One of the first things noted in the acquisition of Sam Gagner is that he would of immense help to the second powerplay unit. Last night against Chicago, the Flyers saw that happen, and it was quite beautiful.
We begin with the puck behind the net, Brayden Schenn is being pressured by Brent Seabrook while Sean Couturier observes and Viktor Svedberg attempts to join the play. Notice the small red circle, highlighting Seabrook’s head, due to the angle he took when attempting to engage Schenn, Seabrook does not have a clear view of the loose puck. Schenn’s angle, with the back to the wall does give him a better angle to seeing the puck. And since Schenn is a left handed shot, the puck is in an easy to play position relative to his body. Sean Couturier does something incredibly smart on this play; he doesn’t physically engage the much larger Svedberg, rather he maintains body position in a place that allows him to prevent an easy clear if Svedberg or Seabrook win the puck, but also if the puck does get to him, sets him up for an easy jam play. Also, by not engaging, Couturier eliminates the risk of an accidental penalty since his right leg and Svedberg’s left are very close and could get tangled. The Flyers also get lucky, Svedberg’s stick is tied up in Seabrook’s legs as shown by the large red circle.
Schenn wins the puck battle by default as Svedberg wipes out and in doing so, completely takes Brent Seabrook out of the play. This turns the 5 on 4 into a 5 on 2 for a few seconds. The Hawk up high is now unable to engage the Schenn-Gagner handoff because if he did, the right handed shooting Gagner would fire a cross slot pass to either Medvedev or Del Zotto for an easy one timer. With only one other player to stop that pass, one of the two defenders would be open for a solid scoring chance. As such, Gagner is able to take the puck with ease from Schenn.
It only takes about 2 seconds for Seabrook and Svedberg to recover and rejoin the play, but that’s all the time the Flyers need to set up perfect positioning over the Hawks. Gagner’s worked the puck back to Del Zotto, Couturier has camped out in front to screen Crawford.
As noted on the picture, Kruger draws to block a pass to Medvedev, so Del Zotto passes back to Gagner. The green lines represent Crawford’s field of vision, the blue curve is everything screened by Svedberg and Couturier which means that Crawford can’t actually see where the puck is. Note, Corey Crawford is trying to look OVER the other players, and Svedberg is 6’9″ so all he’s going to see is a nice set of shoulder pads and a Hawks’ away jersey nameplate.
Crawford realizing he’s screened seems to think that Gagner went back to MDZ with the pass, as noted by his vision field marked in green. The puck is circled in black, clearly on the tape of the stick of Sam Gagner. Gagner’s shooting and the only question will be, does the shot get through?
From over Gagner’s shoulder; you can see how much of a screen there was.
Everyone scatters as the puck hits the back of the net. Goal to Sam Gagner.
Once again, like the Trocheck goal, some luck was involved in that a two skaters bumped each other removing themselves from the play for a couple seconds.
The other big factor was the effective screening of Sean Couturier on Crawford. Couturier won’t get an assist on the goal, but a huge part of the reason Gagner scores is because due to the screen’s, Crawford was either unable to see the puck, or forced to looking in the wrong place for it.
This will be something to watch with this unit the rest of the season; how well will Couturier stand up to being the screen guy?
As for Gagner’s decision to shoot; it’s the right one, the Flyers had numbers and positioning, so even if the shot was blocked or deflected, it’s likely that the Flyers maintain possession. You can’t take the risk of the shot block on a chance like this, especially with Crawford looking in the wrong the direction.