Friday, December 18, 2009

Anatomy of a Goal: Grit and Driving to the Net

A great win for the predators last night.  What I loved most about this game (besides the first period rally) is how similar and gritty almost every goal was.  Hard work, traffic in front of the net, and all of that good stuff.  A true team effort.  As Brandon Felder mentioned in a good piece of postgame analysis, two game ago the preds had seven different goal scorers.  Last night: five.  In this edition of "Anatomy of a Goal", lets examine Ryan Jones' prototypical goal, to see why hard work and traffic in front is the current key the Preds' scoring success.

Video Replay

Video Breakdown

1.  Ryan Jones (#28) and the Oiler defenseman are battling for position on the puck.  The Oiler defenseman has the slightest of edges, but nothing that Ryan can't overcome.
2. Once the puck crosses the blue line, Wade Belak (Preds #3) is free to drive down the middle (a.k.a. "the slot").  A defender is not immediately on him, so he will have an easy time doing so.

3. Belak is able to continue into the zone.  Because no defender is on top of him, he is able to stay parallel with the puck as it goes deeper into the zone.
4. Jones and the Defender are now in a full on battle for the puck.  Jones does an excellent job of using his body to attempt to out-muscle the Oiler.
5.  The other two oiler defenseman are in good position, letting the play come to them.  They could choose to be more agressive, but there is no need on this play.  It appears that the puck will continue harmlessly into the corner.

6.  Jones makes an amazing move with his stick right here.  Its so quick, its very easy to miss.  Jones uses stick to lift the defenders stick off of the puck.  Once that happens, Jones quickly lowers his own stick and makes a great pass to the open Belak (#3).

7. Seeing the pass (the puck is circled in black), the oiler defenseman collapse on Belak.  So now one defenseman is covering Jones, and two are covering Belak.  Nick Spaling (Preds #13) is all alone at the bottom of the screen.

8.  As Belak gets the puck, the defenseman who was guarding Jones follows the play, and now three Oilers are tracking Belak.  Keep in mind folks, Belak is our enforcer... not a goal scorer.   He is almost below the goal, and the puck is on his backhand.  The is able to get off a shot, but it is an incredibly low percentage shot.  The point is that having three Oilers responsible for him is too many, and someone(s) is letting their defensive assignment slip. Jones is uncovered, and Spaling is unnoticed.

9.  Now all four Oilers in the shot are watching Belak's low percentage shot, which has missed and is dangerously in front of the net.  The Oilers ALL have their back to the crashing Jones and Spaling.  Meanwhile, Jones and Spaling are driving to the net... hard.  The correct defensive play here would be for one of the Oilers to "Play the Man", and get in the way and stop Spaling and Jones from getting to the net.  However, the Oilers are instead "Playing the Puck", which means they are all looking for the puck so they can knock or pass it away from the goal.

10.  Belak's rebound is picked up by Jones, who is easily able to chip in puck.  Jones's shot is from just a few feet out, and no one touches him.  Goal!  Also, notice all the traffic around the Oiler goaltender.  It becomes very hard find the puck (much less save the puck) with that much traffic in front.

Wrap Up

What is great about this goal is that it shows that the Preds are fighting for the puck and are working hard to get to the net.  The first five predator goals of the game look almost idential to this one!  For highlgihts of those goals, click here.

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