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NJ Devils Goal Breakdown: The Season’s First Goal by Henrique, Butcher, & Palmieri

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Adam Henrique tipped in a shot Will Butcher took after receiving a pass by Kyle Palmieri for the first goal of the New Jersey Devils’ 2017-18 season. This post breaks down the play that led to the team’s first goal (and power play goal) of the season.

Colorado Avalanche v New Jersey Devils
This is the celebration after the New Jersey Devils’ first goal of the 2017-18 season. Let’s breakdown how it happened.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last season, the New Jersey Devils scored their first goal of the season from a deflection of a shot taken by a defenseman. This season, the New Jersey Devils scored their first goal of the season from a deflection of a shot taken by a defenseman. Unlike last season, this goal came on the power play and the goal was in a winning effort. I also would like to think that the three men involved in the goal will remain on the Devils throughout the whole season too. As is tradition, this is a breakdown of the first goal of the 2017-18 Devils season. Thanks to Kyle Palmieri, Will Butcher, and Adam Henrique for making it possible.

The Game Situation

  • It was a 5-on-4 situation for the Devils.
  • Goal was scored officially at 4:04 into the first period. 12 seconds were left on an interference penalty being served by #54 Anton Lindholm.
  • Devils on the ice: #8 Will Butcher, #9 Taylor Hall, #10 Jimmy Hayes, #14 Adam Henrique, #21 Kyle Palmieri, #35 Cory Schneider
  • Avalanche on the ice: #6 Erik “Knees” Johnson, #16 Nikita Zadorov, #17 Tyson Jost, #34 Carl Soderberg, #45 Jonathan Bernier

The Video of the Goal

From NHL.com, here is a video of the goal from the MSG broadcast:

All screenshots are from this video. Poorly drawn lines, arrows, and text were added by me in MS Paint.

The Breakdown

We begin with the Devils set up in a 1-3-1 formation. Will Butcher has the puck and he’s the first 1 in the 1-3-1. He’s the lone point man and he’s showing that he is going to shoot the puck. That will cause Tyson Jost, the up man in a triangle-plus-one penalty kill formation Colorado is showing here.

As indicated by the picture, Butcher is faking this shot. By drawing Jost to the middle, this opens up a passing lane to Kyle Palmieri. The winger is wide open. A good pass to the faceoff dot could give him a chance to collect, turn, and shoot. Palmieri is one of the 3 in the 1-3-1. You can trace a line between him, Adam Henrique, and Taylor Hall. This is the right read for Butcher. Hall is wide open too but as he’s outside of the right circle, he’s not in an advantageous position. Hall cannot really shoot right away even if Butcher feeds him the puck there. The Avalanche would gladly let him shoot from there anyway, it is not a good angle. Henrique is the man in the middle, surrounded by all of the Avs penalty killers. He is not open at all.

A shot by Butcher could be threatening if it gets through - but that is asking a lot here with all of the bodies in the way. If only for Jimmy Hayes - the last 1 in the 1-3-1 - using his big frame to screen Jonathan Bernier. So Butcher fakes the shot, Jost bites on it enough to open the passing lane to Palmieri, and Butcher makes the pass.

While the pass was successful, Palmieri opted to take the puck in closer. This did not work out well for #21. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov smartly goes over to his side, kneels, and puts his stick on the ice as he lunges. This blocks off Palmieri from the right side of the crease. He is unable to send a pass across the crease - as if any Devil is open. Erik Johnson temporarily took Hayes in front and sliding it back to Henrique would be a mightily difficult pass to attempt. Additionally, Bernier also slid over to his left post. Even if Zadorov was not there, Palmieri would have a goalie ready for a shot anyway. Further, not only did Zadorov put his stick in the way, he will disrupt the puck slightly so Palmieri will lose control for a bit.

Palmieri really has only one path and that is indicated by the red line. He has to go around the net. Hall understands this, so he moved in from the half-wall and moved down to support his teammate. He is the only one who really can. Although, there is a man in the back that nobody is looking at - not even the camera operator. He is going to shift too and this will be important in a few pictures. Speaking of, I will switch to the behind-the-net replay view to highlight what happens next.

