Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders

Last night’s game between the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs was not one that would make a lot of coaches happy. It was great fun to watch as a fan, as mass quantities of defensive lapses led to sacks-full of legitimate scoring opportunities, but anyone breaking down film of that game would have days of work ahead of them.

For my part, I’ll be looking at two similar plays. In both cases, the d-man tries to slide to break up a 2-on-1 (sort of, we’ll get there). One does it well, the other…well, we’re doing a Systems Analyst post of the goal, so you guess how it goes.

First off, the d-man slide:

A defenseman’s job on a 2-on-1 is to take the pass (despite how I’d like to see it played). Standing, he has the length of two feet and a stick-blade to stop the puck with. If he times a slide right, he has six feet of lane blocked, and a higher (and wider) frame to have to sauce the puck over. So, the key is timing.

You want so drop around the moment that it’s decision time for the player, and slide backwards off the inside post (as sliding backwards and taking out your own goalie is a pretty terrible defensive play).

First, we’ll look at Cody Franson doing it against Casey Cizikas. The play eventually results in a goal, but whatever, he did all he could on the 2-on-1.

I’d rather see him engage  Grabner than “front” (screen) the Visnovsky shot, but this is about this initial rush, so I’ll shut up now.

The 2-on-1:

Step one: Identify

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THIS IS A TWO-HUMAN ON ONE-HUMAN RUSH

I love how Franson plays it initially. He cheats over on Grabner while the play is still high in the zone, cause what, Czikas is gonna shoot from up there? No. So he takes away the early pass that, as a forward, I looove. Gotta get that goalie moving and off his set marks as soon as possible.

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As the play develops he moves over to Cizikas, reads Cizikas telegraphing a pass, and starts his slide…

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Cizikas, if we’re being honest, makes a pretty terrible play here. He’s got time to stop up and let Franson slide by, he could just straight shoot it, but as we say, he’s “locked in” on passing.

Franson makes the slide, and whammy, rush chance nullified.

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And for the aftermath, here’s where his slide takes him: off the inside post:

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Maybe a bit too much, but let’s not get picky here.

OKAY.

Good defense on that rush there.

Now let’s look at how Travis Hamonic does it for the New York Islanders. Here’s the goal in full:

Yeesh.

The 2-on-1:

Step One: Identify

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Wait, I mislabeled this above, this clearly isn’t a 2-on-1. This is a 2-on-2, which is good for the defensive team. The Isles have numbers. Hamonic, the defenseman back for the Isles, has Kadri, and MacDonald has to hustle back to nullify MacArthur.

Let’s watch it unfold, shall we?

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All good – MacArthur has a half-step on AMac, but he’s fine.

Now, Isles fans have repeatedly talked up Travis Hamonic, a big bruising d-man with huge upside, and for the most part, I’ve agreed with them. Something, this year though…I dunno. Anyway, he’s backed in way too deep here for my liking, but he’s not screwed.

And, you have to think he sees MacDonald here. I mean, you actually have to believe that, because he does. There’s just no doubt about that.

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Here’s where things get weird. And I mean, like, weird. This is the rare Systems Analyst post that also got a “Wait What” category nod.

Mac has caught Mac, to the point where he’s actually water-skiing beside him. He has he stick across hthe guy’s gut. He’s got him. Whether he’s defending him legally or not is your call, but dude got got.

Now, maybe just the angle they’re on – the alignment, I mean – makes it tough for Hamonic to see MacDonald? (No, that’s not possible.) Maybe Hamonic thinks… honestly…it’s tough to say what he thinks here. My best guess is that he believe MacArthur is going to beat MacDonald cleanly and he needs to play this like a two-on-one. That lack of trust happens on losing teams, and exacerbates their problems.

He starts to slide.

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I know everyone wants to God-up Kadri for his game last night, but this right here is crap defense. I know it’s being referenced as The World’s Nastiest Toe-Pull, but look at that (hilarious) image above. He has three, four feet of room between the puck and Hamonic, who for some reason has slid himself out of the play (I will now call him “Hamouflage,” for his willingness to voluntarily make himself unnoticeable). Kadri could’ve just cut into the middle with no pull and played it like a breakaway.

Our next moment:

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Hamonic makes a desperation reach, and to Kadri’s credit, the toe drag helps give him a couple extra feet of space to get the shot off.

As was predictable, MacDonald got back and took care of MacArthur, but Kadri’s too good to miss from there on Evgeni NoBlockov.

Ze biscuit, she is in ze basket.

So much of good defending is identifying the situation well. That…um, that didn’t happen here.