Breakdowning Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s not hard to spot the big mistake the Toronto Maple Leafs made in allowing Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal midway through the second period of Saturday’s game in Vancouver. With the Canucks on the powerplay, James Reimer makes a save on an Alex Edler shot, and the rebound bounces into the slot, where Matthew Lombardi has a chance to fire it the length of the ice. He whiffs on the clear, however, instead putting the puck right back on the stick of Edler at the point. The next time the Leafs touch the puck, they’re fishing it out of their net.

It was one of a salad bar of errors the Leafs served up to the Canucks.

You can understand why many in the Toronto media call for Ron Wilson’s head on a regular basis: his team is abysmal defensively. All six Maple Leaf goals against Saturday were the result of defensive errors. Furthermore, four were the direct result of a senseless turnover, and two of those four were the result of a series of defensive errors after a senseless turnover.

Salo’s goal falls into the final category. Lombardi’s failure to ice the puck is one of two mistakes he makes on this play. Furthermore, while the flubbed clear undoubtedly enables a goal, it’s not the mistake that eventually causes it. Let’s take another look at this one:

For obvious reasons, we’ll begin with the puck on the stick of Matthew Lombardi and the players from both teams preparing to vacate the zone and change. Salo is on his way out of the zone to collect the puck wherever it may land, and Alex Edler is hoper-groping, moving towards where he suspects Lombardi will fire the puck in the .0001% chance that something goes wrong.

Alex Edler wins the lottery.

Meanwhile, Salo circles back. Keep in mind that he’s a right-handed shot, meaning he will re-enter the zone with his stick facing the inside of the ice. In effect, Lombardi’s botched clear hasn’t simply failed to quell the zone pressure — it’s flipped Salo and Edler at the point, thereby improving Sami Salo’s preparedness for a cross-zone one-timer. Lombardi has inadvertently loaded Salo’s rifle.

Here’s where Lombardi makes his second error. Understandably embarrassed, he tries to make up for his mistake in haste by rushing out hard to challenge Edler at the blueline. However, he comes out too hard, and Edler simply moves the puck to Henrik along the end boards and steps past him, seeking a return pass. You thought Lombardi was in recovery mode before — now he’s out of the play.

Jake Gardiner sees this and rushes to take away the give-and-go option. Unfortunately, he forgets that it’s Henrik, whose passes are never that predictable. Rather than make the basic return feed on his forehand as expected, Henrik opts instead for the swiveling, no-look backhand pass. (Silly Gardiner. Everyone knows that’s always Henrik’s option A.)

It’s a smart play, as it draws Gardiner away from the slot, opening up two more options: Henrik can hit Kesler in front of the goal or he can hit Daniel cutting through the middle of the ice. The Leafs scramble to adjust. Steckel chases Daniel, and poor Dion Phaneuf has no idea what to do. He can either vacate the goal mouth to cover Daniel or leave Daniel a wide open path to the goal mouth by staying with Kesler.

Henrik hits Daniel. Now, Daniel’s a big smartypants, so he recognizes that, with Steckel chasing him and Lombardi chasing Edler, the Leafs’ four-man box has basically died. No seriously — it now resembles a coffin.

That in mind, Daniel decides not to take the puck to the net. Instead, he’ll swing around the outside and find Sami Salo, who is so completely forgotten at this point that he’s become invisible. Additionally, poor Matthew Lombardi realizes he’s been duped again.

Meanwhile, Alex Edler sees Daniel curling around to Salo. He decides to make things even easier on his blueline partner by continuing through the zone and aggressively interfering with David Steckel, who might be able to get into that wide open shooting lane. I have circled the blatant interference call happening five feet from the official.

If Steckel’s smart, he just goes down at this point to sell the call. Sure, it’s a dive, but it arguably saves a goal.

