steen goal

Last night after Alex Steen stole the puck from Jonathan Quick behind the Kings’ net in overtime and iced the game for the Blues, CBC cut to their panel of hockey minds to get some reaction and opinion on the game-deciding goal.

The lone ex-goalie on the panel, Kevin Weekes, described what had just happened with Jonathan Quick behind the net as a “miscommunication.” Kevin Weekes was wrong. And so, PJ Stock disagreed with him, and Weekes offered little more follow up then head shakes and disagreeable mutterings. He stuck to his guns on this one.

Occasionally, miscommunications (and thus, bad things) happen; this is a real thing in hockey. Also, sometimes that label is used as a copout for a bungled play by a goalie. But like skaters, sometimes they just doof up with the puck, and Jonathan Quick did.

Here’s what he had to say about the play:

“It’s exactly what it looked like. I tried to make a pass. He blocked it and scored. I don’t have an option to the left; you try to make him make a decision. And he got the stick on it.”

That should be all the confirmation we need, but whatever, I want to look at what went wrong in Los Angeles. Join me, won’t you?

For the record, this isn’t going to be your usual “Systems Analyst” breakdown, given that there’s no system to dissect, so I’ll do another one later this week. To the pictures!

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The other thing that was said on that CBC panel and many other places around the hockey world last night was that the two Los Angeles Kings that are coming back into the zone, Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter, need to come back quicker to provide Quick with options.

Maybe, but not really on this particular play. As far as his options go, they’re providing some pretty decent ones.

On a powerplay breakout, the only player who needs to head back on the puck with any speed is the first dude back – in this case Doughty – and he’s back in decent time. He’s given a little lollygag leeway because when he gets to the puck, he’s going to have to wait for everyone to get to their set spots to start the breakout. That might mean a center coming back to swing low and join him, or a winger get to the blueline and get set to time the rush, or whatever it is that the Kings do. You just have to let guys get momentarily set, is all.

The bulk of the point is, in this case, they are not to blame for what happens here. Quick – who was an absolute stud who made 40 saves yesterday and was the main reason the Kings were even in OT, I know – is 97% responsible for this gaffe based on a simple premise: he’s the damn goalie, he chose to play the puck, he was behind the net, and he had time. He had 100 options that weren’t “turn it over and get scored on.” Things go wrong in sports, and just because you feel for a guy doesn’t mean we need to create excuses.

The only thing I can think of that would be in his favour on the play, is that in this instance, you generally don’t see the forward chase behind the net when someone back there has possession, they’ll loiter in front so they don’t get caught deep. But really, they only park in front for d-men with possession, not goalies, so I’m reaching here.

To the tape! Let’s see how much of this was a miscommunication:

a1 copy

Self-explanatory.

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He’s looking around, knows what he’s dealing with. People enter the frame.

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There’s tons of space here. And to those people saying Doughty isn’t back quick enough or whatever – he’s showing trust here. Quick has the puck and he’s going to go to the corner for an outlet instead of hustling to take it from him. The danger could be over with as soon as now with a little rim.

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Quick is now facing up ice with solid possession, Doughty is getting wider for him.

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Now it’s time to move the puck – literally, NOW – for one simple reason: you’re the goalie. You see a guy coming towards you, you have solid possession of the puck, your head is up, and you need to get back and tend the goal, which is literally the description of your job.

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Now it’s panic time, cause he’s enjoyed just having the puck for awhile, which is rare in a pro hockey game. You almost always have to move it right away. He’s like “This is SWEET. I like HAVE IT and stuff. It feels so good on my blade.”

When he says “I didn’t have an option left” in his post-game quote, I’m not sure I agree (okay, I don’t). When the turnover happens, Jeff Carter is coming from the far boards in a panic, meaning he’s there right now (or could at least take the stride or two over there) Quick could rim this to him or Doughty right now.

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And now it’s too late. He tries to get too cute by making the play past Steen, which is exactly what coaches rail against: don’t take chances – especially huge chances in a huge moment like this – when you don’t have to.

Coaches hate when players try to force passes through the opposition on the powerplay because they don’t need to. You can imagine how they feel about what’s unfolding here. Take the easy option, dawg.

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Oh boy.

a9

Oh no.

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Oh crap.

a11

Oh.

a12

Oh.

a13

OH

Folks are scrambling to find more depth to this play than “Jonathan Quick made a mistake,” but there isn’t more, and that’s fine. He more or less owned it, and it’s in the past for the Kings now.

I just wanted to be clear: this is no issue of miscommunication or due to lazy returns to the zone or anything of that nature. It’s a simple mistake. We all make ‘em.