In the Blue Jackets victory over the Hurricanes last night, R.J. Umberger scored his first hat trick in three years, Derick Brassard was fantastic, and Jack Johnson contributed two assists, including the 100th of his career. However, I would like to take a look at the lone goal allowed by Steve Mason during his 39 save game. Before I get into the breakdown, let's take a look:
This goal was a typical hockey goal. That may sound reductive, but most goals are not the result of one great play by the offensive player or one terrible miscue by a defensive player. Instead, they come from one breakdown leading to another, then to another, with the cascade of mistakes leading to a goal. In my estimation, this goal includes eight miscues by seven different players. Let's review them in reverse order:
Mistake #8: John Moore does not tie up Drayson Bowman. After Mason makes the initial save, Moore is not able to stop Bowman. Since Moore turned sideways to get into the way of the shot, his stick is facing away from Bowman, so he attempts to use a hipcheck to knock Bowman off the puck. It didn't work.
Mistake #5: Lack of hustle from Aaron Johnson. Johnson steps onto the ice as the Hurricanes are starting to turn up ice with the puck. Johnson is parallel to Dwyer at the red line, however Johnson doesn't appear in the frame again until after Bowman takes the first shot. When he finally does appear, he is coasting. While he only could have influenced Dwyer, this would have forced Dwyer to to go the net instead of dropping high for the one-timer. This would have allowed Moore to play the two on one more aggressively, as well as changing the angle that Mason would have taken on the initial shot.
Mistake #4: Poor angle by Ryan Johansen in the neutral zone. Brandon Sutter (#16) arrives at the puck just before Johansen, but he doesn't take the body, doesn't take the puck, and leaves both Dwyer and Bowman open as passing options. Further, Johansen skated straight at the puck. If he took a wider angle, he could have taken the pass away with his stick, while using his body to prevent Sutter from cutting into open ice. Furthermore, this angle means that Johansen had to almost stop and start back instead of being able to curl and keep his speed. This allows Dwyer to get a step on him that factored into his bad backcheck. It's little things like this that Johansen needs to keep working on and are likely the reason why he has been out of the lineup as much as he has under Todd Richards.
Mistake #3: Lazy line change by David Savard (although possibly a lack of awareness by Aaron Johnson coming off the bench). In the screencap above you can see both Savard and Jack Johnson side by side coming off the ice. John Moore took the first man and jumped right into the play and stopped a Bowman breakaway. Aaron Johnson took the second man and was late enough that he didn't even appear in the defensive zone until just before the puck was in the net. If you look at the start of the video, as Ryan Russell starts up the ice with the puck, Jack Johnson can be seen along the boards furthest from the Blue Jackets bench, while Savard is in the middle of the ice coasting towards the bench. Yet both players got off the ice at the same time. A little more hustle from Savard and Moore is able to establish better gap control on the two on one and Aaron Johnson can get on the ice a second sooner.
Mistake #2: Jared Boll trying to force offense on a two on two with back pressure. Justin Faulk and Joni Pitkanen are both back and have good gap control on Boll and Russell. Dwyer is also right behind them. This is a no win situation. Jared Boll and Ryan Russell are not going to generate a scoring chance off this rush. Boll needs to recognize this sooner and spread wide. Instead, he cuts towards Russell, which allows Pitkanen to stay in the middle and Faulk is able to step up on Russell. Boll should have started towards the right corner on that rush and played the hard wrap. Instead he allows Faulk to cover two players at once.
Mistake #1: The first mistake is the biggest. Ryan Russell's turnover at the blue line is simply inexcusable. Especially for a player in a depth role such as him, and on a two on three with Jared Boll, there is absolutely no way that puck doesn't get deep into the Hurricanes zone. That is the kind of mistake that gets a player like Russell scratched or demoted. Ryan Russell has very few responsibilities when he is on the ice. He isn't a physical player and he isn't offensively talented. His job is to keep the puck out of the Jackets end. That's really it. I cannot stress how inexcusable this turnover is. This wasn't at the red line either. Russell had more than enough time to chip the puck into the left corner, fire it into the right corner, or try for a hard wrap to the far side. Instead he carried the puck right into Faulk. Boll's play didn't help, but Boll was playing the soft dump and Russell didn't even recognize that. This mistake is further exacerbated by the timing. This play came right at the end of a Blue Jackets powerplay. The forwards had changed, but Savard and Johnson were trapped on the ice for a significant amount of time and desperately needed to get off. Russell has to be aware that his defense is changing here and make sure the puck gets deep. Instead he skates it right into Faulk and the cascade of miscues begins. Let's take a final look: