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Monday, June 11, 2012

What the OT Game 1 Winner (Kings-Devils) can teach your players

I've been thinking about the Game 1 OT winner by the LA Kings in this year's Stanley Cup Finals and wanted to write-up a few thoughts on the goal.  As a coach, you are always teaching your players and I thought  about 2 very important aspects of the game when I watched this play:

  1. Positioning
  2. Communication
Take a moment and watch the video.  Pay attention to the first 12 seconds, then pick it up again at 48 seconds and watch from the end of the rink look. 
Note: I left the sound off as I wanted to watch it again to see if I really saw all I did the night I watched it live and not listen to the play by play.

I see several very important factors to why this goal was scored.
  1. Player positioning - both on the Defense and the Offense.
    Let's start with the Defense.  There are several factors that caused this to be a busted play:
    • The Defenseman at the blue line looking for the big hit.  He took himself out of the play by getting tangled up with the player.  As the puck move back out of the zone, he was useless to the play.
    • Both Devils players then pursued the puck and the player on the wall.  As the Defensive player sees the whole ice, he should be able to see that his forward is chasing the guy on the wall.  He should then get back into his Defensive position to play the charging Kings player who is heading up the middle.

    Now for the Offense.  As the puck moves up the wall, Anze Kopitar finds good ice (read more on that here).  He breaks for that open ice up the rink and knows where that puck is going to come out as it's passed off the wall.  While I wasn't at rink level (or even at the building), I'm sure he was calling for that puck.  This leads me to my next point.
  2. Communication - Both teams should have been talking this play out.
    On the Defensive side, I mentioned above both player pursuing the puck and the player.  They need to talk this out.  The defenseman should not only see the puck but Kopitar breaking the middle.  At that point he should be yelling at the back-checking forward to play the puck and he should be taking the Defensive position on the puck.

    The Offense did it perfectly.  Kopitar sees the open rinks, calls for the puck and Game 1 is history.

As a coach, I find myself watching the game so differently.  The night after this game, I walked into a locker room full of 9/10 year old players talking about the game.  I was pretty proud when I asked them what happened on the play and got a pretty good breakdown from my players of what was done right and what was done wrong.


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