Ales Hemsky had a great game against Vancouver on Sunday, and his best moment was the power play goal in the third period that sent the game into overtime. The goal showed Hemsky at his best, showcasing his high-end speed and shot, but it was also the product of a lot of work from the entire power play unit.
Superficially, the goal looks like it’s all on Hemsky, but the entire power play contributed in some way, making room for Hemsky’s brilliance. Lets’ have a look.
Devan Dubnyk takes the puck behind his net. He’s under some forechecking pressure from Mason Raymond here and could get into trouble if he hangs on to the puck too long; he opts for a simple, short pass to Ryan Whitney.
Now the pressure transfers to Whitney. He too opts for the safe, simple play: a pass to Sam Gagner along the half boards.
Gagner wastes no time skating up to center. Whitney’s out of the picture but so too is the Canucks forechecker. Now the Oilers are attacking the Canucks blue line with a 4-on-3 advantage. Gagner and Ales Hemsky have Alex Burrows in a 2-on-1 situation along the right boards. Ryan Smyth is driving for the gap between defencemen Alex Edler and Jason Garrison, which leaves Edler facing a plausible 2-on-1 with both Smyth and Yakupov bearing down on him. Gagner opts to cut to the middle a little bit to draw Burrows off the boards and then make a backhand pass to Hemsky, who is at full speed.
Gagner’s move has given Hemsky all the room he is going to need. Burrows corrects to turn to Hemsky while Garrison (the last man back here) also identifies him as the primary threat. Edler stays high on the far side (as he should).
Burrows can’t correct in time – Hemsky takes advantage of the space and blows past him.
Garrison can’t get over far enough to take away the shot; he’s in good position to thwart a pass but if Hemsky elects to shoot there’s nothing he can do. The combination of the Gagner move and Hemsky’s speed mean that the Canucks are going to surrender a good opportunity here.
Hemsky makes a perfect shot.
It’s not really the most complicated goal – the whole play from the time Dubnyk touched the puck to the time Hemsky scored only took up eight seconds (Sportsnet’s clock ticked down an extra second after the goal was officially in) – but watching it last night I was struck by its elegance. On the defensive side, two short, safe passes from Dubnyk and Whitney eliminated the threat of the forecheck and allowed the Oilers to take off on a 4-on-3 rush. Yakupov and Smyth offered Gagner plenty of options as he approached the blue line and forced the Canucks to cover the whole ice. Gagner himself did solid work, pulling Burrows off the boards a little before setting up Hemsky. From there, Hemsky took over – taking the puck at full speed, looking for a shot the whole way, and then picking his spot perfectly.
It was a lovely play, and one the entire second unit of the power play worked to author.
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