Own goals count like intentionally scored goals. However, like the one that the New Jersey Devils got against Winnipeg, the play that led up to it was worth looking at as it created the situation that resulted in the goal. It was the only one and one could wonder when the first real goal would be scored. It happened on the next night. Against the Washington Capitals on October 10, the Devils scored their first legitimate, intentional, shot-into-the-net goal of the season. Adam Henrique fired a lovely high shot to beat Braden Holtby to get the Devils on the board. It was his first goal since March 17, 2015, so it must have been personally satisfying to end that streak. As this breakdown will show, how Henrique got into position was just as impressive as the shot itself.
The Situation: Even strength, 5-on-5 play in the first period. Devils down 0-2.
The On-Ice Capitals: #70 Braden Holtby, #74 John Carlson, #44 Brooks Orpik, #21 Brooks Laich, #46 Michael Latta, #53 Sean Collins
The On-Ice Devils: #1 Keith Kinkaid, #44 Eric Gelinas, #8 David Schlemko, #14 Adam Henrique, #9 Jiri Tlusty, #21 Kyle Palmieri
The Video of the Goal: From NHL.com, here's the video of the goal. All screenshots in this breakdown come from that video. Any poorly drawn arrows, lines, circles, and text were added by me.
We begin with a dump-in that Eric Gelinas eventually gets and Michael Latta tries to get to, but instead lays a hit on the big defender.
With Gelinas pinned momentarily, the puck will get loose. Brooks Laich is in the slot in the hopes that Latta won the puck and can get it towards the center. That does not happen. Collins and Tlusty are along the left boards (directions are relative to the Devils) in case the puck is punched up the boards. That does not happen. Collins will go in, hoping he can make it a 2-on-1 along the boards; but that really lead to much. David Schlemko is close to the action in case it was going to come across below the dot, Henrique is higher up. As the puck squirts out, Henrique going to go in and take the loose puck.
With Collins and Latta in the boards, Gelinas comes out of the hit first, with Henrique taking possession outside the circle. Laich, realizing he wasn't going to be hit with a miracle pass out of the corner, already skated back to the left circle in the hopes of engaging Henrique on a forecheck. You can see the issue here. He's essentially in no man's land and there are two Caps in the corner. Tlusty is along the boards for a short option. Laich could prevent a pass to the opposite winger, which would be Kyle Palmieri. Instead, Henrique will be smart and move the puck to Schlemko. He'll put it in front of Schlemko so he can skate on it. Palmieri and Tlusty are heading up ice in anticipation of this and hoping they can get a counter-attack going. With Laich up here, there's only two Caps back.
Schlemko easily takes Henrique's pass, skates up a bit, and then passes it to Palmieri in the neutral zone. Laich, after the pass, impressively drops to the center and he's going to try to chase down this play knowing there are only two Caps back. The two forwards in the left corner, Latta and Collins, they're done. They're just behind at this juncture. As Schlemko passes it up ice, Tlusty is going to head towards the center circle while Henrique continues on the left side. You can see Brooks Orpik in this shot, reading the play and looking to engage Palmieri. He'll get his chance because this pass by Schlemko does not go well at all.
The pass by Schlemko hit Palmieri in the right skate, so the puck went towards the wall. Fortunately, Palmieri was already positioned facing the wall so it's not a difficult situation for him to retrieve it. Unfortunately, he's going to get a dose of Vitamin Orpik. The defenseman is going to try to head off the attack here, hoping to pin Palmieri and/or get the puck in a different location. At best, to re-start an attack for Washington. At worst, to allow his teammates to get into better positions.
Meanwhile, Tlusty is watching this all happen, awaiting to see the turnout before pushing forward or having to start hustling back. You'll note Gelinas is still deep in his own zone, with Schlemko closer to the blueline. Should things go really awry, at least the Devils will still have two defenders back. Laich is going to press towards this melee to support Orpik, post-hit. Lastly, notice that John Carlson is in the center circle. Like Tlusty, he's awaiting to see the outcome of this. For his sake, Palmieri better not win the puck because it may lead to a make-shift two on one.
Sorry, John. Palmieri won the puck. Orpik threw the hit, but Palmieri was able to get to the puck and position himself in a way to get it around himself and Orpik. Laich might have tapped it as it was coming out, either way with where everyone else is, the puck is heading into space. Laich will chase it down, but the puck is going to stay ahead of him. While Tlusty awaited the outcome of this play in the center circle, he never stopped moving his feet (ditto for Carlson). Since he a swift skater, he's going to be able to pick up the puck at the Verizon logo in stride. Carlson, witnessing this happen, is going to drop back towards the right wall as Tlusty will pick up by there.
