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New Jersey Devils Goal Breakdown: Technically the First of the Season

The New Jersey Devils scored in their first game of the season, technically by Jets defenseman by Jacob Trouba. Still, the play that led to the own goal is worth a closer look and so it's the subject of the first goal breakdown of 2015-16.

Jiri Tlusty "scored" this goal, the team's first of the regular season.
Jiri Tlusty "scored" this goal, the team's first of the regular season.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Own goals in soccer appropriately marked as such.  They appear on the boxscore as an own goal, listing who put it in their own net. It costs a team -1 in goal differential, which is a big deal as it is a common tiebreaker.  Some are accidents, others are bloopers, and they all punish the team guilty of one aside from the scoreboard. In hockey, own goals are credited to the team that benefits from it. The last one to touch the puck gets one added to the goal column in their own statline. The one who truly put it in his own net doesn't have it on their permanent record aside from video, game recaps, and memories.  In time, it's just seen as a goal against. In both sports, they're not that common for various reasons.

So it was rare occurrence that happened on October 9, 2015.  The first goal of the season by the New Jersey Devils turned out to be an own goal.  Their only goal in a 1-3 loss to Winnipeg was truly put in the net by a Jet.  I didn't know it initially. As the Devils were on a power play and it was the second period, all I saw was Jiri Tlusty taking the puck to the net and then the crowd cheering as the puck went in.  It was clear to viewers at home and those sitting closer to that end of the rink that Jacob Trouba put it home by mistake.  A good break for New Jersey, even if it didn't spur a comeback.

It would be easy to just put that one aside and focus more attention on the first goal legitimately scored by a New Jersey Devil.  And I will do that, if not later today than later this week.  However, after watching the own goal, I find it worthy to break down.  If only because it's an example of something we may be seeing the Devils attempting to do often when they're on the power play.

The Background

The Situation: The Devils were on a 5-on-4 power play in the second period.

The Devils On-Ice: #35 Cory Schneider, #8 David Schlemko, #20 Lee Stempniak, #19 Travis Zajac, #13 Mike Cammalleri, #9 Jiri Tlusty

The Jets On-Ice: #34 Michael Hutchinson, #8 Jacob Trouba, #5 Mark Stuart, #6 Alexander Burmistrov, #17 Adam Lowry

The Source Video for This Breakdown: The NHL.com Video of the Tlusty Goal - All pictures are from this video, poorly drawn arrows, lines, circles, and text are my additions.

The Breakdown

We begin with Mike Cammalleri carrying the puck towards the right side boards (directions are relative to the Devils point of view).

Tlusty Goal

Just before this shot, Cammalleri feinted a pass to David Schlemko.  This why Adam Lowry is positioned the way he is.  He expected the pass back to Schlemko, hoping to provide one-on-one pressure on the defenseman.  With no puck, Cammalleri is able to get past him.  This is a kind of a cross-up and Cammalleri had enough pace to make it work.  You'll notice that the puck carrier doesn't have a lot of space to go into.  Mark Stuart is in the right circle waiting for him. Jacob Trouba is where he should be, in front of the net.  Alexander Burmistrov is behind Travis Zajac, but there's not really a good reason for Cammalleri to pass it to Zajac as he'll get swarmed.

Basically, the Jets are in a good position and Cammalleri can really only go deeper along the boards.

Tlusty Goal

At this point, with no other good option, Cammalleri is going to pass it to an open Jiri Tlusty.  Neither Cammalleri or Tlusty can do much from their current positions.  However, they're going to make something happen.  And it's going to be bad for Mark Stuart, who is circled here.

Tlusty Goal

Just after Tlusty gets that first pass from Cammalleri, he immediately passes it back. Cammalleri is now in the corner, but for the most part, he's going to be around where that Barnabas Health ad board is placed.  Once Cammalleri gets the pass from Tlusty, he's going to toss it right back to him.  Stuart is now down at the bottom of the circle, but he's holding position.

As for the rest of the Devils, they're now set up in a 1-3-1 formation. Zajac isn't exactly in the middle of the ice and Stempniak is above the circle, but it's essentially the shape the formation requires.  Yet, only two players are doing something with the puck: Tlusty and Cammalleri.

