There was an interesting sequence in last night’s game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rich Peverly skated in on a shorthanded 2-on-2, got run over, the Leafs’ transitioned to offense, promptly turned the puck over and saw it sent back into their own end. They then started a powerplay breakout, turned the puck over again, and gave up a shorthanded goal. This was all in a span of about 20-25 seconds, and came within a couple minutes of the Bruins goal to go up 3-1 (which came minutes after the Leafs had made it 2-1). It wasn’t quite everything, but a lot of things were happening.
In a nutshell, Dan Paille’s shorty was the back-breaker for the Leafs, so let’s take a look at it and figure out just what the hell went on here.
Start at the 11:45 mark for the full meal deal (thanks to @HBAdventure for the video):
Okay, from the top!
The Bruins are short-handed, but are on a 2-on-2 rush. Your standard play here as forwards to cross (which forces the d-men to communicate, occasionally causing errors), and to try to get the puck to the net at some point. Dion Phaneuf, who I have labelled ironically due to his sparkling, effervescent personality, is skating back into the zone. He’s also good at timing hits when guys try to cross the blue.
The puck carrier has to cross the blue first, so he goes in front, and plans on dropping the puck to his linemate, Chris Kelly.
Everything is going beautifully until OH GOD THAT’S DION PHANEUF. If Peverly doesn’t realize it’s Dion Phaneuf, he realizes he’s in the trolley tracks and has to get Kelly the puck before pulling the ripcord.
He attempts the drop but fans on it because he’s too rush bracing himself for impact.
Then boof, impact. It’s not an amazingly huge hit or anything…
…but Phaneuf separated Peverly from the puck (partially with the contact but mostly by making Peverly aware contact is coming), and the Leafs, on the powerplay, are about to get the puck back.
By the way, I was tipped off to the NESN call of this play (that’s the Boston feed), and it’s hilarious.
Jack Edwards is one of the best play-by-play guys around, and as I’m sure you’re aware, one of the most blatantly partial to the team he calls (though I should respectfully note he calls opponent’s hits and goals with great energy which is cool, unlike, say, the Colorado team).
Anyway, here’s the exchange between him and his colour guy:
Jack Edwards: “OH WHAT A HIT by Phaneuf as he came clear off his skates.” (Translation: big hit, but dude totally jumped, so you don’t have to respect it.)
Phaneuf didn’t jump, he was pushed up by contact, but whatever, I don’t hate that call.
Andy Brickley: “Actually Peverly was inviting that, he WANTS Phaneuf to come all the way from the left D-side to come and try to make contact.” (Translation: big hit, but our guy was trying to get run over, so really we come out ahead.)
Me: Nope. No that’s not what happened at all, Andy. And if it was, and Peverly executed that play the way he wanted, he wanted to execute a really, really stupid play.
During the replay Brickly followed up: ”Peverly was inviting this, ‘come on over here, on the criss-cross, we’re going to try to make something happen here two-on-two shorthanded.’”
To quote Wayne Campbell of Wayne’s World: Are you mental?
I like the Boston announcers, but come on now.
ANYWAY, the Leafs grab the puck and transition up ice. Cody Franson recovers it…
And tosses a soft backhand up to Tyler Bozak.
But nope. Bozak can’t handle the easy pass (in pro hockey they say “you can’t give a good player a bad pass,” the same way NFL receivers believe “if you can touch it, you can catch it”)…
And by the time he tight turns back, Chris Kelly, the good penalty killer that he is, has come back on the puck and fired it deep. kelly uses this opportunity to go for a change, which brings on Dan Paille. But we’ll get to him in a few steps.
Okay, a huge, important point here. What you see below is RESET mode. Who cares what happened to get here, you’re back on a set powerplay breakout. That means your best players are on the ice, your team has more players on the ice, you have a play that you’ve practiced outside of games that’s designed to get the puck into the opposing zone and set up undeterred.
White-washed, you have solid possession, brand new. Dion Phaneuf swings behind the net with the puck, Cody Franson swings the opposite way into the corner, and away we go.
I don’t know the Leafs PP breakout specifically, but Phaneuf has moved the puck to Kessel in the middle (frame below), and Dan Paille’s role is clearly to flush the Leafs’ breakout to camera-side wall. What that means is you taken an angle, get your stick in any passing lanes that are open back the other way, and push them. You’re not even really trying to get the puck when that’s your job.
Kessel, seeing this, knows that if – IF – he can get the puck back to Phaneuf, they’ve basically beaten the PK’s neutral zone defense. If you can get the puck to the opposite side of where a team is trying to get you to go, you’re laughing. So Kessel’s a skill guy, and tries to sneak one back to Dion to ensure a positive development for the Leafs.
Whoops. Paille does a great job with his angle, and a better job getting his stick in the only available passing lane back to the way he’s protecting. As you can see in the picture above, the puck absolutely does not hit Dion Phaneuf’s skate or anthing else – you’re looking at the puck on Paille’s blade, who’s reach was just long enough.
And here. we. go. Paille loads up and takes off.
The race is on and Kessel, the faster of the two players, is on the backcheck. Knowing he’s about to be caught, Paille makes two simple plays that ensure this chance ends up being just that – a chance, and not just a pat on the back for breaking up the PP breakout.
He pulls the puck away from the side of pressure, and resigns himself to just a backhand shot, which really, not a lot of pure skill guys would be content doing, but hey, the B’s are short-handed and a scoring chance in that situation is good enough.
He fires, which isn’t easy to do on the backhand…
And kisses it off the post a foot off the ice low blocker, which is just perfect. Goalies find backhands tough to read (they have trouble guessing which way shots are going because of the curve of the blade), so combining that with the shot location is awfully impressive.
And sho ‘nuf, Dan Paillican celebrates
There’s plenty of blame to go around on this play, but the bulk of it goes to Bozak and Kessel, with the latter’s error being more egregious. All in all though, it’s just a great defensive play by Dan Paille who caught a guy trying to be cute, and made him pay for it.
For another look, start at the 11:45 mark below.