The Face-Off Play that Won Game 2

It doesn’t get much better than scoring an overtime winner in the Stanley Cup finals.  That’s exactly what Conor Sheary did last night.  The goal was scored off a set face-off play that was executed perfectly.  There are a lot of moving pieces and timing is critical, but below is a breakdown of exactly how the Penguins executed the play and took a 2-0 series lead.

Crosby (Center)

The clip attached doesn’t show it, but Crosby talked with his team before the puck was dropped.  It’s something that all centers should do before every face-off.  Whether you are running a set play or not, the rest of the players need to know where you are trying to win the draw to.  As a coach, this is something you should demand from your centers before every face-off.  With the face-off being on the left side of the ice, Crosby was able to take the draw on his strong side.  He was strong on the puck and timed it perfectly.  After Crosby wins the draw he heads towards the boards to offer an outlet to Letang.  If the pass to Sheary isn’t there for Letang, then he has a safe option to Crosby open along the half board.   Once Crosby sees the pass go to Sheary he heads towards the net for a rebound or a potential passing target if the shot isn’t there. All around it was a great job by Crosby to get everyone on the same page and win the draw cleanly.

Hornqvist (Right Wing)

Hornqvist plays a critical role in this goal.  You will notice right off the draw Hornqvist doesn’t head right to the net, instead his first steps are up towards the middle of the top of the circle.  This is important for a number of reasons.  First, it’s changing Couture’s route to get to Letang and makes him take a step towards the boards.  If Couture is able to take a direct route to Letang, the passing lane to Sheary disappears.  He doesn’t bump Couture or hit him, he just alters his route the slightest bit to slow him down and make him shift to the outside.  Secondly, the steps towards the top of the circle also put him in a nice defensive position if the Pens lose the draw.  After his route to the top of the circle Hornqvist heads towards the front of the net where he times his screen perfectly.  He is directly in between Jones and puck until Sheary releases the puck and allows the lane towards the net.  Notice he is moving the entire time and doesn’t just plant himself there along with a d-man.  He does a nice job of screening and moving at the same time. It’s just a perfectly executed sequence all around by Hornqvist.  He provides the interference on Couture without taking himself out of the play and slides right towards the front of the net for a perfect screen.  Jones never had a chance.

Sheary (Left Wing)

The hero of the OT skates a nice easy route.  His route is all about timing.  You can see he doesn’t explode off the draw.  Instead, he takes a few small strides and coasts right in front of Couture to run a second interference on Couture’s route.  It’s key that he is in Couture’s lane and he times it very well once again slowing Couture down and making him shift slightly towards the boards.  Once he passes Couture he finds the open spot in the middle of ice away from defenders and opens up his body to accept the pass (Note: on the left side of the ice the left winger needs to be lefty in order to open up to receive the pass).  It looks like he maybe could have opened up a little more than he did to fire a one-timer, but regardless he found the open ice and put himself in s position to accept the pass.  Once he receives the pass he takes a quick stride and releases a perfect snap shot.  He uses the defender as a screen and gets the puck to the net.  Once again the timing of Sheary was perfect to run interference on Couture and put himself in a great spot to accept the pass.

Letang  (Left D)

Letang is a right-handed shot and usually plays the right side of the blue-line but notice he lines up on the left side.  This isn’t just because Letang is the Pens best puck moving d-man, it’s also because being a righty on the left side creates a higher percentage passing play.  If you watch the replay and picture Letang as a lefty, the angle of the pass completely changes and he would have to pass across his body at a steeper angle and through Couture instead of around him.  The percentage of the pass getting through Couture with a lefty passing as opposed to a righty passing is much lower.  Letang also does a nice job of freezing Couture with a fake shot.  He might have been considering the shot, but it looks like Couture was in the shooting lane.  He quickly anticipates where Sheary will be and places the perfect pass into the open ice.  It takes a lot of confidence to make that pass.  If he doesn’t place the perfect pass Couture could easily be heading the other way with the puck on his stick.  If you plan on running this play, make sure it’s with a good puck moving defenseman and make sure he/she doesn’t force the pass.  If the pass isn’t there he has the option down the half wall to Crosby or across the blue-line to his d-partner.  It was a really nice decision and feed by Letang.

You have to give the Pittsburgh coaching staff a lot of credit for drawing up this nice play.  Face-off plays usually don’t go as planned, but it looks like they never sacrificed themselves defensively and Letang had multiple outlets if the pass to Sheary wasn’t available.  If you like this face-off play be sure to check out some of the set face-off plays we have on the systems section of our website.

View more information including the animation, diagram, and downloads on this offensive zone face off play.

Do you agree with this breakdown?  Did we miss something?  Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions, we would love to get your feedback.