Back again this week is some tape analysis from yours truly, this time focusing on a big game for David Quinn’s BU team – the 2017 Hockey East Semifinal against Boston College. Below you’ll find the video I’ll be taking apart, and then I’ll jump right into it.
First up is a nice save by the BC goalie, Joseph Woll, but it’s worth taking a closer look at anyways. BU makes two good passes here moving up the ice – the first is from the near wall in the BU defensive zone right up into center ice, with the angle and the speed of the puck allowing the puck carrier to get around the two BC defenders, who were between him and the boards, not him and the faceoff spot in the middle of the ice. From there, as the four BC defenders collapse in a big of a box around the puck carrier, there’s a B forward breaking through the two defenders on the edge of the box closest to the goalie. A nice pass threaded through means a high-quality scoring chance for BU, with Woll making an even better save.
This is the kind of thing you hope to see from Rangers defensemen and forwards as they develop, especially the former category of player. A quick, simple pass from the defensive zone up through neutral ice makes it easy for the two forwards to get the jump on the BC guys further back, and that split second advantage and extra few inches gives the breaking men the edge despite being outnumbered defensively. Pass placement here is huge too – BU’s d-man sees that the forward is putting a fake on the two defenders between him and the wall and actually heading to the middle of the ice, so those guys are caught flatfooted as he goes around them. From there, BC is chasing, and despite some quick reaction by the BC player closest to the wall to eventually pick up the final pass recipient, the pass is just beyond his reach.
Next up is a pure individual effort by Clayton Keller, a star in the making, so I won’t dwell too much on it here and instead will just let you drink in an exceptional display of talent. Immediately following that play, the replay goes back and highlights a nice BC chance where the BU player takes too much time attempting to clear the zone.
He starts off facing up towards the BC offensive end and has the brief opportunity to make that kind of quick, simple pass show in the first play, but instead reevaluates and opts for a spin move as the BC attacked is coming at him aggressively. The BC player does a good job here putting the puck carrier in a bad spot where he’s panicked, even just for a fleeting moment to the point where he probably didn’t even think about it, and goes for the fancy move to try and dodge him and fails.
This turnover makes it easy for the BC attacker to scoop up the puck and make a backhand dish to his man entering the zone, having circled back around at the blue line when he saw what was happening up ice. As the BU defense scrambles to cover him, he dishes it off to the original guy who forced the turnover, who then immediately sends it to the third man in, wide open in the high slot area.
As the first pass following the turnover is made, you can see the BU defenseman on the opposite side exit the screen and head outwards away from the slot. This opens up the space for BC to move in, and number 18 has to come all the way back over. Our first defender, who went butt over teakettle after his failed spin move, picks himself back up and makes his way towards the center of the ice in front of the net, overlapping briefly with Johnny-Come-Lately number 18. It all puts BU a step behind this time, with the lack of composure being the biggest issue here for the Terriers. We know that pros generally don’t crumble under pressure like that and have better communication skills, but those kinds of traits have to be learned – David Quinn is going to need to make sure that everyone’s on the same page in New York and that the leadership group is making clear how to stay cool in defensive breakdowns.
Up next is a bit easier to digest since they break it down for you on the telestrator – Kiefer Bellows receives a nice cross-ice pass from the opposite end of the ice at the blue line and moves through two defenders once he’s in the BC zone. This is again, excellent puck placement by the BU defense, as the puck makes a seamless transition from one zone to the next as a result of quick, calm thinking and pin-point accuracy. Bellows sees that the second defender is facing in an inopportune direction and takes full advantage here, making his way through the seam and heading straight to the net. Not a lot to say here, aside from the fact that it’s a nice transition where the attacking forward gets a gift from a sloppy defender. This is what you like to see though – a basic play made great, and since the Rangers will have some singular talents on their hands as the years progress, we may be seeing more of this down the line.
This power play execution is nice and a bit different from AV’s approach of passing it around hoping to get it through the slot, and even if the Xs and Os are drawn up by someone else it bears resemblance to the kind of aggressive hockey Quinn professes to play. BU plays the puck in deep, works it back to the point, and then every man down low crashes the net. Simple, effective, and hopefully a good change of pace that these guys can adapt to (I know Kreider will). That prognosis also doesn’t mean they won’t go for fancy setups on the PP, just that they’ll ideally be given the directive that when it’s not happening to put pucks on the net and go in.
Here, BC catches BU’s primary forechecker just a little too close to the d-man trying to move the puck up the ice, who then does so to the forward circling back just in the defensive end. This itself isn’t a crime, and NHL players have better ideas of gaps and how they work than college dudes, so I’m not overly worried – it wasn’t really a huge mistake all things considered, and defensemen move the puck up the ice, it’s simply what they do.
What happens next clears a lot of space for the BC winger to enter the zone and eventually score though. Coming into the neutral zone, the BU defender makes a poke check that doesn’t work, as the BC winger works it around him with some basic but well executed handiwork. The BU buddy who was forechecking and got passed around is behind the puck and not a ton of use, despite the fact that the puck carrier is slowed down a little bit. BC works it to the outside around the BU players trying to break up the exit, following the not great but not terrible poke check, and then goes streaking down the boards. Some speed from BC beats the two defenders who are now way behind the puck, and leaves BU’s d-man inside the blue line to cover. He leaves his man way too much space, and the shot gets taken from far out and goes in.
