• About That Tying Goal…

    by  • October 13, 2013 • Hockey • 4 Comments

    Steve Simmons:

    The online statistical geniuses, who make their hockey assessments via charts and graphs, all but murdered Dave Nonis when he traded for Jonathan Bernier.

    They screamed in unison: The Bernier deal made no sense. Because the Maple Leafs had a long-term keeper in James Reimer in goal. He had the numbers to prove it. They yelled that Nonis doesn’t know what he’s doing and that tone continued throughout the summer after the deal for David Bolland, the buyout of Mikhail Grabovski, the signings of David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak and the awkward contract negotiations of Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.

    Nonis was hired last January to run the Leafs and just about the first thing he did was call Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi to inquire about Bernier. He called often. Nonis thought they had a deal done last January and again last February, but each time circumstances prevented it from happening.

    The deal eventually got done in June — and while many disagree with me, I say on the cheap. What Bernier has displayed in the early season borders on the remarkable. His style — calm, in control, square to the puck — makes him look capable of being one of the truly great goalies in the game and all the save percentage shouters have been silenced.

    The Roberto Luongo trade in Vancouver used to be Nonis’ signature deal. It’s entirely possible the Bernier deal will surpass that piece of hockey thievery.

    I believe that the phrase Steve is looking for is “shoved it up the backside of his critics.”

    * * *

    Damien Cox:

    Now, I’ve been known to behave like an Aussie PM on Twitter the odd time:

    That said, I’m pretty sure the initial comment there was serious. Between him and Simmons, it’s a pretty knee jerk lot here in Toronto. You’d think nobody’d ever seen a goalie string a few good games together (I’m giving Simmons the benefit of the doubt that he wrote his column before tonight) or a first overall draft pick struggle a little bit early in his career.

    * * *

    There’s not much to be said about the horrific dropping of the point in Toronto. Worse, the Oilers dropping a point meant that the Leafs got two. The winning goal was what it was – RNH was punched to the ice while Justin Schultz was oblivious to what was developing, a 3 on 1 ensued and I was left to contemplate the ugly turn the game had taken over the last three minutes after I’d been loudly gloating to all within hearing distance at the ACC after the Oilers fifth goal.

    Obviously, there’s no lesson that I can learn from that. It’s worth examining the 5-5 goal though, because I think that we can learn a few things from that. As I watched the 5-5 goal unfold, I had a series of probabilities going through my mind. When Dubnyk caught the puck off the initial shot and dropped it for the player who happened to be beside him, I thought “OK, so Dubnyk’s traded the risk inherent in a faceoff for a situation that’s akin to a faceoff win, with the defenceman there to shoot the puck around the boards.”

    A crappy clearance attempt later, the Leafs had the puck at the point and I thought “OK, so the probabilities have now changed and this is analogous to a team that’s just lost a faceoff, possibly a little worse because they aren’t as positionally structured.” Ten seconds after that, I was being serenaded by chants of “Where’s your fire drill?” by people who didn’t understand what it means when you chant “Is there a fire drill?” at people leaving early. Ugh.

    The tying goal though…the sequence of events leading up to that was somewhat unusual. Here’s the faceoff leading up to the goal. Hemsky at RW, Hall at LW, RNH at C.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.25.51 AM

    A few seconds later, Hall has swung around to the top of the slot, RNH is still tied up in the faceoff and Hemsky is the high blur in the slot.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.28.28 AM

    Everyone on the Oilers falls back into the neutral zone except Hall, who provides some token pressure on the Leafs.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.28.52 AM

    The Leafs break out pretty easily and attack the neutral zone. Note how there are four Oilers.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.29.42 AM

    The Leafs succeed in entering the Oilers zone and…hey – see that blur beside Dubnyk? That’s Ales Hemsky. He’s apparently just turned and skated all the way back to the defensive zone while the rest of the players moved up the ice along with the puck.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.30.45 AM

    So what do we have now? A flat footed Ales Hemsky with pressure coming at him and the net in his way, hoping to rim the puck around and out, with a Leaf well positioned to cut it off.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 2.33.02 AM

    The whole sequence is fascinating in terms of the tactical decisions. I am assuming that Hemsky was instructed to do what he did and that he wasn’t doing it of his own volition. I’d be fascinating to hear Dallas Eakins’ reasoning here and how he convinced himself that this is the right way to do things. As I see it, there are a lot of costs here.

    It all starts with a faceoff in the Leafs zone with 50 seconds left. At some point in the next 50 seconds, they’re going to lose possession, likely in the Leafs zone, at which point, Hemsky will go back and the scheme will play out.

    By running things the way that they did, the situation became very similar to 4v5. With minimal forechecking, the Leafs become freer to exit their zone than they otherwise would be. I suspect, although I don’t know, that they also become more likely to enter the Oilers zone by way of a carry than they otherwise and that an attempted zone entry of some sort is inevitable. This all increases the risk of a shot.

    What do you gain from this? Well, I assume that what they were hoping to gain was a player to cut off a dump-in and send it back out of the defensive zone or, possibly, prevent a faceoff that comes from a dump-in. Is that gain worth increasing the likelihood of the puck being carried in? I’m not so sure, although I don’t have any hard data on the issue.

    The tradeoff is the guy down low, Hemsky. The attempted clearance was pretty lousy, although that’s a tougher clear than it looks. From that position, you can’t just bank it out, you have to rim it, which takes some steam off the puck. He’s flatfooted, so skating it out is impossible. I don’t like to judge process from result but it seems like a play that has to go perfectly right in order to work. Hopefully someone raises this with Eakins before the next game – I’d be interested to have him confirm that it was deliberate and hear a little about the process that he goes through to determine that something like this is a good tactic. It’s the sort of thing that could be answered analytically, I think – if Eakins or someone else has done the work, I’d be excited to hear about it.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    4 Responses to About That Tying Goal…

    1. MrCCCondor
      October 13, 2013 at

      Does this GIF relate to the play in question? http://goldandorsmith.com/GIFs/DallasEakinsWhiteboardSpedUp.gif

      Stole this from Reddit

    2. Tom Benjamin
      October 13, 2013 at

      I sure wish we had a shot – from the faceoff – of an end zone camera. It isn’t clear to me what Hemsky was doing. But then it isn’t clear to me what any of the Oilers are doing out there. I don’t agree with dropping back after losing the faceoff, but that’s defensible as long as you use the bodies to clog the neutral zone. Kessel gets the puck from Franzen right in front of Bernier and he zips it into the Leaf zone without an Oiler getting within five feet of the puck. How on earth does that happen?

      There may be a tactical error buried in there somewhere, but I can’t believe “Let’s back up until the Leafs have it in our zone” was part of any plan.

    3. M
      October 13, 2013 at

      Hemsky is the guy down low, who ended up with the puck after Dubnyk dropped it?

      A baffling play by Hemsky, then. He shoots it towards the area that he is supposed to be covering in the defensive zone, but obviously the problem is he’s not there and the Leafs are going to get the puck back. Unless he was hoping to shoot it hard enough to get it out, but as you said, from that side of the net, with 6 Leafs on the ice, it’s pretty difficult.

    4. chris
      October 26, 2013 at

      I think belov (or someone) was supposed to be at the faceoff dot to accept a hemsky pass but instead collapsed towards the net, giving hemsky a split second to try to make the best of a blown play.

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