With Edler actively pushing Steckel from my red circle into the bigger red circle, Salo now has a wide-open lane to the goal. And, with Dion Phaneuf still unclear on who he should check, Ryan Kesler is able to provide a quality screen. Like the play that opens this sequence, that’s a gimme. But, unlike the play that opens this sequence, Salo makes no mistake. 5-1 Canucks.

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32 comments

  1. Lenny
    February 20, 2012

    Excellent… though I don’t think Phaneuf thinks fast enough to decide who to cover between Kesler and Daniel. Also, you can see Steckel complaining to the referee after the goal about the interference call.

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  2. sarah
    February 20, 2012

    I’m intimidated by the Sedinary

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  3. BeCanucks
    February 20, 2012

    I love the “oops” in the play-by-play, juste excelent!

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    Rating: +24 (from 24 votes)
    • By-Tor
      February 20, 2012

      don’t forget the “Lombardi fanned! Will he pay? SALO SCORES!”
      Hughson knows how to call a game, that for sure!

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      Rating: +16 (from 16 votes)
  4. invisibleairwaves
    February 20, 2012

    As soon as Lombardi hesitated on the clearing attempt, I had a feeling something horrible was about to happen. By the time it landed on Edler’s stick, it was a done deal. It’s amazing how quickly the Sedins are able to react to turnovers like this. They went from “oh darn he’s got the puck, time to head to the bench” to “oh hey I’m in perfect position for a crazy backhand pass” before the Leafs PK knew what was happening.

    Also Matthew Lombardi is kind of awful. Not regretting picking him up in the Anti-Fantasy League one bit.

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  5. Innovation
    February 20, 2012

    The analysis you do on these goals are fantastic! Keep it up!

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    Rating: +16 (from 18 votes)
  6. Steven Ray Orr
    February 20, 2012

    I’m sitting here, at work, giggling like a small child.

    Oh Sedinerie!

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    Rating: +8 (from 10 votes)
    • Dylan
      February 20, 2012

      I’m sitting here at home imaging you giggling at work like a small child.

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      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  7. RG
    February 20, 2012

    Don’tchall know that all overrated teams can do this?!

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    Rating: +36 (from 36 votes)
  8. V
    February 20, 2012

    Honestly, the ‘captions” (for lack of a better word) on the photos make this feature. Love Edler’s “Huh. How about that”.

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    Rating: +13 (from 13 votes)
  9. nee
    February 20, 2012

    oh man, that coffin comment is amazing. Especiallly since you actually drew it to prove your ppint.

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    Rating: +20 (from 22 votes)
  10. Mondo Bizarro
    February 20, 2012

    Big deal. The Canucks get away with a blatant interference that any two bit official should call, leading directly to a goal, and this is an indication that Wilson should be fired? How about firing the official?

    Yes the Leafs are laughably bad, but taking a penalty kill, where Lombardi makes a completely boneheaded play, where the official makes a horrible blunder, and using this as proof Wilson should be fired is terrible journalism.

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    • bergberg
      February 20, 2012

      I don’t think the point of this article is that Wilson should be fired. The point is that the Leafs made some defensive mistakes leading to a Canucks goal.

      I think you need to relax. You’ll live longer.

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      Rating: +33 (from 33 votes)
      • MelT
        February 20, 2012

        Or should that be, “I think you need to relax, Ron.”

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        Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)
    • Andrew Kvyatkovski
      February 20, 2012

      If refs make that call teams might as well put a guy in the box for the entire game. Those little pick plays happen all the time (the Red Wings are always doing it). They are both moving, Edler doesnt change his path, and they both engage. Considering some of the interference penalties that arent called….

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      • Canucksrule
        February 20, 2012

        nice breakdown of the goal, not nearly enough to call interference… Wilson should be fired…

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        • Square Ball
          February 20, 2012

          Steckel was skating backwards anyway, in my mind something like that shouldn’t be interference. Edler actually did him a favour by getting him out of Salo’s shooting lane!

