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.

Comments (19)

  1. OMG… Hamouflage and NoBlockov. Justin, you are hilarious. :)

    I watched the game, though not in full, and it was entertaining but also frustrating (’cause it was, as you said, a mess). Methinks 1 point for THAT “effort” is… WAY overachieving. Okposo did have a good game. Everyone else… not so much.

  2. Well, I think we can safely rule out he went down to block the shot since he is face first to Kadri in the first jpg that we see him down. Unless he his inventing a new type of shot block because he thinks his teeth need to adjusted.

    The other option is maybe he really didn’t see MacDonald. Maybe his situational awareness is SO poor he really thought he was in a 2v1 situation. Or maybe he has next to no real hockey sense and the game moves a bit too fast for him.

  3. Big points for NoBlockov

  4. Absolutely spot on fantastic analysis, the extra commentary only adds to the reading enjoyment. Keep up the great work!

  5. Hamonic’s slide is one of the results of a talented young player coming up through a system without NHL coaches. Would love to see him spend a few years in the Devils system. He would suddenly ( or not so suddenly ) be considered a stand-out defensive defenseman with some toughness as opposed to an example of ‘how not to do something’.

  6. Hot Mac on Mac action.

    But I digress, or I had better. You mentioned in the first breakdown that Cody Franson winds up a little bit too far off the inside post. After this slide, he gets up to make a play in the corner (well, almost corner) getting his stick on Czikas’ stick to get the puck away from him. Was this just circumstance and dumb luck?

    Also, did being that close to Czikas influence his choices, as Czikas had a steeper angle to try a saucer pass over? Or again, is this just dumb luck?

    Also also, I miss your coaching posts. Every time I play D on my rec team, and the rush is coming up ice, I hear myself repeating “gap control” over and over. You are the reason for that, so thanks. :-)

  7. Not only a bad slide, Hamonic also makes sure to take his stick to the outside. You know, so it’s out of that nice juicy middle lane he’s just vacated.

  8. Interesting, both times the Islander committed to their course of action that made the opponent look good.

    One point, you’ll notice that Czinkas is almost to the face-off dot as Frazen is just about to drop. When Kadri is at that point, and is no where near selling “pass” as much as Czikas, Hamonic is already prone,

  9. I’m disappointed that none of the sliding players had a ‘weee’ caption.

    Without that I love these posts and look forward to them every week. Keep it up!

  10. And for extra measure, Hamonic takes out his own net.

  11. Good analysis – the key here is Harmonic’s terrible gap control. If his gap is tighter on Kadri, the slide doesn’t become so egregious and he doesn’t give Kadri all that space.

  12. Fantastic work! Thanks!

  13. Great stuff Justin.

  14. Great stuff.

    I also love the amazing secondary assist to MacDonald for hitting the Leafs player with a beautiful tape-to-tape pass to start the breakout.

  15. Great stuff. Amusing and informative. More please.

  16. My view of the play has as much or more fault on MacDonald as it does on Harmonic. After the turnover, Harmonic thinks it is a true 2 on 1. However, the Leafs are not moving the puck up the ice faster than MacDonald can get back. Initially Harmonic puts distance between himself and Kadri because of the 2 on 1 he thinks he is protecting against. By the time he realizes it’s more of a 2 on 2, he has caved in too far on the goalie, which is not uncommon or necessarily a bad thing against a 2 on 1. My primary fault lies with MacDonald in the initial turnover. And what the fuck is #40 doing after MacDonald turns it over anyway?

    I also think this would be a good example to show defencemen in evaluating potential odd man rushes that turn into even man rushes as, particularly in lower levels, back-checkers can make up considerable ground on puck carriers. I can’t see sliding be wise in any even man rush scenarios.

  17. I love how Franson makes a great defensive play to break up the 2-on-1, then screens his own goalie for the final score.

  18. Franson breaking the 2-on-1 then screening his goalie for the goal. Is it what turns a 13th-place team into a 9th-place team ?

  19. Justin, you want to know why Hammer slides there? Because he’s been watching Mark Streit hit his gut at the least provocation to block passes. It’s been remarkable. I yell twice a game, “STAY ON YOUR SKATES,” to Isles defenders who can’t hear me because they are on television in some other state. Beginning to wonder if any of their coaches are yelling it.

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