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NJ Devils Goals Breakdown: Miles Wood’s Hat Trick in Chicago

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Miles Wood scored a hat trick in the New Jersey Devils’ 7-5 win in Chicago on November 12. It is the first of his career and Wood is the seventh Devil to have done it since 2010. This post breaks down in detail the three plays that led to his three goals to show how they happened.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks
Miles Wood and Devils fans everywhere had reason to celebrate Sunday’s 7-5 win in Chicago. Wood scored a hat trick!
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr, and Michael Cammalleri. From October 1, 2010 through to November 11, 2017, those six players combined for eight hat tricks for the New Jersey Devils according to NHL.com. On November 12, 2017, Miles Wood became the latest Devil to record a hat trick in a NHL regular season game for the franchise. His three goals were crucial in the Devils’ 7-5 win in Chicago. His first two goals kept hope alive as the Chicago Blackhawks ran up four in the first period. His third goal provided an insurance goal early in the third period to give the team some important breathing room as the team held off a thriving Chicago offense. The first and third goals were power play goals; also notable as the Devils’ power play went cold in the first week and a half of this month. As Wood’s achievement was great, it deserves a closer look. This is a breakdown of each of Wood’s three goals.

As with previous goal breakdowns, all videos are from NHL.com and any poorly taken screen captures with poorly drawn lines and text on them are from me via Microsoft Paint.

Miles Wood’s First Goal on 11/12/2017

The Situation: First period, 5-on-4 on the ice for the Devils. The power play was a result of Brent Seabrook being given a minor penalty for tripping Miles Wood 2:12 into the period. Goal was scored at 3:40. The goal tied it up 1-1 for the Devils.

The On-Ice Devils Skaters: #9 Taylor Hall, #13 Nico Hischier, #18 Drew Stafford, #28 Damon Severson, and #44 Miles Wood

The On-Ice Blackhawks Skaters: #8 Nick Schmaltz, #42 Gustav Forsling, #44 Jan Rutta, #67 Tanner Kero

The Video: From NHL.com:

The Breakdown: The play begins with Nico Hischier firing a long shot from the center point. The puck was on its side and the shot went wide. Drew Stafford was the first to the loose puck behind the net. He made a pass to the right corner (Stafford’s left). Taylor Hall is there to receive it.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Hall sees Wood open at the right post. With a clear lane between Kero and Rutta, he makes an easy pass in front. He does not even consider Hischier or Severson. Schmaltz is coming over to Wood. Nobody is paying attention Stafford at this point.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Wood passes the puck to Stafford behind the net. As he should. Schmaltz and Forsling are applying pressure. With Crawford so close to the net and already covering the post, Wood knows he does not have the space to bring the puck towards the middle or even get a quick shot off. He makes the smart decision to pass it back to Stafford. At this point, Rutta and Kero have focused on what is going on around the net.

Stafford makes a move around the net, but then decides to shift back to the right post. He was right to do so as he saw this:

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

While Rutta is lamely trying to defend the pass, Stafford sees that Wood has his stick out in front of Schmaltz. Despite being sandwiched by two Blackhawks, Wood has his stick in an inside position. It is a small window of opportunity. Stafford has to place the short pass perfectly onto Wood’s stickblade. Anything off target will either be intercepted by a Blackhawk, blocked and made loose - which Corey Crawford can cover up, or miss entirely. Difficult, but Stafford is going to do it. Another angle shows why this turned out to be a very good decision.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Not only is Wood’s stick in front of Schmaltz, Crawford’s five-hole is open. The goalie is also deep in his net, presumably from covering the post just seconds ago. Again, Stafford has to place the puck perfectly on Wood’s stickblade. He does so. With two bodies on him, Wood is able to slide the puck with one-touch right through Crawford’s five hole. That’s a power play goal and the first of the night for Miles Wood.

The Conclusions: Well, some may say Hall has a cheap secondary assist, but his decision allowed this successful give-and-take between Stafford and Wood. Those two made the play happen at all. Stafford did well to collect the puck to get things started. Stafford remained behind the net instead of coming out in front, which made him an option for Wood after he received Hall’s pass. Stafford’s gamble to come back around the right post paid off. He was able to make a great little pass to Wood. Stafford was important on this goal. But the finish was all about the goalscorer. Wood demonstrated a lot of strength to get his stick in front of the defenders and get a quick shot off while being shouldered by two men. He did not have his body in front of either; he only had his stick in front of Schmaltz. That is not at all an easy position to be in. It was an excellent finish by Wood all things considered.

