Frame by Frame Analysis: Goligoski Goofs, Goose Gets Goal

Offensive player movement in the defensive zone is a great thing when you're on offense. It makes it much more difficult for the defending team to figure out who's covering who, and if you can confuse just one guy? Your chances of scoring go waaay up.

The holiday weekend means that I have an extra day to do stuff that I don't normally have the time to do during the week, so here's a big thanks to Christopher Columbus for all the wonderful stuff he did that now gives us have an extra day off work (I love The Oatmeal, I couldn't resist the link). Enjoy this special-edition Columbus Day Weekend Frame by Frame, and have a great Monday!

2nd Nashville Goal

Paul Gaustad (1) on Anders Lindback, from Taylor Beck (1) and Eric Nystrom (1)

Today we're going to focus on who covers who when players start shifting around in the defensive zone, how it can get confusing, and why good communication is such an important part of playing effective defensive hockey.

Instead of coloring names by team today, I colored them by pairings: who is supposed to be covering who. At certain points there are multicolored names, which indicates that a pairing is changing (or about to change). It's not that confusing, but I'll explain it a bit more anyway when it comes up.

Off we go!

We're entering the play right after Roman Josi (not seen - top left) was able to hold the line and dump the puck back into the Stars' defensive zone. Nystrom and Goligoski are the two closest to the puck and go to battle for it along the boards. Because Goose is down in the corner, he will be the responsibility of center Tyler Seguin, who is currently (and correctly) guarding the slot while defenseman Trevor Daley meanders back down into position. Taylor Beck, as the remaining Predator not engaged in a battle for the puck, will head to the slot and therefore become Daley's responsibility. Jamie Benn currently doesn't have a friend, which is why his name is in black.

So far so good. Nystrom was able to poke the puck down the boards to Goose, who was immediately covered by Seguin. Goose passes the puck behind the net for Beck to go get. This one's pretty simple.

At this point, because the puck is up for grabs, the Stars are going to have an extra man in on the puck to try and regain possession, making this a 2-on-1 against Taylor Beck. Daley not only sees Beck going to the right side of the net, but also notices Seguin on the right side as he leaves Goose and goes to battle Beck (hence why Seguin's name is now half-blue; he's leaving his pairing with Gaustad and joining Daley and Beck). Daley therefore decides to cut Beck's escape route off by going around the left side of the net. This is a smart move because it gives Beck less time and space to maneuver, which forces him to make a quick decision, and hopefully leads to him coughing up the puck.

Nystrom sees this all going down and starts hauling ass back up the ice to cover the center and left sides of the zone for Beck in case he (1) is unable to get the puck back to Goose and goes the other direction or (2) loses the battle with the puck and Daley or Seguin flings it up the left side boards.

This moment is where Goligoski needs to decide when to start communicating with his teammates (hint: soon). As a defenseman, he doesn't need to (and shouldn't) follow Nystrom all the way up through the zone; instead, he needs to make sure the weak-side wing* (Sceviour) is aware of what's going on and will take responsibility for Nystrom. By passing off the responsibility of covering Nystrom to Sceviour, Goligoski is now free to cover the front of the net and watch for any free-roaming players (honk honk).

* For anyone unfamiliar with the term, the weak-side wing is the guy who is on the opposite side of the ice from the puck.

This is where things start to get a bit complicated, and this is exactly why defensive breakdowns happen and lead to goals. You have 8 to 10 different guys all covering each other and when you have to swap coverage, it's easy to stop talking because you're concentrating on the play, which leads to guys covering the wrong guys. Let's break this down pair by pair.

  • Seguin left Goose and is now a committed member of the Daley-Beck-Seguin Party
  • Goose is now uncovered
  • Nystrom is leaving Goligoski and heading up ice; we initially said that he should be Sceviour's man because he's the weak-side wing, but because Sceviour is now focused on cutting Beck off, Benn (as the center) will cover Nystrom in his stead
  • Goligoski is therefore in the process of not having a pairing (yet)
  • Weber's just chilling. He's totally irrelevant to this play, but I just decided to label him anyway. What's up, Webs./

At this point, Goligoski MUST either verbally ("COVER HIM!") or physically (eye contact/nod) communicate with his teammates (here, Benn). He's a good veteran player so he knows what he's doing; you can see him looking over his shoulder to see where Nystrom went and make sure that he's not just poking around the slot by himself. I would assume that he also sees Benn and trusts Benn to cover Nystrom.

Daley successfully cuts off Beck from the left, so Beck turns, only to find Seguin successfully blocking him from the right. He's losing time and space quickly and will have to make a decision soon.

Goligoski at this point is about as far on the left side of the crease as he should get. He's still fine right now, but this is the point where he needs to officially cut ties with Nystrom, as Benn is clearly covering him, and plant himself right at the top of the crease. Despite the fact that he has looked back to check on Nystrom several times, he doesn't seem to have checked in or communicated with Benn at all (evidenced by the fact that he continues to move in the same direction as Nystrom).

Alright Goli, it's time to stop now. Nystrom is gone. In fact, he's not even Benn's buddy anymore; he's about to be with Sceviour. Time to move on. Go back to your crease. Here's something incredibly helpful when you're a defenseman in your own zone: If you don't know exactly where you should be at any given moment, just go to the top of the damn crease and stay there. Seriously. It's that simple. Unless you are physically covering someone, there's really no reason to be as far out as Goligoski. And he should know that. Watch the clip again; he looks back and forth between Nystrom and Beck at least 3 or 4 times, so he knows that Nystrom is covered... sooo why is he continuing to sorta follow him up the ice? If Goli turns around and heads back towards the net, he would also see that Goose has crept much closer to the net and he would be able to get back in time to keep an eye on him.

Also, considering the fact that Beck was luckily able to poke the puck right between Seguin's skates and back to the creeping Goose, Goligoski is really not in a good position whatsoever.

Beck's positioning is incredibly helpful here, although I'm not sure if it's intentional (I don't think so). Either way, the way and location in which he's currently standing prevents both Daley and Seguin from cleanly getting to the front of the net to help Anders, which ends up being great for Goose.

Speaking of Goose, the gap between him and Goligoski is just ridiculous. Had Goligoski turned back a good 2-3 seconds ago (or just never left the front of the net to begin with), he'd be on top of Goose and able to knock the puck off of his stick in a second... but there's pretty much no way that's happening anymore. This is the exact moment he realizes his mistake. See the shifting of his weight between this picture and the last? He knows. He was so strangely invested in making sure that Nystrom had coverage while skating across the slot that he lost all track of where he was and what he should have been doing instead.

Lunge, Goli, lunge! Note also the usefulness of Beck's positioning: he's able to hold Daley back, which makes it harder for Seguin to get by. Seguin actually ends up taking a tumble over Daley's foot while trying to get to the net. Meanwhile, Goose is just enjoying being able to use his ridiculously long arms and stick to override Lindback's positioning (which is pretty good from the little I know about goaltending). I don't think he at all anticipated Goose having the time and space to do so and get the puck all the way across his body and into the far side of the net.

Down goes Seguin! Goligoski has finally gotten to the net, but the puck has already been in there for a while. Really doesn't help to have three of your five players on the opposite side of the net from your goal scorer.

Here's the moral of today's story: Know who your man is, know where your man is going, and know who your next man will be. Talk to your teammates and know what's going on... It really helps with the whole goal prevention thing.