In the five seasons since Garth Snow claimed Thomas Hickey from the trash dumpster behind CVS, the defenseman has played 360 games for the New York Islanders. He has scored 18 goals in that time. Six of those goals - a staggering 33% - have come in overtime.
That’s just ridiculous.
Hickey's overtime exploits deserve, and will soon receive, their own post. But for today's Play of the Day, let’s just take a closer look at the most significant goal of his NHL career: his OT winner in Game 3 of the Islanders’ first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, April 17, 2016.
While Jaromir Jagr's blown assignment on Hickey appears to be Florida’s most glaring mistake here, it was really their passive coverage that did them in. Despite there being four Panthers in the immediate area below the slot, somehow no. 6, Alex Petrovic, is left alone to battle it out with Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson along the boards.
I can’t speak towards Florida’s exact defensive zone strategy, but it’s typically on the center (Barkov) to provide support down low here, as Campbell (no. 51) needs to monitor the net and try to keep some space between he and Petrovic (his defensive partner), and Huberdeau (no. 11), though a center, is playing LW here, and must keep his point man (Boychuk) in mind.
Granted, there were several defensive rotations prior to this, but Florida’s got far more leeway to be aggressive in this spot regardless of their strategy. The Isles have already started a line change (notice Prince hopping onto the ice for Kulemin in the following clip), leaving only two NY forwards involved in the play. They’re basically willing to cede possession to safely get fresh guys onto the ice.
So it’s inexcusable for Florida to get out-numbered along the boards in this situation. One of the cardinal sins of hockey is getting out-numbered along the boards while on a power play; the Panthers are essentially in this exact spot, out-numbering the Isles in the play due to Kulemin’s change.
This obviously doesn’t absolve Jagr of any blame here. It’s just that his mistake was the second, and final, domino to fall. He still could’ve prevented this goal had he not lost track of Hickey. Which raises the question: did he actually “lose track” of Hickey? Or might Jagr have been...distracted? To find out, we’ll have to take a closer look at the play.
There’s a lot to unpack with this replay, and four thoughts in particular come to mind:
- It was hard for me to watch Petrovic get bullied mercilessly by his teammates here. But if there’s one thing I have, it’s empathy. And so deep down inside I just know he must’ve done something to deserve it.
- Aleksander Barkov is similar to Alex Galchenyuk and Andre Burakovsky in that I always forget he’s not Russian. So, consider this your reminder that Barkov is not Russian. You may adjust your adjectives accordingly.
- You gotta feel for poor Jagr here. It was 11:22pm when this goal was scored. So it’s already well past his bedtime when he’s confronted with a new, daunting reality where cars can talk. Again, empathy is key here. Therefore I actually do absolve Jagr completely and allocate 100% of the blame to - that’s right - Alex Petrovic. Let’s face it, he’s an outcast and a lowlife.
- When this play happened, I was wondering how Nelson - much more of a shooter than a passer - knew Hickey was pinching and open in front. I did not believe Hickey when he said, during his postgame interview, that he had yelled out “Brock!” to alert him. That’s because Hickey has always seemed like a pathological liar to me. He just has that look, you know?
And now my suspicions are confirmed. Nelson was able to make the pass for the same reason Jagr was distracted and blew his coverage on Hickey: the SUV. It was the SUV all along.
[Pause for dramatic effect.]
Or was it?
Once again, a closer look is in order.
Ah yes, of course. It wasn’t the SUV all along. It was actually Pierre McGuire, hiding in the SUV, all along. I knew it. I’ve been warned many times of Pierre’s erratic behavior. At least he lends the Isles a helping hand here before relieving himself in the backseat. One can't help but wonder, though: how’d he do it? A thermos? An empty Snapple bottle? Is there an actual toilet built in there? It’s unlikely we’ll ever find out.
But if you ever see Pierre rolling down Flatbush Ave or Hempstead Turnpike in his Honda SUV, make sure to thank him for his assist on this goal. And if he starts spewing junior hockey trivia at you, well, you’re just gonna have to sit there and listen.
As we can see, there's usually far more to a play than what initially meets the eye. At first glance, this was just a standard hockey goal scored by a standard hockey player in a standard hockey rink with a standard SUV parked in the first row.
But dig a little deeper, and you start to uncover defensive breakdowns, bullying, romance, betrayal, technology and, invariably, Pierre McGuire. That guy is everywhere.
Until next time, friends.