Systems Analyst meltdown

In hockey there are very few set plays on the offensive side of the puck, particularly at even strength. The game is too fluid and fast to communicate with your teammates without the help of headsets, so the best you can do is try to create chaos in the hopes of disrupting things for the team on the other side of the puck, where there is actually a plan that requires people to work together within in a system. As you can see above, when things break down desperation takes over, and everyone collectively drops their bowling balls on the panic button. In that instance, the Lightning would score amidst the chaos with four seconds left to take the game to overtime, where they would eventually win in a shootout. You need everyone doing their job, or that sorta thing happens.

With the year winding down, I thought it’d be fun to add to the mass of year-end lists by sifting through my 2013 Systems Analyst posts and taking some suggestions on Twitter, then dialling in the 10 gaffe’s that most made hockey fans wince. Hopefully it makes us all feel a little better about our own hockey playing abilities as we enter the depths of true hockey season this winter.

Before we get to the top 10…a few other plays of note.


Worthy Mentions

Disconnected Ovechkin

Didn’t make it because: Not so much a “breakdown” as a hilarious half-ass effort

The play below became an internet sensation when someone – and I say someone, because I can’t for the life of me find the original source (feel free to put that in the comments if you know) – added the perfect graphics to Alex Ovechkin’s “backcheck” on this Rangers goal. What the…what the hell happened here, exactly, Alex?

Aw, such a crappy time for someone’s little brother to rip the controller out of the consol. Underrated part of this goal: it’s an awesome play by the Rangers. Like, really awesome.


Matt Duchene miiight have been offside

Didn’t make it because: the breakdown wasn’t made by a team as much as a linesman

Backhand Shelf Post: Breaking down Matt Duchene’s goal that wasn’t in any way illegal, nope, nothing to see here

Duchene offside

The most incredible part of this play is that Duchene grabs the puck at all instead of just curling away from the play after being so blatantly offside but hey…play to the whistle, and all that good stuff.

The error, apparently, wasn’t that the liney thought Duchene was onside, he just thought Nashville brought the puck into their own zone (somehow?), in which case Duchene would’ve been eligible to play the puck.


Honorary Mentions

* An Islanders/Oilers game this year gave us a Systems Analyst on The Jekyll and Hyde of the D-man Slide.

dman slide

Done well it’s effective, done poorly it’s basically forfeiting a goal. This is a nice toe drag by Kadri, but it wasn’t hard given the terrible defensive effort.

* Sometimes it’s less “wag of the finger” for the D, and more “tip of the cap” to the forwards.

hansen toey

There was a defensive breakdown on this Canucks’ goal, but it doesn’t happen without this excellent toe drag.

* As James Mirtle pointed out, this 3-on-2 by the Dallas Stars off a rough Leafs change against Fraser and Ranger – apparently dubbed “Franger,” by some Leafs fans – was one of the more remarkably bad rush defenses of the year. I usually only do one Systems post a week so some of these slip through the cracks. I badly wish this one hadn’t (it likely cracks the top 10 if I had).

Leafs D

But really, you don’t need this explained to you. You can watch it here. The craziest part was how clearly this was a 3-on-2 as Dallas approached the line, so the D meltodown is super-special.

* And there were a few votes (including one from our buddy Dave Lozo) for this less-than-stellar defending by the New Jersey Devils on this Sean Monahan goal. 

monahan goal

(That freehand pass arrow, oh man Bourne. Apparently it hit 17′s chest? Two words buddy: pro.)

And that should do it for mentions. It’s time to get to the 10 defensive breakdowns that most made me want to call timeout, despite not being the coach. The closer we get to one, the more it goes from WTF to LOL.

(And now internet acronyms. I’m really keepin’ it fresh over here.)


The Top Bottom 10

#10 The Oilers three low defenders get their wires crossed 

Backhand Shelf PostSystems Analyst: Oilers defense learns that not committing in the d-zone is worse than committing to the wrong thing

The Main Culprit(s): Nugent-Hopkins, Petry and Smid

The “Oops”: Being non-commital, puck watching

The “Oops” Frame:

oilers d zone

The Lesson Learned: You’re better off committing to a player (even if it’s the wrong one) so your teammates can react accordingly than floating in no man’s land trying to cover everyone.

Those three players on Edmonton need to talk and be more decisive. Even if RNH messes up and sticks to Henrik instead of Daniel, the other two can adjust. If Petry just takes Burrows and sticks with him – right or wrong – Smid doesn’t get pulled up to the slot to “help” cover him and leave Daniel.

