Talent. It's part of the explanation Jaromir Jagr gave to Tom Gulitti (and the rest of the media) at Fire & Ice for some of his goals on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. There's no question he's talented. You don't get to one of the top ten scorers in the history of the National Hockey League without it. Against the Flyers on January 3, Jagr did break a record by scoring a hat trick. Jagr is now the oldest player in league history to have recorded three goals in one game. It was a wonderful sight and a wonderful performance by #68. It was also crucial to the Devils' 5-2 beat down of the Second Rate Rivals.
As Jagr broke a NHL record and earned his first hat trick since 2006, I think it's worth a break down. Since it's a hat trick, that means there's three goals to go through. So these will be a bit briefer. But it's worth looking at each one as it demonstrates Jagr's talents beyond just being productive.
This is the video I'm using for the break down. It comes from NHL.com. All screen shots are from the video; any text and poorly drawn arrows in Paint were done by me.
The First Goal
We begin with Mark Fraser having the puck.
At first, this looks like this is going to be a failed exit. Fraser makes an easy pass to Adam Henrique. However, Henrique just touches it off; he doesn't handle it well. So the puck really is going to re-directed into space. Normally, this would result in the opposition, the Flyers in this case, recovering the puck and starting an attack of their own. As you know, this does not happen. Let's find out why.
The puck hits off the boards and just rolls around the corner. Ray Emery is out to play this puck, as icing was waved off. It appears that this should be a simple play. Nick Schultz and Braydon Coburn are coming back to give Emery options with the puck.
However, Henrique doesn't make this simple at all. He's skating like crazy to get past the right post and hope he can disrupt Emery. He's going to get even more than that.
Henrique gets to where he wants. And he gets rewarded by Emery. Emery played it softly behind him, thinking it'll get to his teammate, Coburn, by the left corner. That was his error. And so Henrique has the puck.
Now check out Jaromir Jagr. He didn't just stroll his way down to the goal line either. He moved briskly like Henrique. He may have expected to check Coburn or try to battle him for the puck. Instead, he sees his teammate with the puck so he's going to hold up where he is.
Note the red circle. That's going to be where the Flyers will pay for their error.
This is where that are I highlighted comes into play. Jagr gets a short pass by Henrique. He does not latch onto it immediately, but he will use his long reach to retain the puck, keep it away from Brayden Schenn, and fling it into the net towards the far post. Note that Emery has no real chance for what is about to happen. He has to hope someone makes a play or Jagr fires it at such a sharp angle, it just hits off of him. Schenn is the closest but he's too far away from being able to make a real play. If he was able to get into that space I highlighted in the last screen shot, then he could block out Jagr. But he didn't and so:
Talent reigned and the Flyers paid for Emery's error. The goal was really created by Henrique and Emery, but Jagr doesn't get the goal without his movement off the puck and using his long reach quickly to get a shot off.
The Second Goal
This play begins off a neutral zone draw. One that Scott Gomez sort of wins.
The puck did get behind Gomez, but it just drifted past him. Vincent Lecavalier tries to get after it, but he's impeded by Gomez. As it's in space, Andy Greene is going to step up and try to get this puck away. It's near the end of the period, so keeping the puck out of the Devils' end would suffice rather than give the Flyers one last real offensive push.
Greene was only able to poke it forward. It does get through, however. It eludes Lecavalier, who has broken away from Gomez, and what I think is Chris VandeVelde. (If it's not him, then it's Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.) Jaromir Jagr bolted forward after the draw, so he saw the faceoff aftermath. This put him in a good position to pick up where he thinks Greene's pass is going.
Jagr was correct. As he saw Mark Streit nearby in the neutral zone, he'll pass this across to Scott Gomez. Gomez was very good to get away from Lecavalier, turn, and start heading up ice. The Devils could end the period with a 2-on-2 rush. Unfortunately for him, Braydon Coburn is aware of what's going on like Jagr was aware of the neutral zone faceoff aftermath.
Gomez didn't quite retain the puck off the pass. Coburn easily sweeps the puck away from Gomez. What's more, he sweeps the puck towards his defensive partner, Streit. Now, Streit is heading back and this is a bit problematic. His body is facing the net, but his eyes are on the puck. This shouldn't be difficult. In retrospect, he's probably going to wish he did turn around.
Like Emery softly playing the puck behind the net, this is where a critical mistake happens. Streit misses this puck. Now, if he was able to quickly turn, then he'd have an easier time to get at this puck. Even if he can't control it, he could just smack it away. It is the end of the period, after all. There should be no issue to just putting it somewhere else. Instead, his stick is in an awkward position and he misses a loose puck that he really shouldn't miss.
Therefore, the puck is going to slide between his skates. Jagr is just nearby, ready to make Streit pay for that miss.
Streit's now turned, but he's just beaten here. Jagr uses his long reach to get the puck. While he only has one hand on his stick, he's strong enough to pull this puck towards his left. This will allow him to gain more control and just skate past Streit. The defenseman will swing his stick in a last ditch effort to get it away, but it's too late.