As for the opposition, well, Schmaltz and Forsling tried their best. I suppose you could fault Rutta for keeping his stick up in trying to deny that Stafford pass. No one lobs a short pass from there and as high as his stick was. You could also fault Schmaltz and Forsling for not tying up Wood’s stick; instead hoping to body the big winger out of position. The real fault lies with Crawford. He was not moving. He was not going post to post. His stick was to his side but made no effort to deny the pass around the post. His five-hole was open just long enough for Wood to make him pay. It was a bad goal to allow, even if it was a one-timer in front. This would be the first of six goals allowed by Crawford tonight before he was pulled.

Miles Wood’s Second Goal on 11/12/2017

The Situation: First period, 5-on-5 on the ice for the Devils. The goal was scored at 17:37, which made the score 2-4 in favor of the opposition.

The On-Ice Devils Skaters: #6 Andy Greene, #8 Will Butcher, #11 Brian Boyle, #37 Pavel Zacha, and #44 Miles Wood

The On-Ice Blackhawks Skaters: #5 Connor Murphy, #12 Alex DeBrincat, #40 John Hayden, #82 Jordan Oesterle, and #88 Patrick Kane

The Video: From NHL.com:

The Breakdown: Steve Santini must have made a play up-ice that led to Wood taking the puck into the zone. He was credited with a secondary assist. This was not captured in the goal video. This begins with Wood taking the puck into the zone down the left side (left relative to Crawford).

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Wood has come into the zone with speed and he has a bit of a step on defenseman Jordan Oesterle. Oesterle will try to stick with Wood as they both head towards the goal line. Notice that Wood is basically alone at this point. Brian Boyle is further up in the zone; Patrick Kane will take him. Pavel Zacha just entered the zone. The Devils defensemen - or at least Santini - is changing off-screen. Still, there are three Chicago skaters in a position to defend and two more may join the effort. Boyle and Zacha will head towards the middle, but they are not options for Wood.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Wood does what he can do: take the puck to the goal line and fire a shot. It is all he can do. Oesterle is a bit behind him but has forced him to do not much else. Murphy is waiting in the slot for support. No Devil is nearby to help. The closest one is Boyle and not only is there no lane for Wood to pass it to him, Kane is right on him. Wood has everyone’s attention as he is the only threat - and that is only because he has the puck. So Wood takes what he has been given. He takes a low shot and Crawford saves it. This is where things begin to go awry for Chicago.

The shot itself is stopped by Crawford’s stick. The puck is ramped up off of it, takes a bounce off Murphy in front, and then puck is going to travel to the corner on Crawford’s right. I made a note next to Zacha. Chicago is not really paying attention to him at this moment. He is going to earn some respect on this play at this juncture.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Zacha stormed towards that loose puck. Hayden comes in and ties up his stick enough to deny him a chance to take a shot off of it. It also allows Crawford to get over and help that puck go past the post. But Zacha came in with enough momentum to just power through and go after that puck. Oesterle has to turn around sharply as the puck is now in his area. That stick you see behind him? That’s Wood’s, who was heading around the net after his shot. Keep that in mind in about two pictures.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Zacha takes that puck and gets around Oesterle to be able to keep it loose and towards the corner. Oesterle needing to turn sharply put him in an awkward spot. Zacha was moving ahead, so he had more control and could get in front of the defender. Murphy and Kane back at the crease, and Oesterle being beaten in this screen capture, Zacha will have some space with the puck in the corner. It will not be for long as Hayden is tracking the play, but it’ll be a place where Zacha can control the puck.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Now we see Wood, who turned around in the circle and has made himself an option for Zacha. It is not an easy one for Zacha to connect with. Not only is the puck on his backhand, Zacha is along the boards and he has the referee in his way. He sees Wood. But he is not going to place the puck where he currently is in this screen capture. He will place the puck to his right. Given the handedness of Wood’s stick, this is a chance for him to potentially one-time the puck. Zacha has to do this very quickly. Hayden has skated over to deny him a pass up the boards to the left point, but he can turn and move his stick if Zacha delays. He will not delay.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Fortunately for Zacha, Wood, and every fan who hates it when an official gets in the way, referee Graham Skilliter jumps over the puck from Zacha’s pass. Wood knows where the puck is going to go and he is ready to hammer a one-timer. That stick on the far right of the screen belongs to DeBrincat. He will be too late to block the shot or deter Wood from shooting. He will not be too late to make this shot count.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Excuse the fuzziness, but this shows the result of the shot. Crawford expected this one-timer to stay low. He is leaning towards the ice with his glove out. DeBrincat’s stick blade got to Wood in time to ramp up Wood’s shot. This puck is going high and right for the top, far corner. With Crawford already low, there was little chance he was going to get his glove, arm, or body up to stop this shot. Brian Boyle and Connor Murphy are to Crawford’s left; but they are not in the pathway of his shot. Mark it two for Wood.