Indecision and lack of chatter lead to problems in hockey (as I’ve written before) because if you don’t know what your teammates are doing, you all end up trying to do everything, and nothing gets done.

The Video:

Final Comment: The Sedins make people nervous at this point in their careers, so they likely see a lot of defenders who sag to the safety of the net. You can’t get beat too bad if you’re already where they’re trying to go, right?

Yeah, no, sure you can.


#9 Ottawa manages to give up three goals in a game as a direct result of bad changes

Backhand Shelf Post: Systems Analyst: The Ottawa Senators line changes against the Red Wings were hilarious

The Main Culprit(s): The on-ice Senators of Ottawa

The “Oops”: Terrible line changes

The “Oops” Frame: 

delay goal

The Lesson Learned: Stay the hell on the damn ice until your freaking team gets the goshdarn puck in your stupid opponent’s zone.

There are a ton of times where you get away with a bad change, and you’re glad you got off the ice. It’s the really long shifts that burn your legs out by the end of a game, and avoiding one of those is great. But, it’s also not what you’re hired to do, and if you’re in good enough shape, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Even when you do get away with it, it’s something coaches make mental note of. You’re a corner-cutter, and cut enough corners, and you’re going to cost your team.

The Video: (Note: there’s three here, so I’ve chosen the most egregious)

Final Comment: It’s pretty mind-blowing that this happens in the NHL at all, but I find it happens a lot more once you get away from the start of the season and you’re miles from the end. It’s real easy to cut a corner during those dog days games and hope it just pans out. Sometimes it just…doesn’t.


#8 Mark Scheifele sees puck, wants puck, leaves guy

Backhand Shelf Post: Systems Analyst: Mark Scheifele demonstrates how “rookie mistake” became an expression

The Main Culprit(s): Mark Scheifele

The “Oops”: Puck obsession, missed coverage

The “Oops” Frame:

Schiefele d

The Lesson Learned: Trust your teammates and don’t try to do their job, and oh yeah, get over your infatuation with the puck. Easier said that done, but puck-watching is at the root of most breakdowns.

Seriously, a center locking on to his opposing center in d-zone coverage (after a face-off) is pretty basic.

The Video:

Final Comment: The timing of the gaffe (late in the third) in particular was a bummer for the Jets, and likely part of the reason it happened. You get so desperate as a young player to prove your worth that you just wanna get in there and help, make a difference, y’know? In reality, sometimes the best thing to do is just be reliable. As a young player in the d-zone late, the less you have to be the focal point of the play, the better.


#7 Johnny Oduya was inexplicably frozen in time off a lost draw

Backhand Shelf PostSystems Analyst: Oduya, Hjalmarsson, and the cost of missed assignments on a lost d-zone draw

The Main Culprit(s): Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson

The “Oops”: Poor reactions off lost d-zone draw

The “Oops” Frame:

Oduya CPU

The Lesson Learned: Well, for one, be an animate object. If you’re playing freeze tag during a hockey game, you’re likely to struggle defensively. Another important lesson: Justin Williams does a lot of small things well, and is as much the reason for this Kings chance as the Hjalmarsson/Oduya oopsies.

Also, a reminder sponsored by Johnny Oduya: you’re supposed to take Sudafed, not Ambien before the game.

The Video:

Final Comment: Defending lost draws can get complicated because of the pile created by the centermen and the wingers helping out in such a small space. Still, you’re best to assume a lost draw and take your first step (or at least be leaning) in that direction, as correcting for a won draw is a lot easier than getting picked and having to figure it out from there.


#6 The Devils 3-on-2-with-a-backchecker drill goes to pot

Backhand Shelf Post: Systems Analyst: Defending a 3-on-2 with a backchecker doesn’t need to be this difficult

The Main Culprit(s): Kovalchuk, Greene and Larsson

The “Oops”: Poor communication, coverage errors on backcheck

The “Oops” Frame:

bad read

The Lesson Learned: Communication is crucial between d-men and backchecking forwards. If the forward takes the wrong guy it’s a problem, but corrections have to be made from there. Otherwise, y’know, this happens.

That really didn’t need to be so complex, and actually, If Larsson just makes a decent read, it probably isn’t. But one breakdown can lead to two, and two can lead to whatever that was.

