Goal Analysis: Igor Larionov’s OT Magic!


(Sorry if you’re reading this and the pictures don’t show up.  Something is wrong with the website.  Hopefully, they’ll be up soon.)

Since there is really nothing new going on right now in Red Wings and/or hockey land, I’ve decided that we are going to analyze more goals.  They’re my favorite kind of posts to write, and if it can help people understand the game or think about it in a different way, then I say it’s worth it.  Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Jason (who I met at Red Wings Training Camp two years ago), let’s review Igor Larionov’s OT goal in game 3 of the 2002 Cup Final against Carolina.  I think you all know how this works by now: I’ll show you the video of the goal then break it down with some screen shots of how the play developed.

First up: the video of the goal:

Damn.  Just…damn.  What a goal by the professor right there.  Let’s break it down!

Pretty standard formation here on a faceoff just outside the Wings zone.  Homer is on the right wing, Igor at center, and Luc Robitaille on the left side.  Mathieu Dandenault is on right side D with Steve Duchesne on the left side.   Igor loses the faceoff and the Carolina defenseman decides to dump the puck in behind the Wings net.

The puck rims around the boards and Hasek is unable to play it (thank god for that!).  The puck then gets stopped by the Carolina forward, but Duchesne and Robitaille provide excellent puck support (yes, this is very important if you’ve been reading these posts in the past).  So, what happens next?

Naturally, because of said puck support, the Wings are able to get possession of the puck.  Duchesne seeds Igor coming back to help out and chips the puck up.  Igor gains possession of the puck.  Notice the blurry Carolina defenseman on the boards – he thinks he can get to the puck first and reaches for it with one hand.  Mistake (foreshadowing).  Igor hits it off the boards out of the zone.  Notice on the top – Dandenault sees the transition happening and begins skating as hard as he can towards the offensive zone.

Holmstrom, seeing Igor chip the puck out to center ice, skates as fast as he can (so…about average speed for a regular player) to beat the Carolina defenseman to the puck.  Dandenault and Larionov are trailing the play, making it look like a 3 on 2 could develop.  So, what does Homer do?

Homer wins the puck battle against the Carolina defenseman.  Larionov, providing excellent PUCK SUPPORT, picks up the puck and creates a 2 on 1 with Dandenault racing towards the front of the net.  Remember how the other Carolina defenseman pinched to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone?  Yeah, that leaves a forward back to try and defend against Dandy and Igor.  If you watch the video, you can see he never had proper positioning since he was scrambling to get back.  Not necessarily his fault, but it’s something that could DOOM him.  Oops.  How does the Carolina player handle this?

The Carolina forward does what a player is supposed to do in theory – takes the pass away on a 2 on 1.  However, because his lack of familiarity with the position and not being able to get set up properly, he commits way too early.  Igor recognizes this and makes a move to the inside.  Dandedault is now in front of the net with his stick on the ice, waiting for a pass or ready to screen the goalie.

Igor takes the puck to the net.  Right at this exact moment, Dandenault jumps because he thinks that Igor might shoot the puck.  He’d be out of the way but still in the way of the goalie’s vision.  However, Irbe (Carolina goalie) knows this and goes down in preparation of the shot.  However, Igor is the smartest person to ever play hockey (not sure if kidding?).  He sees Irbe going down, and with plenty of momentum, can carry the puck forward a little bit and possibly have an easier shot.

YES!  YES!  ONE THOUSAND TIMES YES!  Wait, let’s check out the replay and get a clearer shot of the puck in the net.

Still not great, but yeah, DAYAM!  What an epically awesome goal that was very huge for the Wings 2002 Cup Victory.  Let’s breakdown the breakdown:

  • After a Carolina dump in, Duchesne and Robitaille won the puck battle and got the puck to Larionov
  • Larionov chipped the puck past the pinching Carolina defenseman while Dandenault raced to the offensive zone
  • Holmstrom knocked the other Carolina defenseman away from the puck, creating a 2 on 1 with Igor and Dandy
  • The Carolina forward covering for his defenseman committed too early and let Igor walk to the front of the net
  • Dandy jumped, causing Irbe to go down early, leaving Igor with an awesome backhand to the top shelf

Awesome.  Just plain awesome.  That is probably in my top 5 Wings goals of all time.  I don’t have an actual list, but if I did, that goal would be on it.  If you have a favorite goal of all time that you would like me to break down, feel free to yell at me on the twitter device (@KevinN37) and I will make this happen.  Until next time, What Would Igor Do?