The Conclusions: The puck was bouncing all over the place at points in this game. This one hurt Chicago. A seemingly harmless play was turned on its head when Wood’s sharp-angled shot popped up, went off Murphy, and had to be assisted wide. Off-the-puck movement by the Devils made the most of it.

For those who wanted to see more aggressive play from Pavel Zacha, then you got to see some of it right here. He charged forward to make the most of that bouncing puck. He recovered possession, got past two Blackhawks, and made a good read to Wood. While the pass needed a referee to jump to complete it, it was the best option he could make. This goal does not happen without Zacha trying to make things happen on offense. That is a step forward from trying to be involved in things happening on offense - and there is a difference between the two.

The other big factor was Wood. Wood did not attempt a difficult or low-percentage-of-success play to start. He made a zone entry, he took what was given, and then he headed around the net. Instead of casually going around the net to give up on the play, he kept going. He had the awareness to stop and turn when Zacha recovered the puck. As he saw the pass going to his right, Wood did well to move onto the puck and take a one-timer. Thanks to DeBrincat’s stick, the puck went higher than Crawford anticipated and Wood scored his second of the game. He does not have that shot if he does not get to the top of the left circle and turn to recognize that he is an option for Zacha.

As for Chicago, well, Zacha getting through Hayden and Oesterle did not reflect well on both. Moreso on Oesterle as he had a chance to deny the play at all behind the net. It was difficult as he had to turn on a dime to be involved; he was following Wood. But with Hayden in that area, surely he should have let him worry about Wood and possibly stop and come out in front? I’m not sure what DeBrincat was doing. I know he recognized Wood was open and made an effort to get in front of the shot. It was too little, too late, and it ended up hurting his team - even if that was an accident. Crawford guessed on a low shot and that ramp by DeBrincat made it a wrong guess. This was a broken play. As it made the score 2-4, perhaps it was not that big of a deal. After all, Chicago scored four first-period goals. They seemed to be in control of the game. It’s not like the Devils were going to make a comeback and go off and score four goals in the second period and enter the third period up 6-5.

Except that is what exactly happened.

Miles Wood’s Third Goal on 11/12/2017

The Situation: Third period, 5-on-4 on the ice for the Devils. The power play was a result of Richard Panik being given a minor penalty for slashing Adam Henrique’s stick away 1:01 into the period. Goal was scored at 2:21. The goal made it 7-5 in favor of the Devils.

The On-Ice Devils Skaters: #13 Nico Hischier, #18 Drew Stafford, #28 Damon Severson, #44 Miles Wood, and #63 Jesper Bratt

The On-Ice Blackhawks Skaters: #2 Duncan Keith, #40 John Hayden, #44 Jan Rutta, and #67 Tanner Kero

The Video: From NHL.com:

The Breakdown: In the beginning of this play, all eyes of the Chicago penalty kill are on Nico Hischier.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

He is up against the sideboards with top defenseman Duncan Keith right on him. Tanner Kero is in between Hischier and Jesper Bratt, who is some kind of option. The eventual goal scorer is wide, wide, wide open at the goal line. That will bite Chicago hard in the butt. But at this moment, it appears that Chicago has this handled. Surely, Nico Hischier is going to be denied from doing anything of value. Surely, right?