The Video:

Final comment: The snowball effect of errors is amazing – this defensive effort breaks down fast. It’s also pretty amazing how much of a difference a half-step makes in this game. If Kovalchuk has that half-step more and is clearly on the puck carrier, I bet things get sorted rather easily.


#5 The Penguins abandon a set plan for Operation Desperation

Backhand Shelf Post: This chaotic Flyers’ goal against the Penguins makes for the first good Harlem Shake video

The Main Culprit(s): F**k, I dunno, the entire state of Pennsylvania? (It starts with Kris Letang getting beat out of the corner though.)

The “Oops”: Losing guy out of corner, not taking dance lessons

The “Oops” Frame:

pens flyers harlem shake

The Lesson Learned: The Harlem Shake wasn’t awful for a 31 second period last February.

The Video: You can start here if you waaant…

But the real reason this goal is involved….

Final comment: Remember that goal? Pure mayhem, it was.


#4 The St. Louis Blues allow the Blackhawks a clean 3-0

Backhand Shelf Post: Systems Analyst: The Blackhawks 3-on-0, and why turnovers at the blue are less than ideal

The Main Culprit(s): Chris Stewart and the rest of his unit

The “Oops”: Turnover at blue, over-aggressive D

The “Oops” Frame: 

hawks 3-on-0


The Lesson Learned: “Risk/reward” is a tricky game. Hockey teams don’t take as many risk as fans would like because if the risk doesn’t end in reward…you’re boned.

It was a broken play that led to this, but broken plays are exactly when you need to exercise caution, not take risks. A bad turnover at the blueline by a guy taking the high risk option, combined with pressing D, combined with sheer luck (the Blackhawks change) led to three talented players having half a zone to themselves in alone on Brian Elliot. If that were a practice drill, the tender would be pissed because it’s such an unrealistic situation.

The simple takeaways then, as I mentioned:

* Smart decisions at the bluelines.

* Make sure if you’re going to get aggressive, somebody is back.

* Make goalies practice 3-on-0′s, they love it.

The video:

Final comment: Some risks are truly worth taking, and we get excited when it looks like we’re going to be able to create a scoring chance. Sometimes the perfect storm of oopses happens and your team looks like they’ve been shotgunning PBR’s on the bench.


#3 All of Canada tries to get in Jake McCabe’s shooting lane

Backhand Shelf PostSystems Analyst: The only Canadian to blame for the 1st US goal in the semi-final was all of them

The Main Culprit(s): Canada, the nation itself, the beaver, possibly even poutine

The “Oops”: Falling into desperation mode

The “Oops” Frame:


The Lesson Learned: Sometimes hockey is really hard.

If there’s any takeaway from watching this goal and reading this breakdown, let it be this: don’t try to analyze goals where everybody messes up. I’ve only got five fingers to point, and I think I used every one of ‘em.

The Video:

Final Comment: You appreciate the thought process of all those kids volunteering their body to stop a shot from the point. They’re trying to do good. But when everyone has the same great idea and goes for it…woof. Ideally you’d like your defenders to not form a conga line.


#2 The Buffalo Sabres try to form the pinwheel from Slapshot

Backhand Shelf Post: Nope. We’ve officially entered the “too ridiculous to take seriously” stage of the proceedings.

The Main Culprit(s): Two Sabres and that girl Ogilthorpe slept with

The “Oops”: Lets just cut to the “Oops” frame.

The “Oops” frame:

sabres d

The Lesson Learned: Lesson? What lesson? The Sabres have five regulation wins in 36 tries partly thanks to their love of puck chasing.

The Video:

Final comment: HAHAHA LOLOLOL


And finally, your grand prize winner for most hilarious defensive positioning of the year…

#1 The Leafs defend the hell out of the corner, forget about the net-front

Backhand Shelf Post: (If you can even call this a post…) Backhand Shelf’s shortest Systems Analyst post ever

The Main Culprit(s): Holzer, Liles, Grabovski, Kulemin


The “Oops” Frame:

Leafs on Staal

The Lesson Learned: Don’t. Just…don’t.

The Video:

Final Comment: A good screenshot can really make a defensive lapse into abject comedy, and this was a great example of that. Holy s**t guys, head on a swivel.


It’s been a ridiculous amount of fun breaking down goals over the course of the past couple years under the “Systems Analyst” header (especially when teams submit efforts like the last few above), so thanks to all of you who’ve supported it and submitted suggestions along the way, There will be plenty more in the coming year, so I’m looking forward to churning out more. Thanks for a great 2013!