I've developed a trend with the Bruins Play of the Year of the Week So Far (POFTOFWSF) posts. Go ahead and guess what each one has in common. No, it doesn't involve a dapper Claude Julien smile. And no, it doesn't involve some self-depreciating humor (although that's always a possibility!).
This week's sweet pass comes to you courtesy of someone who I recently profiled; Zdeno Chara. More specifically, it comes from a game on January 25, where the Bruins visited the Philadelphia Flyers. This play, coming on the powerplay, resulted in the second Bruins goal of the game at 17:27 in the first period. Let's take a look.
Good, good stuff. So good, in fact, let's watch it again!
While the buzz from this goal probably didn't last as long as the buzz from my PBR did, it had quite a few less calories and didn't leave me with a headache the next morning.
After Beleskey takes a slap shot that misses, Boston does a great job moving the puck around the boards, starting with Chara. The puck never stayed on one stick too long, which is critical during a powerplay, as it doesn't allow the penalty killers to get set up. What went unnoticed, even to myself during the initial review, was the formation that Boston morphed into.
Typically, Boston has set up with two defenders high and the traditional overload, with the wingers on the half boards and a man in the middle screening the goalie. Having the defensemen at the blue line on the boards allows them to be in better position if a PK'er tries to clear the puck off the glass. Offensively, it stretches the powerplay horizontally, making the penalty killers have to skate a bit more. Defending the two-high powerplay is simple enough (relatively speaking here, these are NHL players after all); a box formation, two defenders by the top of the circles and two at the bottom, is the most effective form of containment.
Jimmy Hayes, who would typically occupy the spot where the X is, has crept in front of the net.
In order to corral the puck, the Bruins start out in the two-high power play formation. Brad Marchand and Colin Miller go back and forth with the puck one time on the near-side boards, and Chara is Miller's equal on the opposite side. Jimmy Hayes creeps in from the half boards to post up in front of the net along with Matt Beleskey, who was already there. But watch when Miller begins to skate over towards Chara.
Boston changes their powerplay to the umbrella formation; one point defenseman, two players on the boards at the top of the faceoff circle, and two in front of the net. As for the two forwards in front of the net, the Bruins set up in a stacked screen instead of a horizontal screen; this allows for one man to screen the goalie, while the other can simultaneously screen and, if he has proper body position on his defender, to step out and receive a pass right in front of the net. The Flyers, meanwhile, stay in their box formation. We've got a bit of a 'square peg in an umbrella-shaped hole' situation.
Chara takes the pass and skates down the boards, keeping his head up the entire time. He's not really a threat to shoot here; although Jimmy Hayes is doing an excellent job screening Michael Neuvirth, Neuvirth is square to Chara, and Matt Read does a decent job containing Chara to the boards. Now, watch where Marchand goes.
He and Chara are on a string; as Chara goes down, Marchy follows.
Philadelphia still hasn't reacted to the changing powerplay, even though the Bruins had been in the Umbrella formation the minute before this during their first zone entry. C'mon, Philadelphia! You're wearing the color that hunters wear in order to not get shot! You should be able to see where everyone is on the ice!
Radko Gudas begins to step out towards Chara, but it's too little too late. I wish I had the cojones to name my son Radko. He would either be really into BMX and surfing and wear a shark tooth necklace, or else he'd be a big - and somehow Russian (even though Radko Gudas is Czech) - mafioso. Either way, pretty rad. Ko.
But enough about hypothetical Russian gangster children. Big Z sees Marchand across the ice and delivers a great pass through waving Flyers sticks that hits Marchy on his tape, who blows a clapper right by Michael Neuvirth's ear hole. Goal, Boston.
Let's watch it all unfold again. Bonus third angle too!
And that's it, folks. The motto for the fourth edition of the Bruins Play of the Year of the Week So Far: don't be afraid to change positions, you might enjoy it.