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Nope. The 18-year old rookie gets a pass off up the boards just as Keith engages him. Kero skated towards Hischier in an attempt to deny such a pass. Instead, the puck goes through his legs, hits off his right skate, and trickles towards Bratt. Yes, Hischier’s attempt will be successful. Bratt will get this puck. Meanwhile, Miles Wood is still wide, wide, wide open.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Once Bratt collected the puck, all four penalty killers put their eyes on Bratt. The 19-year old winger waited a bit for a passing lane to open up to the wide, wide, wide open Miles Wood. Once Kero moved to the center of the right circle, then Bratt fired a hard pass to Wood. The pass was perfect.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

Now all eyes are on Wood but only Jan Rutta and goaltender Anton Forsberg can do anything about it. Rutta actually will not do anything. He cannot. Wood turned like this to maintain control and get his body towards the crease so he can pull in the puck into his body. That will give Wood the positioning to actually attempt some kind of shot. Rutta can try, but it is all up to Forsberg at this point.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

The shot itself is not easy to see, but it appears that Wood jams this puck in just under Forsberg’s left pad. Again, Rutta cannot do anything. It looks like he can, but he cannot. The shot is already under Forsberg. As Forsberg is moving, the puck is going to slide in through him and end up just into the net by the right (Forsberg’s left) post. It is a power play goal. It is another gritty goal. It is a hat trick for Wood.

Screen capture from NHL.com goal video

The Conclusions: I know it is a power play. But how does a PK unit leave anyone open at the goal line? It is not at all a problem if the defenders were able to get the puck and clear it. It appeared that was going to happen. They all focused on the puck carrier in trying to make a play. It all faltered. Hischier was able to get a pass through Kero to Bratt. Bratt waited until a lane opened up to pass it to the wide, wide, wide open Wood. That lane opened up when Kero glided to the side. When Wood received the pass, it was too late for everyone but Forsberg and maybe Rutta. Wood made a power move to get in front of the net and his jam play was successful. Hischier earned his secondary assist; Bratt made a great, crisp pass for the primary, and Wood scored a sweet goal to cap off his hat trick.

In Summary

I give Wood a lot of criticism because he has many issues in his game. He is prone to taking some unnecessary penalties, especially in the offensive zone. Wood’s effort on defense has been lacking in the past, although it has been a bit better in this season. Wood will turn on the jets when he has the puck or can pounce on a loose puck to go one-on-one with the goalie, but he does not do so off the puck. When he does have the puck in the zone, he displays tunnel vision and often ignores a good passing option to take a shot. Some of these are fixable and if they can be fixed, then Wood can enjoy a long career in this league.

Therefore, it is only right to praise the young man when he does well on the ice. Wood’s hat trick showed some of the best of Wood. Wood used his size and strength to beat out two defenders for the first power play goal. He displayed some smarts to pass it to Stafford instead of trying to turn and shoot on Crawford. For the second goal, Wood was aware enough to keep moving after his shot, turn when Zacha had it, and attempt a one-timer when the pass was coming at him. His off the puck play was rewarded. As for the third goal, Wood made himself open and when he received the pass, he turned towards the middle with authority for a jam play. Was there some luck involved? Sure. But Wood fully earned his hat trick this evening.

Even more, Wood demonstrated other positives outside of this hat trick. Instead of forcing a shot after a neutral zone turnover, Wood set up Brian Gibbons for a goal in the second period. Wood drew a penalty - that he later scored off of - instead of taking one. Wood took seven shots on net and stormed the net early in the third period even before the PPG. From a run of play standpoint, Wood wasn’t too bad and the Devils out-shot their competition when he was on the ice in 5-on-5. It was a great night; with the hat trick, it was arguably one of Wood’s best performances in his career. The only thing missing was a breakaway created by his speed. With these goals, who cares about that? Miles Wood scored a hat trick. It is the first of this season for the Devils; the ninth one on the team in this decade and the seventh Devil to have done so since 2010.

Your Take

Now that you read a breakdown of each of Wood’s three goals in Chicago, what did you think of the breakdown? What did you learn from each goal? What about each goal impressed you? Would you agree that this was one of Wood’s best games in his young career? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Wood’s hat trick, this breakdown of his three goals, and his performance in general from last night in the comments. Thank you for reading.