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        • John Andress
          February 20, 2012

          You are just trying to stir it up, aren’t you Canucksrule? Think of poor Mondo Bizarro’s feelings for goodness sake!

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    • damackanator
      February 20, 2012

      You’ve missed all the important information. This analysis of a PK blunder is not calling for Ron Wilson’s head but it does mention that the Toronto media ask for him to be fired on a continuous basis. Edler’s interference was hardly that. He was getting the hell out of Sami’s way. Any sane person would move themselves out of the way of a Salo slapper. The Leaf players was too tired to get out of Edler’s way, is all.

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  11. G.
    February 20, 2012

    I love it. Thanks, Harrison.

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  12. tom selleck's moustache
    February 20, 2012

    Great to see another breakdowning; I love reading them. I think credit needs to be given to Daniel for reading the overplay as well. Lombardi and Gardner overplay their men almost simultaneously and you can see Daniel recognizing it immediately and taking advantage by slipping into the vacuum they created. Without that read, Henrik doesn’t have many options.

    Anyways, great stuff. Just another example of the ability for high end players to read, react and improvise so quickly; it’s really quite something when you’re able to see it from a frame by frame perspective.

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  13. superreggie
    February 20, 2012

    You can improve this post, by imagining a Howie Meeker voice saying it. “Back it up boys, back it up”…

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    Rating: +12 (from 12 votes)
  14. damackanator
    February 20, 2012

    Phaneuf must have been dog-tired at the end of that sequence. He was pathetic in covering the front of the net. So lazy. Terrible lack of effort. It’s like he wanted the Canucks to score to stop the play.

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  15. Rituro
    February 20, 2012

    Any day with a Breakdowning is a happier day. Thanks for the latest installment and keep ‘em coming!

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  16. Kate
    February 20, 2012

    Love the little captions…and the S club 7 reference. Watching Leafs games would drive me crazy if I was a fan, on one of the Canucks goals you can see in the replay, Lupul standing just inside the blue line, watching the puck go in the net…nice effort?

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  17. Grant
    February 20, 2012

    Based on where the puck is in your last photo, look at Salo already cocking his stick for the shot. That’s impressive!

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  18. Nee
    February 20, 2012

    That move by Daniel, where he gets the puck and skates away from the goal in a half moon formation, and then passes to Salo, is pretty nifty.

    If I’m one of the D-man, I’m thinking “Where the deuce is he going?”. It’s the unexpected that makes the Sedins dangerous, when they’re on their game. Rather creative of him.

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  19. DanD
    February 20, 2012

    Your first Salo blurb sounds like Wayne Jarvis, attorney at law. “I shall duck behind this sofa.”
    Makes sense though, Salo is such a professional.

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  20. biged
    February 20, 2012

    That puck was never going over the heads of the players at the point. No one tries to lift up over heads. It’s far too risky. Lombardi had the right intention to try to put it off the boards on the side that Salo was originally. If not for the puck not sitting flat on the ice, he would have gotten it out. Also reason for the hesitation was that he was waiting for it to settle down.

    It was the Henrik-Daniel pass that really threw everyone off. It didn’t help the Leafs with Edler getting away with interference. Those things opened up the seam for the Canucks.

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    • biged
      February 21, 2012

      To add on: Watch Steckel. It was his lackadaisical play (or his inability to skate) that gave Daniel the room to skate through the slot then letting Edler push him out of position. He owned the ice under his skates, he should have pushed back. If you looked back to the clearing attempt by Lombardi, Steckel was one pass away from a shorthanded breakaway. Edler was going the wrong direction and Salo isn’t exactly the fastest guy around. If he hassled up ice and called for a pass, he was long gone. Instead, he lazily glided past his blue line and when it was turned out, he took his time coming back.

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  21. JDM
    February 21, 2012

    This might be the best breakdowning yet, you guys are really stepping up your caption game.

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  22. Bud
    February 21, 2012

    Boring ……………………………………..

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