Not only did Hall know Palmieri would be going around the net, so did the Avalanche. Johnson got away from Hayes to defend the right post. Palmieri had to recover the puck so there was no real threat of a wraparound attempt. But Johnson did the smart thing and defends that spot for a pass or any other move to that area. Soderberg also dropped in deep and he is behind Hall. While Hall is here, he is not really a good option to give him the puck. Hall could, in theory, take the puck and head around the other way. But Johnson or Zadorov could intercept him and cause a battle for the puck. It appears that Palmieri is in a spot, especially with Soderberg able to get in and around Hall to make a play.

However, there is support. He is just not on camera yet. Thankfully for the Devils, Palmieri does know where he is.

That support is Will Butcher. When Hall went down low and as Palmieri went around the net, Butcher moved over to the right point. This is what the back one in the 1-3-1 needs to do. He needs to be able to move with the play to be an option for a pass or a shot as needed. In this moment, he is an option for Palmieri. Palmieri is able to make this pass just before Soderberg goes for a stickcheck. Soderberg does the right thing here; Palmieri was able to get the puck away cleanly first.

As a quick thought, if Soderberg did tip the puck away, there could be three to four men going after the puck depending on where it would go. Palmieri and Soderberg would be the first ones in, but Hall and Johnson are moving in their direction so they could be involved. With time running out on a power play, this would not be such a bad thing for Colorado. Unfortunately for them, Palmieri getting out of this spot becomes a bad thing for them. Not only is Butcher available to Palmieri - he is wide open.

The back view does not do a great job showing the gap between Jost and Butcher. One can forgive Jost for not applying more pressure. He had to drop back when Soderberg went after Palmieri. Now he is skating up towards Butcher. If Butcher mishandled the puck, had to delay to take another touch, or just was not sure what to do, then maybe Jost has a shot at making a play. But Butcher took the pass cleanly and so Jost is just another body in the way.

In the way? Yes. Notice that in this shot that Butcher is ready to fire a long wrister. This is a good decision as opposed to when he faked a slapshot at the beginning of this breakdown. He does not really have a good passing option. While Hall may look open, again, he is not in a position to really do much if he gets a pass. More importantly, Butcher has a shooting lane that he did not have before. He can see Bernier. What’s more is that Bernier cannot really see Butcher right now. He has Jost (1), Henrique (2), and Zadorov knocking Hayes (3) in the way. That is three bodies almost in a line by the lane Butcher is going to shoot into. Bernier senses this and so he has to lean to his right.

This is just after Butcher fires his shot. The puck is elevated and it just about to pass Jost. Now, Bernier has leaned to his right and can see the puck. Provided the puck stays on its path, he is in a position to make a save. He could turn it aside, which would allow Johnson a chance to retrieve the loose puck for a clearance to finish the penalty kill. He could hold onto the puck to end the attack and allow some fresh skaters on the ice to clean up the end of the penalty kill. He could make a save and try to not have the rebound end up in a precarious spot. At this short moment in time, things are OK. Palmieri got out of a jam but all it led to was a long wrister from a rookie defenseman that the NHL-caliber Bernier should stop almost all of the time with ease.

The puck does not stay on its path. Henrique is going to make it change and that will defeat Bernier.

I re-watched the replay numerous times and it appears to me that Henrique tipped this shot in mid-air with the heel of his stick blade. Either that or he got a great touch from the back of his blade. All the same, it is not an easy deflection to make at all. But it paid off big time as it changed the direction of the puck enough to make it go away from Bernier but still be on target.

The puck is in mid-air and this tip is not yet doom for Colorado. With Zadorov giving Hayes some business in front of Bernier, the deflected puck could hit either or both of them. Spoiler: It does not. Additionally, Bernier starts shifting to his left, expecting the puck to go that way. Spoiler: He won’t get there in time. The result (and shifting to the side view to show the puck was elevated from the tip and the initial shot)?

