Sunday, December 20, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Getting Seperation from Your Defender

Another amazing win for the Predators, puts them tied for first (and 1 1/2 games out of seventh?!) in the crazy Western Conference.  In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, we'll examine the importance of offensive players' ability to separate from defenders (or as they'd say in football "create space").  On the Predator's first goal of the game, Jared Smithson's ability to separate sets up Martin Erat for a relatively easy first goal of the game.

Video Highlights



Video Breakdown


1. Red hot Martin Erat (Preds RW #10) and all-star defenseman Dion Phaneuf (Flames D #3) are chasing the puck into the corner.  Phaneuf (6'3'', 210 lbs.) is bigger and hits much harder than Erat.  Who, however, will be faster into the corner and around the boards?

2. Predators offensive players, including Jerred Smithson (#25) are breaking toward the net.


3. Erat's speed beats out Phaneuf.  Because Erat has half a step on Phaneuf, Phaneuf is not in a position to plaster Erat into the boards.

4.  Predators offenseive guys are still driving to the net.  Smithson is closer, but has a man on him.  He is going to find space by going to the net, backing up at a critical moment, as traced out by the dotted line.

5. This predator has a straight shot to the front of the net and takes it, in the hopes of tying up the defender there and getting traffic in front.


6.  Erat not only wins the footrace but is able to gain several steps on Phaneuf.  He is too far out to curl back toward the net to attempt a shot.  (For another look at why defensive speed is so important, check out the first "anatomy of a play" on why defensive speed is so important).

7.  Look at Smithson hit the breaks hard and start to inch backward toward the open whole where he used to be... sneaky sneaky.


8.  Erat waits until Phaneuf is almost on him, and the other Flame defender has moved futher toward the bottom of the screen.  This creates a great passing lane for Erat back to Hamhuis at the blue line.

9.  Look how much space is between Smithson and Phaneuf now.  I don't think Phaneuf knows he lost his man.


10.  Dan Hamhuis is wide open for the shot.  He takes it and fires at the net.


11.  The rebound pops out and Smithson is opportunistically right in front of it.  However, he has defenders closing fast, and the goalie would be in good position to make the save, despite the traffic in front.  Instead he will make the decision to make the quick pass to Erat.

12.  Now it is Erat who has found the open space, leaving Phaneuf a few feet lower closer to the net.


13.  Erat gets the quick pass and fires.  Phaneuf realizes he is out of position and breaks toward Erat, but its too late.  The goalie has to quickly move from his right to left, but it is also too late.  Goal Predators!

Wrap Up

Two keys to this play in my opinion.  First, the hard work and quick staking of Erat to get the puck in the corner and beat Phaneuf. Second, and probably more importantly, the ability of Smithson to find the whole in the defense and thus be open for an opportunistic pass.  That's all for this installment.  Lets' go Preds!

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