Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four

I really didn’t want to do up another Systems Analyst on the Leafs’/Bruins, because frankly, there are plenty of other great series going on right now that are worthy of attention. Unfortunately, the other two OT winners last night don’t provide any spectacular teaching points, and I’m mired in a city where I’m surrounded by hockey and it’s easier to provide a link to my opinion than to rehash it a dozen times a day.

So, here we are. I’ll make it quick and easy.

The video:

Everyone is giving Dion Phaneuf the gears for his overtime pinch, which clearly didn’t work out. That’s not up for debate – it’s clear, because the opposing team scored, which is generally deemed “not cool” by your coach. Phaneuf knew he’d get killed if he made excuses or pointed fingers (captains generally don’t say “Yabut other guys messed up too, c’mon you guys!“), so he said “yeah I doofed up, it’s on me, my bad, I suck, you guys are handsome and I’m ugly, you’re smart and I’m dumb.” Blame taken, issues owned, it’s the best he could’ve dealt with it.

But when the team reviews the game-ending play in a video session, other issues will surface.

From here out, I’ll be playing Randy Carlyle addressing his team while watching video:


“Phil, you’re first in on this puck and are clearly going to get possession. Komorov – I’m going to call you Komie from here on, though I’m not sure why I’m pointing that out when it’s something we always do – you’re F2. You see Phil about to establish solid possession of the puck, so you’re headed to the net, which allows you to drop off to the corner to start the cycle if need be. Still, good place to start. Jay, you see two guys in ahead of you, you’re F3, our high guy.”


“Phil, you’re a top-10 points guy in the NHL, have been for a couple years now. You go to grab this puck against the best defenseman in the league in overtime – explain to me why you open up to him instead of curling and protecting the puck? There’s no excuse for exposing the puck to him here. You may not have noticed, but Chara is six-f***ing-nine, Phil. And his stick is almost as long. You turn the puck over here when both your linemates think you have solid possession, and now we’re going the other way.

“Now Jay, what did we just say you were, just a moment ago? F3, right? You’re our high guy, our safety valve. Obviously in overtime, that’s doubly important. Explain to me what you’re doing here with your skates on the hashmarks, instead on the top of the faceoff circle? There’s no concievable situation in overtime where we ever want our F3 much lower than that. You got votes for the Selke this year, did you know that? That goes to the best defensive forward in hockey. And you’re at the face-off dot as F3 in overtime. F*** me, Jay.”


“You don’t look all that eager to get back here either. Phil does, because he knows he’s got it coming to him when he gets to the bench after that turnover.”

“Now Dion, explain to me what you’re thinking here.”

Dion: “Well, I was thinking “somebody f***ing gooo, and-”

“Shut up. Your risk reward judgement here is way, way out of whack, especially given the circumstances. You’re trying to blow a guy up and turn the puck over, and you miss. What’s to gain? You’ve got the whole play in front of you – we expect better reads here.”


“Now guys, there’s a reason we keep a high guy back. It’s so when our D decide to pinch, his partner can slide over, and the high forward can slot in for that d-man, and we’re right back on track with numbers. We only run into a problem if our d-man misses the guy AND the opposing forward gets past him. Horton gets the puck by Dion, but at least he ends up on his ass. This normally wouldn’t be a problem if Jay stays higher, or if we don’t have the bad luck of getting tangled in that rat king at the top of the circle after Dion’s follow-through.

Still, we have Phil, coming back hard as one of the game’s fastest player, so we’re looking at a 2-on-1 with back pressure.”


Now Ryan, what are we trying to do when defending a 2-on-1?”

O’Byrne: “Trying to take away the pass, coach, leave the shooter for the goalie.”


“Well, we’ll address the “leave” part in a second, first lemme ask you – when you’re playing this, do you know you’ve got Phil on the backcheck?”

O’Byrne: “I do.”

“Are you confident that he’s going to catch Lucic?”

O’Byrne: “I dunno, I’m not really sure, I guess.”

“Either way, you know you’ve got help, which should free you up to apply extra pressure. And yes, taking away the pass is your first priority. But you have to make Krejci do something, don’t you think? He doesn’t take a single stride from inside the blueline, Phil has pressure on Lucic – completing a pass to Lucic and them scoring here would take one hell of a play – and you let Krejci have a holiday in on Jimmy.

Look at this.”


“He’s already in a great shooting spot, and you haven’t even made his pulse quicken yet.”


“Look how deep you’ve backed in? Cripes, look where your skates are by the time he shoots this.”