Elsewhere, Coburn sees this transpiring and makes the right move to head towards the center of the ice. If Jagr is going to go forward, it'll be up to Coburn to keep him from going to the middle. Also, Gomez is about to gain the zone for support. However, Jagr will not need it.
Coburn does get to the slot. However, he's got his stick in his right hand. While this keeps Jagr from cutting back and going that way, it keeps the left side open. Coburn did have his stick in front of him, so Jagr drags the puck a bit to his right. This accomplishes two things: it keeps it away from Coburn and it allows Jagr to put some power behind a wrist shot. That power is important because Jagr is able to fire a hard shot just past Emery. Emery is at the top of his crease but that five-hole is gaping. A hard shot will beat him there and so:
Talent reigned and the Flyers paid for Streit's miss. Jagr was excellent off and on the puck. Again, he used his reach but his strength on the puck made the play possible. If Jagr was unable to pull that puck towards himself after reaching for it, then this play doesn't happen. Of course, if Streit doesn't miss the puck in the neutral zone, then this play also doesn't happen.
The Third Goal
It begins with Seth Helgeson keeping a puck in play and moving it along the sideboards up to Jaromir Jagr. That's how he got his secondary assist on this goal.
Jagr sees Gomez all alone behind the net with a clear lane. Passing the puck to him was academic. Then the magic is about to happen.
Notice how Niklas Grossmann is positioned. He goes at Jagr by stretching his stick out, hoping to knock the puck away or dissuade him from passing. Because Jagr passed the puck quickly to Gomez, Grossmann is where he is. This will allow Jagr to get around him by Jagr's right. By the way, Michael Del Zotto is just hanging out by the crease.
By the time Grossmann turns around, Jagr is about to get inside position. Here, Grossmann has turned and Jagr's already in front of him. Jagr isn't exactly open, but this positioning will create a problem for the Flyers very shortly. Jagr is going to keep going towards the right across the slot. Gomez is in full control behind the net and Del Zotto is fully focused on him. He doesn't know that Jagr's coming across. The other three forwards are also watching Gomez. They do see Jagr, which furthers the point that Jagr isn't quite open yet. Henrique is just hanging out in the high slot - for now.
Jagr gets inside the right circle and immediately stops, turns, and starts to head the other way. Grossmann is still with him and draws the attention of one forward. The Flyer in the slot notices Henrique coming across the other way, so he'll follow him. Del Zotto is in the crease just monitoring Gomez. Therefore, Jagr is going to be heading towards a pocket of space in front of the net.
Also, notice that Steve Mason has his legs split, with his skates at the post. This will come into play in less than a second.
Just as Jagr gets a step on Grossmann and heads towards that pocket of space, Gomez then attempts a pass, which gets past Del Zotto and right to Jagr's stick. Grossmann is attempting to physically jar Jagr, but that's simply not going to happen. Jagr has inside position on him and he's just so strong. He doesn't have a lot of time to shoot, but he doesn't need to do. He's just going to bang the puck towards the net.
I look at this overhead shot from the replay of the third goal in the video to show two things. One, I really don't know how Del Zotto missed the pass by Gomez. Two, Jagr really did get his stick on the puck. Grossmann's stick is the one facing towards the camera. Jagr's shot is just going to head towards the net.
And it gets through. Talent reigned and the Flyers suffer. There wasn't a significant mistake other than Del Zotto focusing on Gomez and awaiting his pass - only to still not stop it. Jagr's talents were on display. His awareness was on point to get the puck quickly to Gomez, get around Grossmann, and then turn inside the circle to re-establish his inside position towards a pocket of space. The shot was a bang-bang play, but making himself an option for Gomez was the result of his work. Full credit to Gomez for his patience and making that pass to Jagr. And a little credit for Henrique moving where he did to take another Flyer away from play.
Jagr is a fascinating player. He's playing at an age when the vast majority of players have already retired. He's a workout warrior. He's a living legend, still adding to his astounding career numbers. The short answer to all that is that he's got talent. That talent is also in his awareness of what's happening in the play. That allowed him to get all three goals, especially the third as he knew that if he was able to get inside position, he'd be make able to make something happen. He's known for his using his big bottom to help him pivot like a boss around defenders, but he's got a long reach and enough stretch to recover pucks with it. That directly led to two of his goals.
It also helped that the Flyers made critical errors on the first two goals. The first is all on Emery as much as it was on Henrique being able to get that puck. The second puts Streit at fault. I guess if you wanted to point the finger at someone for the third goal, Del Zotto not denying Gomez' pass plus Grossmann getting beat would do, I suppose. But these errors don't become costly without the work of others, including Jagr.
OK, Jagr may have been joking a bit when he claimed his goals were the result of "talent." He recognizes the luck he had on the play, though he didn't go into detail. But he deserved the hats that littered the rink on Saturday night. Clearly, he's got talent. He's a special player. And special players do special things from time to time, like racking up a hat trick about a month before he turns 43 and about eight years since his last one. Long live the talented Jaromir Jagr.
What did you make of this breakdown of each of the three goals on this hat trick? What did you see that I may have missed in this breakdown that perhaps contributed to any of the goals? Which of the three goals were the most impressive in your opinion? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Jagr's hat trick in the comments. Thank you for reading.