A Closer Look At Malkin's Goal...
Dwayne Roloson will probably think twice next time about two-handing Evgeni Malkin in the face.
Geno scored one of the most dazzling goals of his career yesterday as the Penguins went on to trounce the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 8-1.
While Geno’s individual effort was great, there are a few key things to consider when watching this goal. Despite Malkin’s fantastic individual deke ability, a few members of the Penguins also played subtle roles in springing the NHL’s current points leader.
Let’s take a look at how this goal starts.
Matt Niskanen is handling the puck on the breakout in the face of a full out Tampa 1-3-1. In front of Niskanen is the Tampa high forward, and you can even see the middle skater of the middle ’3” getting into position behind him.
Niskanen has a few options for a pass here. He has two deep wingers entrenched in the 1-3-1, he has a streaking partner to his left who is already in-screen, and he also has the option to skate this puck himself.
But Niskanen makes a key decision here. He’s got a good feel for the game and understands where his teammates are. He opts to take a route we didn’t even discuss above. He dishes a drop pass to Evgeni Malkin, who is swooping behind him and coming with more speed than any player on the ice currently has.
Malkin now appears in the shot and is coming through the neutral zone with blazing speed.
Here we begin to see the fruit of Niskanen’s decision. The ice was stagnant before Malkin retreived the puck. Tampa was locked out in the 1-3-1, the only player engaged being the high forchecker, who Malkin now has a total free pass on, and the Penguins had two players high blue line, likely standing still, and one very deep winger along the wall coming with half speed.
Surely, if Niskanen had attempted to skate this puck up ice or distribute it directly into the heart of the Tampa 1-3-1, we could have seen a turnover or an easy Tampa retreival on a soft dump in.
But now Malkin has blazing speed, a clear lane into the heart of the Tampa defense, and another member of the Pittsburgh Penguins is about to help him out even more.
By this time, Malkin has already burst into the center of the Tampa trap. The player highlighted in red is Chris Kunitz, and he’s about to clear a path for Evgeni Malkin by running a pick in the neutral zone.
Look at where the Tampa white shirts are located. This is the classic Guy Boucher 1-3-1. You have no room to skate the puck in, and another defenseman is back deep for an easy retrieval on any potential dumped puck.
There isn’t a lot of room out there, so you’re about to see Chris Kunitz make room himself by going into bulldozer mode.
I will say this, anytime someone undervalues the intangibles that Chris Kunitz brings to this team, you dig this post up and point it out to them. Kunitz does this on a nightly basis, and no matter how determined Geno is to score this goal, it doesn’t happen without the next play.
Take a look at Kunitz, highlighted in red. He has become fully engaged with the middle man in the middle portion of Tampa’s 1-3-1.
Kunitz has run a successful and dangerously subtle pick play in the neutral zone to clear a path, as evidenced by the arrow, for Evgeni Malkin.
Because of Kunitz’ success, Tampa is now in trouble. The middle piece, the keystone of their 1-3-1, has been removed from the equation. The outside players on the neutral zone cannot collapse on Evgeni Malkin in time, because Matt Niskanen sprung him with speed courtesy of the drop pass.
To boot, the lone defenseman back for Tampa is stationary. He is not moving his feet in an effective manner for what Malkin is about to bring to him. He was expecting a soft dump in or an easy play, not the most dangerous goal scorer in the league coming in with speed to undress him.
Malkin ends the play with a Mario-esque finish, but it’s the play of his left defenseman and right winger that ultimately gave him the path and tools to work his magic in a way that only Geno can.