“You’re literally a foot from James. Are you trying to be a second goalie? I mean, for goodness sake, by the circles this should be more of a one-on-one for you than a two-on-one if you know Phil’s there, and at no point do you provide any pressure to let Krejci’s life more difficult. And Phil, you gotta be hollering, letting Ryan now you’re back, you’ve got Lucic, pressure, pressure, pressure.

And James…well, I’ll let you talk to our goalie coach about the goal. I think you know we need those kind of stops in OT. I’m not saying it was weak, I’m just saying we’re going to need those when we head into Boston tomorrow.

I’ll let it run from the top so you guys can look at it one last time. After that, flush it, forget about it, our focus is on tomorrow night. We gotta be better.”

Comments (25)

  1. This is incredible.

  2. Good analysis on the goal, Justin. As much as Phaneuf’s pinch was ill-advised, O’Byrne absolutely should have challenged the shooter on a 2-on-2 instead of giving him 4 days to pick his spot.

    • O’Byrne literally looked like a PeeWee skating backwards keeping a huge gap on a rushing forward, until they trip over the goalie.

  3. You should do all of your systems analysis posts from this perspective. It is a bit easier to read and follow, and it opens up a new door for ripping guys who make stupid mistakes.

  4. How did Greg Sherman trick Dave Nonis into taking O’Byrne at the deadline? Sherman’s single greatest accomplishment of the season

  5. obyrnes gap control looks like a forward’s trying to play defense for the first time. inexcusable for an nhl defenseman.

    • O’Byrnes gap control at the blue line was terrible. Krejci is maybe 1/2 between red line and blue line and all you can you is the bottom end of O’Byrnes stick. He is obviously VERY concerned about getting burned by speed but at this level…bad..very bad.

  6. This is absolutely amazing and easily the best Systems post since that one with everyone in the corner and the goalie pointing at the one dude in the slot like “hey guys, seriously?”

    I second the idea that more Systems posts, maybe not all, should be done like this. Great narrative for the breakdown, and you really get a feel for how the coaches and players break down a play like this after the fact, while still getting to insult bone-headed plays.

  7. Most entertaining systems analyst post yet. Thanks for doing that NBC broadcast “I’ll be coach so-and-so” thing, but in a way that was actually funny instead of, you know, excruciatingly awkward like their version

  8. I wonder how Lyles feels having a glorified pylon replace him in the lineup

  9. Randy Carlyle could send you his cheque today. Nicely done.

    And, as others have mentioned, great job on the systems analyst posts. Fantastic mix of insight, opinion and humor. Can’t find a better hockey post anywhere.

  10. This was the best.

  11. “…you haven’t even made his pulse quicken yet.”

    Krejci’s pulse does not quicken, ever.


  12. One comment about Reimer to add to this excellent writeup Justin. Sometime over the last few games someone, cannot remember who, on HNIC made the comment that last year Reimer crouched down a LOT which made him smaller and also made his ability to make reflex saves tougher. Much more often this year he was making himself taller to help that out they said.

    Look at both frame shots he is in. He is crouched so low all you can see his shoulders and up. You barely see the top of the crest. I think Krejci could see a lot of the upper net and even he admitted it wasn’t a great shot but any shot in overtime can be a good one.

    I wonder if this has also hindered his rebound control some as the last few games it has looked like he was wearing super ball material for padding. A lot of the goals the B’s have scored in this series have come off rebounds. The defense can help by boxing out players better but that is still something Reimer needs to work on next year to take his game to the next level.

  13. Great read Justin. I didn’t click the Phaneuf link but I believe it’s the Ray Ferraro clip, the inclusion of that had me laughing histerically.

  14. This was greatly entertaining to read. Nice piece.

  15. You mentioned you didn’t want to do another systems analyst post on Bruins-Leafs. What about analyzing the Derek Stepan goal that put the Rangers up 4-2 over the Capitals from last night’s game? I bring it up because of this article defending Ovechkin from the media scrutiny over lazy defense:

  16. This is gold. Pure gold.
    Please write more of these.

  17. This was a great read and a really solid analysis of the entire situation. I would definitely read more of these. They say the goalie is supposed to take the shooter, true, but O’Byrne can’t just back up so much to the point where there is no pressure on Krejci and he can merrily just walk into the slot and get a high quality shot off.

  18. This was tremendous, I’m new to hockey and I’ve found Systems Analyst really valuable in improving my understanding of the game. This post, in particular, was clear, informative and funny. The coaches perspective works very well. Really good job Justin, lots more of these please!

  19. I never knew what a rat king was. Wow learn something new every day. Oh that, and some hockey. Nice…..

  20. The final error is using “myriad of” in the story hed. It’s just myriad, never, never, never myriad of.

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