The Bruins overtime winner last night was a beauty of a goal, but it left me scratching my head a bit. The play on the offensive side of the puck was obviously great, but how do you end up in situation where Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr have a 2-on-1/3-on-2 on Anton Stralman and Mats Zuccarello?
Well, I came up with five reasons. Well, four true reasons and one “that could have been done better.”
In the interest of not clipping 23453452 screenshots, I’m going to highlight those.
Here’s the goal:
Zdeno Chara’s long stick
His hockey stick, you perverts.
Derek Brassard is on a 3-on-2 rush with Rick Nash and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is doing his job and driving the mid-lane (to push back the defenders) which should open up room high for a pass from Brassard to Nash, who is about to have the puck and some time in a scary shooting spot. The crazy thing is, that pass is successful 99% of the time. I can’t think of another defenseman in the league who you could be up against who would have the smarts to make the read, and the length to get a piece of the pass, but Zdeno Chara does.
I initially thoughts Brassard just threw Nash a grenade to give the Bruins the break going the other way, but nope – Chara actually gets a tiny piece of this pass and puts it behind Nash’s skates.
Just enough to break up the play and send it the other way.
C’mon dog, when you’re covering for a rushing defenseman, cover for a rushing defensman.
McDonagh is up on the rush, and Mats Zuccarello is supposed to be staying back. He gets trapped.
The crazy part is, Zuccarello actually calls for the puck on the play as the fourth guy. As he sees the turnover happen, well, you see he’s already got two guys behind him.
Mats Zuccarello is really small
There is desperate need for hockey fans to prove that small players can be just as valuable as big players, and that the NHL overvalues size, and that they overlook good small players etc, etc. And all of that is true. That said, being small has some obvious disadvantages, one of which is that you aren’t likely to win as many body position battles. A lot of smaller guys find ways to avoid getting involved in these as often as possible, but sometimes you just have to, especially defensively.
Zucarrello is 5’7, 179.
Brad Marchand is a small player himself – 5’9, 185 – but he is the stronger player of the two. Zuccarello has body position on Marchand.
But the slightly bigger player battles through it and turns a 3-on-2 into a 2-on-1/3-on-2.
Stralman doesn’t play Bergeron all that great
There’s not one thing in particular here that Stralman messed up on, but:
* He’s flat-footed, so he’s sagged back and doesn’t have a very good gap on Bergeron. The turnover did that to him though, so I won’t fault him there.
* He let’s a pass go behind his skates. To me he should read that the situation has become a 2-on-1 of sorts, and at least back up fast enough to keep the play in front of him. I would’ve liked to have seen him lay out or take some strides or something.
* He pivots to defend the pass late.
Honestly, he doesn’t do any one thing in particular wrong, I just feel like he doesn’t offer much hindrance for Bergeron there.
Lundqvist was too good
For a goalie reading a backdoor pass, the general idea is “get over to the far post as quickly as possible.” You’re worried about getting beat by a backdoor tap-in.
Lundqvist reads the play, knows Marchand is headed to the far post, and pushes across as fast as he can.
He’s over more than fast enough to stop the shot, but because he got over too fast, the slapped puck off the pass goes between his legs (or sort of under the top part of his pad near the five hole.
“I mean, it’s a tough play but I could play it better. I gotta see the guy in the middle. I was too focused on the puck and I kind of knew he was coming in the middle, but I was too locked in on the puck. That’s why I made a stretch move instead of coming with my pads together. It’s a technical thing and it happened fast, but sooner or later when you face a lot of chances like that you’re going to make a mistake.
The picture at the top of the post shows it fairly well too:
And that’s all she wrote. Enough little issues can lead to one big problem.