Poor gap control at the end there dooms BU, but sometimes you just get beat, and again, NHL defenders are much better at this stuff. Stopping the video right as the BC puck mover touches the blue line shows just how subtle this issue is, because while it doesn’t look like a ton of space, there’s an imbalance there in that the attacker is moving very fast and the defender a bit slower. Dictating the one-on-one there, especially as the BU defenseman squares up to the outside, allows the attacker to go to the inside just as he’s getting close to the defender, who’s now purely reactive and can’t do a thing. Let’s hope for better from Quinn’s defense, to say the least (although you may notice this is all a matter of inches, but coaches need to deal in inches).
Here we have just poor defending along the boards and then bad gap control in the middle of the defensive zone that leads to a BC goal. Not a lot to say here – individual skill is important and although the Rangers may not have it right now, I’ve got high hopes for the future. Moving on.
Now this is a bit better, some hard-nosed cycling gets the Terriers right on the doorstep, where Woll says no. It’s a powerplay again, and BC has four guys all entering the zone at the same time, a nice start. The puck is moving down the near boards in this clip, and is then sent to the next man down the line. There’s the puck carrier on one side of the BC man covering the slot, and then two guys shoulder to shoulder on the other side. BU gets the shot off and draws the defender over, leaving ample room for three guys to fill the low slot and another one right behind. As it goes around behind the net to the far boards every BU body moves in unison, opting to set up tentatively, a nice mix of getting in position and going with the flow. Now we’ve got two BU guys down low on the goal line by the far boards, two more at the intersection of the far boards and circle, and number 4 back at the point, hovering and ready to go in down the slot. He opts not to, but the guys down low go straight in to the net, with two of them coming from one side and one coming from the other. This is a lot to handle for a goalie, so it’s not a bad mindset for Quinn to instill in his young players: try and make nice plays, but when in doubt, overwhelm the crap out of them.
Basically a carbon copy of the BC play from earlier, BU enters the zone coming down the boards and walks it straight in. Not a long to analyze, aside from the fact that there’s a line change gone wrong on the part of BC, and they pay for it by giving up a grade-A scoring opportunity. Last thing of note here, I promise: BU scrambles around the net.
Poor defending here by BU on a break in by BC. Not going to unpack this part much either, because it’s readily apparent that what happened was the ol’ college culprit, gap control. Look at how much space either guy on BC has to do what they want to do (granted, the initial move is excellent, but ideally you don’t get taken for a walk). When you give up opportunity like that to guys rushing down the ice, it’s always going to be too late. Luckily, NHLers know how to defend much better and Hank is Hank, so. Anyways what happens next is important, as after it goes wide BU has the chance to collect themselves and get the puck out. They don’t, because of bad luck behind the net on the boards, but it’s always worth noting that you make your own luck. Higher compete level or aggressiveness or just knowing what to do in those situations is key, and keeps those pucks from kicking out right in front of the net to a waiting tap-in man. This is where having Jesper Fast comes in handy.
Another BU powerplay shows where Kevin Shattenkirk could really shine – it all moves through the point, and then well-positioned forwards get right in the goalies face and keep the puck under attacking control even after the goalie makes a save. The commentary guys talk about the mass of BC Eagles in the net keeping the puck out, but if it comes down to basic puck movement, peppering the goalie with shots, and constant retrieval to retain possession on the man-advantage vs a PK build around collapsing so hard you have multiple guys in net, I’ll take the former, thanks.
More of the Joseph Woll Experience here, but let’s not forget Charlie McAvoy’s magnificent skill and presence of mind. BU, at the far boards, makes a simple pass to the opposite wall, where Chahlie picks it up in stride, who moves in deep with some nice and simple moves before pulling up at the goal line. By now, the overlapping attacker (Clayton Keller) has moved behind the net, and McAvoy knows he can dish it off and get back, just as even more puck support arrives. Now BU has three guys lined up from one circle to another, and the puck right behind the net. A deliberate dish to McAvoy’s opposite side for a one-timer puts it on net, but then BC clears. Shame. Here’s where you’d like to see a bit more aggresiveness at attempting to control the rebound, reset, and continue the attack, but it’s a thin line because you don’t want to overcommit. What’s important to focus on is the way McAvoy has no compunction about activating in the offensive zone, and uses simple skill to bide for time as reinforcements arrive. Really just excellent offense from the now-Bruin.
BU, scoreless in the game and trailing by 3 goals has the net pulled at this point, 2:37 left in the game. This is a pretty healthy amount of time to tie it I think, so good on Quinn to not wait until there’s not enough time. Right off the faceoff we have BC getting the puck by the goal line but losing it along the boards as a desperate BU team tries to keep possession. They do, sort of, and after a few scrappy puck battles it’s worked down low where a scramble in front of the net puts the puck in. I don’t have a ton to say here, but if you’re noticing a pattern of greasy goals, well, you’re onto something (Jimmy Vesey, come on down).
Now we’re a minute later, still with the empty net and down by two. Excellent movement through neutral ice gets the puck from dead center to the near boards in the offensive zone, with a man in the slot and man trailing directly behind the puck (that we can see). As it’s swung from the near corner right in front of the net, a poke at it puts it towards Woll but then it kicks out away, where it’s picked up and put in with more control. Bodies. In. Front. Not only that, but excellent man-to-man work playing the body the effectively by BU. You gotta use what you’ve got, that’s for sure.
The very last play shown isn’t super notable either, in that it’s another last minute desperation scramble. Still, there seems to be a common thread here, and although I can’t quite put my finger on it, I think there’s going to be a shift in the Rangers thinking. Obviously Quinn can, and hopefully will, adapt to his personnel, and there’s plenty of skill plays in this highlights package as well, but I think there will likely be some truth to the kind of talk David Quinn has been throwing around in his post-hiring comments. I, for one, am looking forward to something a bit more aggressive, but am still optimistic Quinn won’t try and turn Buch into Dubinksy or something like that. Catch you all next week!