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.)
This picture has nothing to do with anything aside from the fact that neat pics are neat.
Last night the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings headed into Chicago to play the league-leading Blackhawks, and came out on top thanks to a goal in the final 90 seconds off a draw in the Hawks zone. Dustin Brown walked off the half-wall got a shot, got a rebound (off the defenseman), and buried it.
I was trying to make sense of exactly what happened off that draw from Chicago’s perspective, and have come to the conclusion that there were either multiple missed assignments, or the Blackhawks defend off a lost d-zone draw differently than I ever saw in professional hockey. It’s possible it’s the latter, but I’m definitely leaning towards “some dudes make mistakes,” as hard to believe as that may be late in a game between two great teams.
Here’s the video, then we’ll talk about roles on a lost d-zone draw.
Right off the bat, let me show you MY understanding of defensive roles off this draw if the Hawks were to lose it. (If you want, you can follow up this post with one of the early Backhand Shelf posts I did on lost d-zone draws in “The Whiteboard” category, in which I had apparently just learned to operate a computer. Not that I’m much better with graphics now.)
Okay, let’s talk (you can click the image twice to expand it, if you’re super-duper into this):
This past Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils for the first time in four tries in 2013. Prior to that 2-1 shootout win they actually hadn’t left a game against the Devils with two points in their previous seven tries. Not a great stat when you’re division “rivals.”
The Flyers got to overtime courtesy a Max Talbot goal (from Simon Gagne and Matt Read), which came off a 3-on-2 rush with Ilya Kovalchuk back-checking. It was a bit of a defensive fustercluck.
From junior to college to pro at all levels, the 3-on-2 with a backchecker situation is a common practice drill, and an easily defendable rush as long as the forward and defenseman are on the same page, which is why you practice it so much. You’ll have three forwards with a puck in front of their own net about to go on a rush on two stationary d-men who are parked somewhere around the blueline. Then you have a backchecker on a knee that’ll leave (from a couple steps behind) when the offensive line does.
There’s a pretty basic, universal way to deal with this: if the backchecker can catch the puck carrier early (by say, the center red), he can go nuts. If he can’t, then he’s to take the wide, puck-less player. That way the two d-men can deal with the puck carrier and the guy who will likely drive the mid-lane, leaving the guy who’s most likely to be the high forward on the rush triangle (who is therefore most likely to slow down) to be dealt with by the backchecker.
Let’s watch how smoothly the Devils demonstrate this.
Last night’s game between the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs was not one that would make a lot of coaches happy. It was great fun to watch as a fan, as mass quantities of defensive lapses led to sacks-full of legitimate scoring opportunities, but anyone breaking down film of that game would have days of work ahead of them.
For my part, I’ll be looking at two similar plays. In both cases, the d-man tries to slide to break up a 2-on-1 (sort of, we’ll get there). One does it well, the other…well, we’re doing a Systems Analyst post of the goal, so you guess how it goes.
First off, the d-man slide:
A defenseman’s job on a 2-on-1 is to take the pass (despite how I’d like to see it played). Standing, he has the length of two feet and a stick-blade to stop the puck with. If he times a slide right, he has six feet of lane blocked, and a higher (and wider) frame to have to sauce the puck over. So, the key is timing.
You want so drop around the moment that it’s decision time for the player, and slide backwards off the inside post (as sliding backwards and taking out your own goalie is a pretty terrible defensive play).
First, we’ll look at Cody Franson doing it against Casey Cizikas. The play eventually results in a goal, but whatever, he did all he could on the 2-on-1. Read the rest of this entry »