Tuesday, February 2, 2010

AOAG: Hockey Gods, Free Safeties, and Long Bombs

Hello Again, PredNation,

Tonight the Preds will face off in a big game against the Western Conference rival Phoenix Coyotes.  Less than two weeks ago, the Preds lost to the Coyotes in Phoenix, thanks in large part to a Scottie Upshall hat-trick.  (Good thing Upshall will be out tomorrow with a serious knee injury).  In the last outing, Upshall benefitted from a touch of defensive breakdown, coupled with a rash of bad luck.  Hopefully, the Preds return to their defensively sound selves and pick up the win.

 In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, lets examine how the hockey gods will spite defensemen who are out of position.
The Video

The Breakdown

The action starts with a Phoenix turnover in the offensive zone, with the Defenseman Ryan Suter (D, #20) bringing the puck in deep.

1.   Suter, as a defenseman, knows that he is in too far into the zone.  That is not a problem however, as Defenseman often carry the puck in deep if they are the beneficiaries of a turnover, as is the case here.  Suter has two options.  He can either make a safe play and dump the puck around the boards (to no one, which may well result in a turnover on his part), or he can make a drop-pass behind him to a Predator on the rush.  He chooses the later option with the drop pass.

2.  Patrick Hornqvist (RW #27) collects the bouncing puck.  He has no immediate options with the puck, so he too passes backwards to defenseman Dan Hamhuis (D, #2).

3.  The problem with Hornqvist's drop pass is that Suter is still deep in the offensive zone.  He is, however, making a mad dash back toward where he is supposed to be, i.e. at the blue line.

4.  Hamhuis receives the pass and attempts the shot.  Notice that his shooting lane (in red) is full of traffic.  This can be a good thing, as pucks tend to bounce through/in traffic and into the net.  Also, goalies have a hard time seeing pucks through traffic.  However, the odds of hitting someone, and thus turning the puck over are alot higher.

5.  Hamhuis is the last man back, which makes the shot an ill-advised one.  If Hamhuis and Suter were in position (at the LD and RD spots in blue), then taking the shot would be less risky.  However, as Hamhuis is the "free safety" if you will (i.e. he is the last one back), he does not want to turn the puck over.

6.  The play of the play.  This is where the hockey gods spite Suter and Hamhuis for being out of position.  Three really terrible things happen, all in this frame: (a) Immediately after the shot, "free safety" Hamhuis gets tripped (and no penalty is called), (b) the puck hits Suter and does not make it to the net, and (c) because the puck hits Suter, he turns around to try to find/play the puck.  As a result, no defensemen are back playing defense.

7.  Phoenix recovers the puck.  Scottie Upshall sees that Suter is down and starts sprinting down ice.  His linemate sees this, and makes a sweet "long bomb" past Suter (who is still trying to get up to full speed).  Hamhuis, as free safety, is completely out of position due to the trip.  Now its a foot race and Upshall has a head start.

8.  Think of the "long bomb" pass like a VY "lame duck" than a Peyton Manning bullet.  The puck does not make it cleanly to Upshall's stick, but instead is in his skates.  None-the-less, Upshall has such a jump on Suter, that Upshall can play the puck with his skates and kick it out to his stick.

9.  Suter never has a chance to catch up.  Upshall makes a nifty move, and gets the hat-trick.  The Preds go on to lose an important game against a fellow playoff contender.


Was this play just a rash of bad luck at the absolute wrong time.  Did the tripping non-call sink the preds?Some might blame Suter for not getting back into position.  Others might blame Hamhuis for taking an ill advised shot.  Vote your opinion below.  Whatever you think the culprit is, hopefully it won't reappear in tonight's rematch.

The Poll

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