Tlusty Goal

It's not apparent in a still shot, but Tlusty delayed a little bit before passing the puck back to Cammalleri. He turned, he moved his stick a bit, but ultimately moved it back to #13.  This is important to note because after that first pass to Tlusty, he passed it immediately back to Cammalleri.  It's because of this repetition and the delay Tlusty showed, Stuart is now getting aggressive.  He's going to react more to this pass between two players who are in no position to take a shot.  In effect, Tlusty and Cammalleri are baiting Stuart into a make-shift 2-on-1 down low.

Tlusty Goal

Cammalleri tosses it back to Tlusty and now Tlusty delays even more. He's turned to look like he's going to the middle of the net. Stuart now has his stick out as he tracks the puck.  Trouba has even left his spot to move above the crease.  Stuart's position is good for preventing a pass to Zajac in the middle and both defensemen are going to dissuade Tlusty from even thinking passing it across - something Stempniak will provide as he heads down his side into the left circle.

Tlusty Goal

Tlusty passes it back to Cammalleri after that delay, and now he's going to be the one to immediately pass it back.  Stuart has just turned by the time Cammalleri is releasing the puck. Tlusty is now up on the goal line.  Trouba dropped back to be at the top of the crease. There's now a space right in front of Tlusty.  It's not a large space and it'll go away when Stuart turns back around. But someone quick and good at stickhandling will be able to take advantage of it.  And if he's really fast and bold, he might even think about passing it across to Stempniak. He may not do it with Trouba's positioning, but the option may be there for a moment.  It's a result of the 1-3-1 formation.

Tlusty Goal

Tlusty gets the pass back and by the time Stuart turns back around, Tlusty's already skating towards the crease.  Stuart stretches out his stick to fill that space that I previously highlighted, but it's too late.  Tlusty is good enough of a stickhandler to keep well away from Stuart's stick while pushing it forward.  Tlusty is taking it to the net.

In retrospect, it's a surprise to me that Hutchinson is just letting this happen. He's protecting the right post as he should, but he's in deep.  He's not going to try to knock the puck away, even though it appears he could do so. With Stuart and Trouba nearby, it could even yield a clearance.  Of course, Trouba is where he should be as a defenseman.  He's well positioned to engage Tlusty as well as to deny him a passing lane to a wide open Stempniak on the team's flank. He's going to step up and disrupt Tlusty's attempt to the net.

Tlusty Goal

Then the bad break happens and Trouba puts it in his own net.  Tlusty puts the puck on his forehand and tries to curl it around to the left post.  Trouba sweeps his stick, which ends up knocking the puck into the net instead of away from it.  Most of the time, this play by the defender would be enough to deny the attempt.  The puck would be knocked just wide, causing an "Ooooh" from the crowd and nothing on the scoreboard.  I don't think Trouba did anything wrong, it was just poor puck luck for him.  All the same, Tlusty and the Devils benefited with a power play goal.

The Conclusion

One of the many cliches in hockey is to take pucks to the net and good things will happen.  This own goal is just another reason why that cliche will persist. Jiri Tlusty had a brief window to drive it into the crease and he - and the team - got rewarded for it.

However, the main takeaway from this play was the build-up to that move by Tlusty.  Even though the Devils were up a man, they created a make-shift two-on-one to create that window for Tlusty.  Cammalleri took the puck into a not-so-dangerous part of the ice and Tlusty, being the bottom one in the 1-3-1, was behind the goal line to start. Their multiple passes drew out Stuart to be more aggressive and attempt to stop the pass. They were quick, they spent the right enough time necessary to keep the passing going while drawing the defender out.  They created an offensive opportunity from a part of the zone that isn't so offensive.  A way for anyone to be successful on offense is to create an odd-man situation and take advantage; that's what Tlusty and Cammalleri did on this play.  It's something we may be seeing quite a bit during power plays this season, provided the Devils keep their 1-3-1 formation.

It could have even been worse.  If Trouba wasn't in a good position or wasn't fully aware, Tlusty could have easily came out from the goal line and attempted a pass to Stempniak for a really good shooting attempt.   Instead, Tlusty used his skillset to try and make something happen and Trouba did so.  The first goal of the Devils' season was an own goal by Winnipeg.  However, the play that made it happen was all by New Jersey. Thank you for reading.