Goal Breakdown: Geometry Lessons

Posted by The Coach on December 04, 2013
Columbus Blue Jackets

So I haven’t posted a goal breakdown yet this season. Bad job by me. Sorry about that team. Anyway, what better goal to start it off with than Nick Foligno’s beauty on Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning. First things first though, some context for the goal: we’re almost five minutes into the second period in a game locked at zeroes. Both goalies are playing well, with Sergei Bobrovsky looking like last season’s Bob, and Ben Bishop looking like he’s looked all year. For those not following along with the Lightning, Bishop is in the top five or so in pretty much every relevant goaltending statistic. With all that happening, this game looked like it could be a ‘first goal wins’ kind of game, which is exactly how it played out. For those who have somehow missed it or just want to watch it again, here is video of the goal:

So before I get started, let me discuss the changes to NHL.com’s video. Namely, I hate it. I used to be able to maximize the video and pause it nicely to get great, clear screenshots. Now? I can’t do that from the clips. I either have to hunt down clips from other sources, or use Game Center Live, which doesn’t work quite as well for this purpose. But anyway, enough with my problems, on to the Lightning’s issues.

Let’s start this a bunch earlier than any video clip of it would. Foligno lays a hit on Teddy Purcell, who turns it over right to RJ Umberger, who gets a shot on goal. The rebound pops out to Matt Carle, who moves it up the boards to Purcell again. Tampa is in great shape here, as Purcell has solid possession, with both Martin St. Louis and Valterri Filppula available as options, and plenty of space to chip it out. Ryan Murray and James Wisniewski have backed off quite a bit. This should be an easy out for the Lightning.


There is a reason why coaches tell players the bluelines are the most important area on the ice. Alternatively, if you get the puck to your own blueline, you better get it out (or get it in from the opponents blueline). Here, Purcell tries to dangle Umberger, and fails hard. A very dumb play, considering he had Martin St. Louis a chip pass away, and Filppula all alone in space. Note that Foligno isn’t even in the frame here.


Umberger wins the puck battle here, but Foligno has to bust ass to get onside. The Lightning forwards go for a few nice swings through the neutral zone (more hair pulling for Cooper I presume), allowing the Jackets the possibility of a quick counterattack, as Foligno has speed, Umberger has space, and the Lightning are caught up ice, including defenseman Andrej Sustr who has kept pace up ice with Foligno.


Sustr makes a nice play, forcing Umberger to the boards, and Purcell hustles back to help him out. Foligno provides puck support down low (should RJ be able to kick/chip the puck down), with Johansen supporting up high and coming in to help. He wouldn’t even pick up a point on this goal, but none of this happens without a fantastic shift from Umberger.


Johansen comes in, takes the puck from Sustr, and starts to break to the net with it. Unfortunately, the puck is bouncing around, and St. Louis and Filppula backcheck enough to get some back pressure on him. This is about the point where the clip above kicks in by the way. The Lightning still look to be in good shape here. Johansen has a bouncing puck, with two guys putting pressure on him, Carle back defending, and no simple outlets for Johansen.


The puck hops Johansen’s stick, Filppula grabs it, and the Lightning look to be off to the races. Instead, Johansen has a better idea. He makes a couple of great hustle plays, first knocking the puck away from Filppula, then beating Carle to the lose puck. Look at the screenshot below and take in the Lightning players. All of them are moving up ice, and Bishop is totally unprepared for what is about to transpire.


Okay the next screenshot shows the result of Johansen’s perfect pass into space near Foligno. Nicky manages to corral the puck from his skates, and has tons of time, due to the Tampa players jumping up ice previously. Here is where we get to the geometry lesson. More specifically, angles. Ben Bishop is HUGE. He’s the biggest goalie in the league. Foligno is getting the puck in too tight to have a good angle for a shot, and without enough speed to really open up Bishop’s five hole with a move.


Now take a look at the image below. I imagine Foligno’s first instinct was to pull the puck wide and try to roof it. But Bishop is just too damn big, and Foligno is flat-footed, so Bishop’s left pad and glove are already in position. Foligno needs to find a new angle to finish.


Now Foligno has gone through his legs. Bishop has his stick down to cover the five hole, which opens up high blocker. Most guys cutting across the crease are trying to open up the five-hole. But most guys cutting across the crease like this are going too fast to come back the other way like this. It’s not even a flashy play at all, just a smart one. This bears a stronger resemblance to Rick Nash using the between the legs move to roof it in tight than it does Tomas Hertl using it on a breakaway. Bishop gave him one open spot, and this was the only feasible move to put it in that spot.


Goalies are better than ever at cutting down angles, and the reductions in equipment recently have meant they need to be a little more aggressive to have the angles fully covered. This¬†necessitates¬†finding some new angles to score from. This is why I think we’re seeing so much more of this move. It is a creative way to create a new shooting angle. It isn’t showboating, flashy, classless, or any other stupid word used by morons to stir up some controversy. It’s just a smart play, by a smart player to create a new angle considering what the goalie has given him.

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