At this moment, you can see the two-on-one developing. With Orpik physically engaged with Palmieri, there's only one defenseman back. Laich is making an effort to backcheck, but he's the only forward with any reasonable chance of doing so. Tlusty has a chance and will get to this loose puck. With Henrique coming up the left side earlier, he's cutting more to the middle as Tlusty goes after this puck. He's the second Devil up ice and Carlson - or anyone else - can't do anything about it.
Carlson is a quick skater himself, so he hustled back to get closer to Tlusty. He stretches out his stick in the hopes of denying the zone entry. Fortunately, Tlusty will take this puck closer to the right wall. Carlson can't reach there and even though Laich is applying pressure from behind, he can't zoom ahead to deny him in that spot. Tlusty will carry this puck in.
Laich has another reason to zoom forward anyway. He knows Carlson is the only one back. (Orpik is just coming away from the hit.) I don't think he sees Henrique wide, wide, so wide open in the middle of the ice. But with the knowledge of only one defender back, he knows he needs to get forward fast. He can trust Carlson in the interim. Henrique timed his strides well enough to stay outside of the zone until Tlusty is in, but not such in a way he'll be caught flat-footed upon entry. Henrique is trusting Tlusty to do his job, and he'll be rewarded very soon.
Laich gets around where Carlson and Tlusty were, but at this point, it's too late. Tlusty got to the right wall and identified the hole in Carlson's positioning. Carlson kept his stick out as Tlusty gained the zone. So the winger knew he can slide an outlet pass to the middle underneath. He did so with just the right amount of pace and in the right direction so Henrique can take it in motion. It's an excellent pass that essentially gives Henrique a breakaway. Laich has no chance at him, Carlson can't get to him, and the other Caps are hoping Holtby comes up big.
He doesn't. Holtby gets to the top of his crease and tries to make himself as big as he can. However, the form isn't perfect as his blocker remains at about the same height as his logo. Given the crouching-like stance he has, that means the top left corner is open. It's still has a very tough shot to make, but Henrique is going to make it.
To highlight how tough that is, here's a lower angle shot from one of the slow-motion replays in the video. From Henrique's perspective, Holtby's not giving him much. He has to rely on experience to know that with the blocker in that position, the high corner would be open. But it's a very tight window, the shot could have easily sailed high or even wide just trying to get it in there. Especially with Henrique moving forward with the puck prior to shooting. Yet, as we know, he hit that just as perfectly as Tlusty's pass to him.
Let's go back to the beginning of this play and focus on what went wrong for the Capitals. The Capitals dumped it in, and Latta did not win the puck or at least get it into a deeper space. Collins rushed in to support Latta, only to end up behind the play. That was a loss. Laich tried to forecheck, tried to support Orpik, tried to backcheck, but ultimately just ended up chasing the play. That was a loss. Orpik went in for a hit after a pass went off Palmieri's skate, hoping to stem the attack early. He ended up getting on the outside of Palmieri, which allowed the winger to put the puck out into space and left Carlson completely alone on the back end. That was a significant loss. Carlson skated back to keep Tlusty to the wall. He had the right position but because his stick stayed out, Tlusty was able to pass under it to the open ice in the middle for Henrique to take it. That was a loss.
Right there, before Henrique even took the shot, that's four parts of this play where the Capitals didn't succeed. OK, I may have been harsh on Laich as he covered a lot of ice on this play, but if he wasn't so aggressive to start and just bailed out of the attack once Henrique picked up the puck, then he could've provided better support. Still, Collins coming in just meant one less Cap to defend the counter, Orpik took a risk in the neutral zone and lost, and Carlson got beat. They really left it to a one-on-one situation with Holtby. He's a very good goalie but even with elite goalies in the crease, it's best to not leave them out to dry.
Ultimately, Henrique made this great counter-attack a success by scoring. Had the shot been stopped or if he missed the frame, then this is just a footnote in a recap. Maybe it's brought up as a complaint about Henrique or something else about the offense. I know who wouldn't just forget about it so quickly: Barry Trotz. The Capitals' head coach would most likely say something about this in video review, in practice, or even in a separate session on how things went on. Win or not, it was a scoring play and it was a result of a breakdown by the Caps.
Of course, such breakdowns only yield success when they're successfully punished. The Devils punished the Caps on these losses. Henrique made a good pass to Schlemko to start an attack. While Schlemko's pass to Palmieri missed his mark, Palmieri kept it going forward with a good play along the wall despite feeling the force of Brooks Orpik's body. Tlusty read the play wonderfully to turn a puck into space into an actual zone entry. He made a pass to Henrique as good as his shot to score on it. Henrique, obviously, finished it. The Devils almost did everything right just as much as the Capitals almost did everything wrong on this play. As a result, Henrique scored the first intentional, real, legitimate, shot-off-the-stick goal of the 2015-16 season for the New Jersey Devils.
What did you make of the play? What have you noticed that went right or wrong? What have you learned from it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on the goal in the comments. Thank you for reading.