That night the Stanley Cup Final opened, which saw Chicago win the game in triple overtime by a score of 4-3. I thought the Hawks did a good job at times of making quality support passes to soft areas in the Bruins layers, so when I did my 10 takeaways from Game 1, I wrote this:
3. Blackhawks passes to soft areas in the offensive zone
One thing I noticed early (and I wrote this note about 10 minutes into the game) was Chicago creating opportunities by finding the soft areas in Boston’s coverage, and making great passes. And to be clear, I don’t mean the usual soft areas, this was different. It’s something elite teams can do that the dregs can’t. Use vision and skill to pass to areas you don’t usually see players. It was pretty clear they’ve taken a long, hard look at how Boston defends and decided to make the conscious effort to avoid the normal “set” offensive spots.
I don’t love how I worded that, because when I wrote it I was really thinking about a few three-to-five foot passes the Hawks made to get the puck to dangerous areas, and it was effective. Read the rest of this entry »
The concept of defensive “layers” is not unique to the Boston Bruins; in fact, it’s pretty ubiquitous around the NHL at this point. I first came across the system in the ECHL when I played for die-hard layer afficianado Davis Payne, now of the Los Angeles Kings. As far as the terminology goes when it comes to explaining it, the language of hockey is not universal, so it often feels like one coach is teaching something different when that’s not the case at all. Some people call a delay an escape, some people call a mid-lane drive a net-lane drive, and some people call layers “stacking,” or whatever the heck they feel like. Either way, variations of what we’re about to talk about (with different points of emphasis) exist all over.
The Bruins execute using layers particularly well, so I figured today would be a good day to explain the concept so you know what you’re looking for tonight.
On its face the idea is basic: just because a player on your team gets beat one-on-one doesn’t mean your opponent is free and clear. Without layers, that’s how it was for me in Junior B, the BCHL, and the NCAA. You had your responsibility, and if you blew, you were giving up a grade A scoring opportunity. You were killing the team.
As a right winger playing that older style, the left d-man was my responsibility. Black, white. I was to be within a stick’s length of him when on the strong side, and he was not to get a shot through to the net (mild exaggeration below, but you get the idea).
He often did because I was really not that fond of getting hit with frozen hockey pucks, but I faked doing my job pretty well. Read the rest of this entry »
Not an image from the play in question, but hey, it’s Doughty at the point, good enough.
Last night I was watching the Los Angeles Kings’ top powerplay unit of Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Doughty and Muzzin threaten the Sharks net a couple times before ringing the puck off the post when a couple things stuck out to me. The Sharks’ penalty killing unit of Burish, Desjardins, Stuart and Hannan were often forced to make tough decisions, and that’s how the Kings got the opportunity that led to the very-near goal.
I wanted to break down the play and explain just what happens as I do in most Systems Analyst posts, but here’s the thing: to break it down as I usually would, I’d have to explain the role of all nine players in some depth, and that would take a couple chapters in a book.
SO. I guess what we’re left with is somewhat of an advanced post. You’ll likely need some basic positional knowledge to understand the points I’m making.
Here’s the play, and below we’ll look at the tough decisions penalty killers have to make.
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.
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Defending skilled players, especially the Sedins who deserve oh-so-much more than the word “skilled,” is a difficult job even when it’s just a one-on-one situation. When it’s more than one-on-one, communication becomes crucial.
When you’re defending in-zone, things more or less break down to man-on-man coverage with support. As in, “I’ve got this guy, but if a dude walks into the slot with the puck, of course I’m going to scrap my guy for the good of preventing a golden opportunity.”
But before you can get to man-on-man, before you can get into the positions that provide layers of help for one another, you need to start in clearly defined roles. “I’ve got him, you’ve got him, okay, we can work it from here.”
In the clip below, the Oilers never get settled in after a near-scoring chance on a Canucks’ rush, and instead default to the position coaches tell you to default to when you’re not sure who you’ve got and are trying to sort things out. In this case, they never really get sorted.
Let’s take a look, then dive in.
(The YouTube clip, which I prefer to use because NHL.com’s pre-roll is ridiculous – I tallied 17 commercial views while making this post – doesn’t go back as far, so the first screenshots aren’t from the above video.)