      The defender had no time to slow Zherdev down in the neutral zone, nobody really had any time to. And thats why he had all that open space. If you ask me the backcheck was pretty poor too. He made one effective move and put it where he knew there would be open hole because of the goalie moving laterally.

      No the team he played was not an elite or great club, those players are pros but he was not going up against lidsrtom or chara but does that matter. Its still a beauty of a goal, its still a professional league.

      The KHL is the first effective pro league in Russia and East Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In between was a corrupt Russian league with no real future. They are influencing the build up and popularity of hockey all over Europe and soon I think the KHL could be a tough match up in some kind of super series against NHL teams. Farm teams are being implemented into all clubs, division 2 is a stronger league now and d3 and better hockey schools are being built. its great

      I wonder how the worst KHL team would fair up against the worst NHL team?

      But back on this topic, we should not worry so much on how powerful the league is, enjoy the beauty of a game being played on ice with a stick and a puck. The Russian game is just a different style of hockey. More open

    • I can dig that review, makes sense.

      • He (Murphy) bit pretty damn hard on that fake shot though.. His defenseman did him no favors for about 35 seconds on that play, but holy smokes did he go down early.

        • … did i mention i loathe Nik Zherdev? Nothing worst than a guy with vast talents piss it away due to a thick head.

  2. On the gap control, I’m not super familiar with the KHL, do they play on Olympic sized ice or NHL sized ice? It looks like NHL size, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

    • The ice surface in the KHL is IIHF standard, so it’s equivalent to what you play on in the Olympics and other IIHF championships held outside of North America.

      • So there is a bit more space for a D-man to cover, no?

        It was a bad defensive play, but I’m just saying that a direct comparison to the NHL’s smaller rink may not be exactly fair.

      • I thought the same thing, but I think thats wrong. I think the KHL changed all its 1st division league rinks to NHL standards. I am not 100% on this but pretty sure

  3. He would’ve gotten trainwrecked if he tried that in the NHL

  4. Unnoticed by all, including the KHL refs – #18 of Atalant lets the onrushing puck-carrier turn him around on his cut to the inside, blindly lays his stick out, and trips him. Just flat-out pulls his leg out from under him, 2 minutes, have a nice day… oh wait, no, we’ll just let Nik Zherdev go the other way with it and make a filthy dangle to score a goal.

    It’s 3, 4 seconds into the clip. Notice that the replays don’t show that part of the play as it develops.

    To answer the question, as a keeper I’d be annoyed with myself in the moment if that shot squeezed by me. If I was set and in position for it when it happened it would be inexcusable. But in hindsight, you know, Zherdev made a good move and put the puck where the goalie wasn’t, even if it seemed stoppable. Like Harv said above, it’s pure reaction and you know you’ve got to open up, and you’ve got a hella hunk of net to cover to the blocker side. No time to slide across in control there. You can see in the screen grab how Murphy’s blocker is already out to try to cover the wide-open side, taking the stick away from the five-hole.

  5. Beauty move, no matter the situation. I’d like to give the defenceman the benefit of the doubt and assume that he truly is better at gap control than that, but there is a reason we have never heard his name. Only bit of nitpicking I have to do is why didn’t Zherdev just hold the puck for half a second instead and tuck it into the open side instead of blind fivehole slide? When you feel it you feel it I guess…

  6. It reminds me of Ovie goals vs PHX, the one from his back, on that goal, the NHL D picks up the gap on Ovie, checks him and knocks him to the ice, if its wasn’t for Brian Boucher falling over for some odd reason, that goal wouldn’t have happened.
    Same thing here, if the D picks up the gap, Z doesn’t score this goal, the goalie should have had a backhand slider from the slot.

  7. Great speed there. The larger ice really gives them space to turn on the jets.

  8. I kind of remember Pavel Bure doing it and Don Cherry just loving it back in the 90s. But the rocket did it and kicked it back to himself instead of going through his legs.

  9. Best seat in the house was occupied by #21 who “back checked” his way as if he was going to his own hanging. Damn slacker. He could have closed the gap and created a smaller space between himself and the D-man which would have probably forced Zerdev to shoot. Murphy was expecting it so no worries after that.

  10. @Loise, you make $27h thats great going girl good for you! My story is that I quit working at shoprite to work online, seriously I couldn’t be happier I work when I want and where I want. And with a little effort I easily bring in $35h and sometimes even as much as $85h…heres a good example of what i’m doing,

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