Last night the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings headed into Chicago to play the league-leading Blackhawks, and came out on top thanks to a goal in the final 90 seconds off a draw in the Hawks zone. Dustin Brown walked off the half-wall got a shot, got a rebound (off the defenseman), and buried it.
I was trying to make sense of exactly what happened off that draw from Chicago’s perspective, and have come to the conclusion that there were either multiple missed assignments, or the Blackhawks defend off a lost d-zone draw differently than I ever saw in professional hockey. It’s possible it’s the latter, but I’m definitely leaning towards “some dudes make mistakes,” as hard to believe as that may be late in a game between two great teams.
Here’s the video, then we’ll talk about roles on a lost d-zone draw.
Right off the bat, let me show you MY understanding of defensive roles off this draw if the Hawks were to lose it. (If you want, you can follow up this post with one of the early Backhand Shelf posts I did on lost d-zone draws in “The Whiteboard” category, in which I had apparently just learned to operate a computer. Not that I’m much better with graphics now.)
Okay, let’s talk (you can click the image twice to expand it, if you’re super-duper into this):
As simply put as possible, here is the general plan:
RD – Hjalmarsson: Dustin Brown is Hjalmarsson’s guy if the Kings pull it back. If Brown gets the puck he can immediately engage him, and if it’s not clean, he can go soft below the pile, come up in Brown’s shooting lane, and re-engage.
C – Toews: Win draw, if not, Kopitar is his guy. Tie him up, stay with him.
RW – Frolik: Get through to the boards-side point on a lost draw, but if the puck goes to Brown, engage and defend him.
LW – Saad: Read on a lost draw. If lost clean to boards-side opposing D, drift into slot area, stay in Doughty’s shooting lane. If the puck goes to Brown and he’s coming into the danger zone (slot), engage and defend him.
LD – Oduya: engage Williams on a lost draw, cover him. Occasionally D try to help make the hole through to the point that Frolik is trying to hit.
On the offensive side of the puck, Williams is trying to pick Frolik without making it look like a pick, Kopitar is trying to win the draw then get to the net, and Brown is hoping he’ll be able to A) get the puck off the draw and get a shot or B) help Kopitar turn a tied faceoff into a won draw, get the puck back to the point and get to the net. Of course, if the Blackhawks had won the draw, he would’ve been on the forecheck.
The first issue is minor. The faceoff is neither won nor lost for a moment, and Hjalmarsson is indecisive. A clean win and he’s back on it, clean loss and he’s on Brown, but with the tie, he sort of half-heartedly thinks he may be able to pull it out of the scrum like rugby.
Because the puck doesn’t come out of the pile immediately, it gives Williams an excuse to take that area of the ice away from Frolik without it looking like a pick. I’m sort of curious about Hjalmarsson’s exact thought process (I think he’s got puck thoughts), but I’m REALLY curious as to why Johnny Oduya is frozen in CPU mode like a video game defender, is taking no one, is doing nothing. Kinda bizarre.
The battle continues, and Kopitar gets it to go back a foot or two.
As you can see, Brown is about to reach into the pile, and Hjarlmarsson is screwed behind the pile, AND ODUYA STILL DOESN’T KNOW THE PUCK HAS DROPPED, or something. He probably can’t see the puck through the pile, but I am so, so sure his job is to deal with Williams and at least drift up from where he is. Even if he doesn’t engage Williams, who is engaged with Frolik, it’s tough to explain CPU Oduya.
How crazy is it that things have already fallen apart here for Chicago? The puck has been in play for seriously like one second real time. There are plenty of these breakdowns where you get a save and people forget about it, but you’d like to not give teams too many kicks at the can.
Lets carry on.
Dudes. DUDES. Johnny Oduya is still in his stance. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDES. Dudettes too. This is crazy.
Anyway, Hjalmarsson has no hope of picking up Brown on the other side of the pile, and Williams deserves an award for the amazing volume of space he’s created for his teammate here.
If you’re Joel Quenneville, you’re more than happy to give up a pass to the point over letting Dustin Brown shoot from here, so you’d like a little better help defense from Brandon Saad. Desperation, or as I often refer to at, The Panic Button, is a good thing to have if you use it wisely.
Brown pulls the trigger, and I guess by now we can sort of say Oduya has moved. …Backwards into the crease. I don’t f*****g know.
Williams has been released by Frolik – because he was never, not for a second defensively, Frolik’s guy – and is now heading to the net for a rebound. Hjalmarsson appears to have given up on the whole d-zone draw coverage and is just going to take someone (Williams) which is fine, because he ain’t getting to Brown and the shot has been fired.
Wait, hold on, I’m hearing one of my old coach’s voices in my head. It’s actually not fine, because there could be a rebound, and now whose guy is Brown? Maybe Oduya’s if he decides to join the coverage team soon. (No, no Brown should still be Hjalmarssons.) That’s his only hope, and given that Brown was never Oduya’s guy, I wouldn’t expect him to think to cover Brown. But then, I would expect him to think a little, so I dunno.
Then, things get weird.
Brown’s initial shot hits Oduya in the numbers (suspend the puck!)…
..and it kicks right back to Brown.
Now, remarkably, Hjalmarsson not only isn’t checking Brown, but he’s also lost body position on Williams, who has…sort of become his guy? For Oduya’s part, I mean…just look at the current situation. I almost feel like maybe he wasn’t ready for puck drop or something. Hot lady in the third row, perhaps? Shiny object in the rafters? His shift consisted of engaging no one, getting hit by a puck, and earning a minus.
Anyway, this game is all but over. Brown puts it home in the yawning cage (no fault of Crawford’s that this all came to be, by the way. Some bad luck in there)…
…and the Kings walk out of the Madhouse on Madison with two points in regulation after being down 4-3.
Coverage off lost d-zone face-offs, as far as I know, are almost goes down the same way. I’d be wholly surprised if the Blackhawks were playing it some other way here, and it wasn’t just a matter of two d-men messing up on the same play.
Also a reminder sponsored by Johnny Oduya that you’re supposed to take Sudafed, not Ambien before the game.