The first goal of the season for Henrique. The first NHL point and assist for Butcher. The first secondary assist of the season for Palmieri. The first power play goal and just plain any goal of the season for the New Jersey Devils. And a 1-0 lead early in the game.

The Takeaways

This is an example of the 1-3-1 working. The play begins in the set-up and the players involved all serve a role. Hayes spent the play in front either screening Bernier, taking up a defender’s attention, and/or both. While he did not touch the puck, his presence hindered Bernier enough to make him lean right and realize too late when the puck changed direction. Hall did not provide much support but he was an available option. If Jost and Soderberg’s positions were reversed at the start, then the play could have gone to the left. Of course, the three skaters that touched the puck mattered the most. Palmieri made himself the option in the situation that did occur and made the right decision. Henrique was in the middle for most of the time and as such, he was able to make a play when the opportunity presented itself. It was a deflection on this play. On another, it could be a shot off a pass or moving ahead to crash the net. The standout player was Butcher. He directed the play to start, he shifted to the right side as Palmieri was forced to go around the net to make himself an option, and then he made the decision to shoot an elevated shot. This was a goal from a formation; it likely does not happen in this way if the Devils were utilizing some other tactic.

Related to that, this goal is a great example of why the Devils coaches put so much trust into Butcher. Look at the unit: Hall, Henrique, Palmieri, Hayes, and Butcher. That’s three of the team’s top six forwards, a big body in Hayes, and a rookie defenseman. The 1-3-1 needs that back one to be able to play smart on and off the puck. A mistake by him could lead to a disastrous counter attack or undercut the power play attack. On this play, Butcher utilized a fake shot to make the read he wanted to make, he correctly shifted to his left, and he knew to shoot the puck before Jost could get near him and instead of forcing a pass that would lead the Devils nowhere. The deflection itself was fortunate (the tip itself and that it did not hit off Zadorov or Hayes), but Butcher’s play was not. The primary assist for Butcher was well-earned.

As a final point, I do not think the Avalanche did anything really wrong on this play. Jost has to respect Butcher’s fake shot. While he was initially far away when Butcher received the pass, Jost was in the right spot by design of the triangle plus one. As Soderberg broke away, Jost needed to go back to reform the triangle, so to speak. If he could have done anything different, then maybe putting his stick to his right would have caused Butcher to rethink or alter his shot. That is wishful thinking though. Zadorov did a great job to force Palmieri to go around the net and even got the puck away. He picked up Hayes and perhaps he should not have kept trying to shove him away - it did not help - he covered the right man with Johnson away. Soderberg went after Palmieri with an opportunity to make a defensive play. Palmieri just beat his stickcheck. One could point to Johnson not doing a whole lot, but he also did not really need to do so. Bernier even looked over enough to get a visual on Butcher’s shot, which he likely would have stopped if Henrique did not deflect it. If there was any failure, then it was to get the puck away from the Devils and/or keep them from firing a shot. The former was not really happening; Zadorov did it but not in a way such that Palmieri could not recover it and Soderberg tried but he was a half-second too slow. The latter would have only happened if Butcher did not make the right decision in time. From the Avalanche perspective, this goal is an example of how an otherwise good effort could still end up with a goal against. Or, in other words, not every goal allowed is necessarily a failure.

From the Devils perspective, this goal is an example of how keeping an attack going and making good decisions can lead to a pay off. Again, the deflection was fortunate in both how Henrique tipped it and in where the deflected puck went. But none of this happens if Butcher does not make good decisions, if Palmieri does not make the right pass to Butcher, if the other players do not serve their roles in the 1-3-1, and if Butcher does not fire a wrister. The opportunity for a deflection was created; that can be repeated even if the deflection itself is not.

Your Take

That is the goal breakdown of the first New Jersey Devils goal of the 2017-18 season. Who impressed you the most on this play? What did you learn from this breakdown? Does this, in addition to two other assists on the power play, get you more excited for Butcher in a 1-3-1 formation? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on this breakdown of the team’s first goal of the season in the comments. Thank you for reading.