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Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Take: Poti’s Perfect Pass

Those of you who read the website frequently will be part of the exclusive group of readers who can say they read the last ever Afternoon Delight on Friday, October 30th 2009. In an effort to provide more original content, I will be experimenting with some new column ideas in place of AD. My first venture will be an effort to take one play (with video) from the action the night previous and breakdown said play. Think of it as a Howie Meeker-type segment without his astute eye or teleprompter or sweet baby-blue blazer.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments, or if you have an idea for what you would like to see on the site, send that in too.

 Nick Backstrom scores a beauty.

Analysis: The Backstrom goal highlighted in the video above is certainly one of the nicer goals from last night, and is a nice example of two things. First, an effective use of a stretch pass, and second, how not to get burned by said stretch pass.

The Blue Jackets had just killed off a power-play with Rusty Klesla in the box for slashing. Tom Poti takes possession of the puck in his own zone with Rick Nash forechecking and Klesla at the blue line on the near side boards. Poti makes the stretch pass to Fleischman, standing at the Jackets blue-line, and he steps into the Jackets’ zone unchallenged and sends a pass to a streaking Nick Backstrom who does a nifty back pass to Alex Semin. A quick pass back to Fleischman and then over to Semin for the shot and the goal. This nifty little give and go is fun to watch, but lets take a closer look.

The key to the play is the heads up move by Poti. Seeing just one Blue Jacket, Antoine Vermette, in the neutral zone and Klesla and Nash engaged in an ineffective fore-check, Poti sends a smart, low risk pass up the boards to Fleischman waiting at the far blue line. Bypassing 3 Blue Jackets with the pass, Poti has given Fleischman easy access to the offensive zone (Commodore backs off a little too easily, obviously worried about a hair-care commercial) and a streaking Backstrom finds a soft spot just inside the zone. The quick back pass to Semin on the half wall is nice, but Backstrom had speed and room and there were other plays available.

Now all the Blue Jackets available to make a play are standing still, and both Klesla and Nash are coasting back. Bing bang boom the puck is in the net because Commodore and Methot are flat-footed and overwhelmed. Poti’s pass has eliminated any chance they had to react to the play, and the ineffective back check has sealed their fate.

That covers part one of the analysis. Part two is how the Blue Jackets could have combated the Capitals’ execution. Since the Jackets were still essentially on a PK (Klesla wasn’t really in the play), Commodore gets an error here for not stepping up on a stationary Fleischman as soon as he got the puck. Poti’s pass, while a smart play, wasn’t directly on the stick and thus I feel Commodore had an opportunity to make a play here. Fleischman may still have made the initial pass to Backstrom, but his options would have been limited with Fleischman out of the play. Methot was back and Vermette was closing from his left wing position and the play may have died there.

I suppose you could make a point of saying that Vermette was also caught flat-footed in the zone when he decided to stop near the top of the circle. This opened the passing lane for Semin and led ultimately to the goal. However, while it wasn’t an ideal decision, Vermette was still responsible for the trailer here and made a calculated decision. It cost him in this case, but he had to be aware of the Caps d-men AND try and do something about Semin. Tough choice.

Agree with this assessment? Think I am way off base? Lets hear your take in the comments.

(NOTE: I apologize for link instead of an embedded video. We had trouble getting the video onto the site and hope to have this corrected by tomorrow.)