Random Observations on Random Plays

Posted by The Coach on February 03, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets

This post is a little scatterbrained. There isn’t really a common thread here, it doesn’t really fit into any kind of “narrative” whether that’s the Jackets season as a whole, their current playoff battle (currently 3rd in the Metro Division!), or even a narrative within itself. It’s just a bunch of video, a screenshot, and some commentary a few smaller items that I’ve noticed from the Jackets over the last couple of weeks. As with their play, it’s predominantly positive. There’s a couple of negative plays, so let’s start there. Beware, there are a LOT of videos, so this may take a minute or thirty-seven to load.

Section One: The Negative (or Keep It Simple Stupid)

Fun fact: Ryan Murray makes mistakes.

Murray makes a fantastic play to escape trouble in the corner, and follows it up with a dumb play. I see what he is trying to do here, but he has clear lane to pass up the middle and just doesn’t. Either make that pass, or make sure you get it past the first forechecker. A turnover there is an automatic odd man rush the other way.


This one starts with a beautiful pass by Nikitin (as Rimer is talking about how bad they have passed all night), but Arty man, take the shot there. He has a clean look, but forces something overly fancy to Horton, and Emery easily took away all the angles. If he really wants to get it to Horton there, he should try shooting far side low. Maybe it sneaks in, maybe it comes right off the pad to Horton, who then has an open net. The spin move looked nice, but maybe save if for when it actually makes sense.


Watch for Boone on this clip.

Another example of someone passing up an easy play. This time, it doesn’t even make sense. The easy play here is also the home run play, with Anisimov dashing up the left side. Boone could have just put it into space and let Arty skate into it. Instead, he forces a pass to Horton, Bobby Ryan picks it off and gets a shot. I wonder if they are just trying too hard to get Horton involved, as that is two bad decisions to force the puck to Horton when a smarter play was right there.


This one is obvious.

Another bad breakout turnover coming right after a great Ryan Murray play (check him getting the puck clear of trouble on a tough forecheck). Wiz forces it to the far side (at leas this was a home run pass), when he had Ryan Johansen up the middle for the easy breakout.


The Positive, Which Is WAY More Random

Here’s a nifty little set faceoff play. Specifically, watch Calvert, Cam and Dubinsky off the draw.

Calvert wheels around and opens up to the pass from the point, Dubi slides down low to open up for a pass from Calvert, and Cam finds dead space in front. If this comes off clean, it’s a bam-bam-bam-bam passing play from the faceoff to the point to Calvert, to Dubinsky, to Cam for the one-timer. I’ve seen them run a switch like that off the faceoffs with some regularity, so look for this specific iteration. This really underscores the value of a guy like Dubinsky. You can run faceoff plays without having to worry too much about dedicating the wingers to chipping in on faceoffs.


No video for this one, as they generally don’t send out highlight clips in which nothing really happens. But this is just a heads up play from Derek Mackenzie. The background: Nathan Horton is in the box, the Flyers are on the PP, and Fedor Tyutin takes a crosschecking penalty in front of the net. Then this happens:

DMac Smarty

That is a screencap of Mark Streit trying to pass the puck to DMac. That is usually a smart play for the team on the PP. You want to get to the 5v3 as fast as possible, giving yourself the most time in the most advantageous game state. So Streit passes it right to DMac. Who just stands there, not touching the puck. It last maybe a second before Streit picks it up again, but it totally disrupted the flow of the Flyers PP, killed a couple second total, and took away a few extra seconds of 5v3 time. 


Watch Calvert on this Jack Johnson shot on Anton Khudobin

Oh hey, remember that faceoff switch thing I mentioned earlier? Here it is again, but with a different wrinkle. I’m guessing this is a bit of a broken play, as Dubi doesn’t win it hard to the point. Johnson pinches down on the puck, but watch Calvert. He makes a very nice, very subtle little pick to give Johnson enough room to pick up the puck, get deep, and even get a little bit of a chance off it.

Ryan Johansen’s Patience (And Other Virtues)

Johansen gets his own bolded section. I was going to include just the first clip, but then I got sucked down the rabbit-hole of Johansen showing patience at opportune moments and had to expand it. Oh boy did I expand it.

Nice play to buy time, wait for Johnson to jump into the play (who smartly goes to open space on the far side instead of just filling a lane up the middle), and find the rebound. This was the obvious choice, and the one that got me thinking about how much more patient he has been this year, how it has helped his game jump a notch, and led to the rest of these gems.


Watch for Johansen on the RJ Umberger shot.

This one is a mirror image to the previous video, but instead of finding the a trailer, he lasers a ridiculous pass to Umberger for a glorious chance. I think a year ago he’s have tried to force something inside and it would have been a turnover. His improved strength has been a big part of his leap this year, but I think plays like the ones in this series are just as important. Oh and his stupid good level of skill helps too.


Some more nice patience here from the Johan. Foligno is the high forward, Umberger covers for Murray’s pinch, and Johansen is all alone down low for a bit. Instead of forcing something, he just holds off the defender and waits. This one also shows off his strength, as he makes Ron Hainsey look like a peewee. And a small peewee player at that.


Watch this feed to Horton for a shot on Craig Anderson.

The extra beat he takes before feeding Horton gives him the space to get a clean shot off. Again, I think a year ago he forces that puck in right away. That extra half second pulls the defender closer to himself, opening up the seam for the pass and the shot. That is something I’ve really noticed from Johansen. He seems to not just look at the passing lanes, but the shooting lanes too. Often guys are only seeing WHERE a teammate is, and if they can get them the puck. Johansen sees where his teammate is, if he can get them the puck, and what he needs to do for that teammate to get off the best shot possible.


Not as much with this one, but he bobbles the puck and just has complete calm and patience. No panic whatsoever, just opens up, collects the puck and gets off a good scoring chance.


Watch Johansen in the neutral zone as Umberger is sprung for a shot on goal.

That’s a smart pick play in the neutral zone. Nothing too fancy, but he doesn’t try to do too much, is aware of where everyone is, and the Jackets get a scoring chance out of it.


Keep your eye on Johansen this entire clip. So much goodness.

A two for one to close it out. He makes a very smart play in the defensive zone at the very start of the clip. He has no options, so he just lobs it out of the zone. It’s not easy to field that pop-fly and immediately head back the other way with it. That allows the Blue Jackets to recover the puck in the neutral zone (and leads to a nice skill play by Johansen). The next part is subtle and so smart. Watch the angle he takes as he enters the Canes zone. He pulls to the outside ever so slightly, which opens up Foligno’s lane to the net, and more importantly opens up a passing lane to Umberger. Most players would be tempted to bear down and just try and beat the defender wide. That is just smart, patience hockey from a young guy who has really blossomed this year.

So yeah, there you have it. A few observations from the last few weeks. To sum up: make smart plays, don’t force the puck to Horton, watch out for set faceoff plays with Dubi on the draw, Ryan Murray is really good (but can muff it every now and then), and Ryan Johansen is really good, really smart, and really patient with the puck. So keep those things in mind as the Jackets head west to close it out before the Olympic break.

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