Andrei Loktionov was acquired for a fifth round pick. I don't know off hand what the probability that a fifth round draft pick becomes a serviceable NHL player. I do know that Loktionov has been that kind of player for the Devils. He has fit himself into the lineup, looking good alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky in recent games. Like the rest of the team, he hasn't been lighting it up on the scoresheet with only three goals, two assists, and no points at all in his last five games. On Wednesday, Andrei Loktionov snapped his goalless and pointless streak with what is arguably the prettiest goal of the season so far by a New Jersey Devil.
The shot was low and beat Ilya Bryzgalov to make it 4-1. The move before the shot was a toe drag that made me hoot, holler, or make some kind of noise almost everytime I watch the video. It basically turned Braydon Coburn into the Agony of Defeat guy on a highlight reel. It was so glorious that I decided that evening that it deserved a closer look. The score demanded details into how it came about. The moment required a goal breakdown. And this is that breakdown.
The Video of the Goal
This video comes from NHL.com. All pictures in this post come from this video; any poorly drawn arrows, lines, circles, and text were added by me. I will say, the goal video has several angles so this breakdown will use some of those.
The Situation at the Start of the Video
Before the Video: The Flyers actually were on offense. They actually had the Devils pinned deep in their own end. Johan Hedberg was without a stick because Andy Greene crashed into his own goalie on the initial zone entry, the stick got away from Moose, and has since been knocked away from him. The Devils, up 3-1, were chasing the Flyers a bit in their own end. An attempted clearance by New Jersey went around the boards, Kovalchuk tried to play it forward, and that's where I'll begin with the breakdown.
Oh, and at the time, the Devils and Flyers were tied 3-3 in shots on net in the second period. Keep that in mind for the very end.
Kovalchuk really didn't get much of the puck and it didn't matter as Gagne kept his body along the boards to deny the clearance. The puck would drop to him and he would be able to make a play. Meanwhile, you see all five Devils and three Flyers. Kimmo Timonen, the left defenseman, is out of frame but he will go and make a change in a bit. The other Flyer?
It's Danny Briere and he's all alone in the slot. The only Devils to notice him is Ponikarovsky. He turns around and started to head in his direction. But as he turns, Gagne settles the puck on his stick and has a clear passing lane to Briere. Andy Greene is heading towards Gagne, but Larsson is completely unaware and no one else can possibly do anything about this pass. This is not good. Not good at all.
Thankfully, Briere doesn't get all of his stick on the puck coming in his way. I think he was trying to re-direct it to go to the right post. Instead, he only gets a piece of it and it'll head out wide to the corner. Still, it's a dangerous moment for New Jersey. Leaving an opposing forward wide open above the crease is asking for trouble. Only here does Larsson see him and it's too late for him. I know this is a breakdown of a Devils goal, but it's remarkable how close the Flyers really were to scoring a goal and turning a big 3-1 deficit to a more manageable 3-2 deficit.
Ponikarovsky had no chance to get to Briere, but he does have every chance to follow this puck. In fact, he's the only one on the ice who can. No Flyer is nearby.
By the way, Loktionov is turning and he's about go head across the ice and forward. This will be important very soon.
Did I say no Flyer was nearby? I was wrong. Bruno Gervais, at your service. He pinches in to pressure Ponikarovsky in the hopes of taking the puck, forcing him to make a bad decision, or delay with it to keep the Philadelphia attack going. There's a problem: there aren't any Flyers behind him. There's a second problem: he's not going to get to Ponikarovsky or the puck in time to make a play. Thanks to this camera angle from the corner, you can see there's plenty of space for Ponikarovsky to chip the puck hard off the boards. He's about to do exactly that.
At this point, this was a good outcome. Briere nearly got a glorious chance in front, the Flyers were applying pressure, and Moose was without a stick. Ponikarovsky was about to get an easy clearance which should allow the Devils to reset and possibly get Hedberg's stick back to the goalie. But that original problem of no one behind Gervais comes into play in a big way. To really show this off, let's look at two shots from the high-angle camera replay.
Timonen was coming off for a change and you can see Braydon Coburn (#5) coming onto the ice. Coburn has a great vantage point for what's going on at this moment. Gervais is all alone on an island and he decides to pinch. The commentator in the video did a great job pointing out what a dumb decision it was during this replay. However, look at the other Flyers. Gange's in the corner, Couturier only notices Loktionov turning wide, Briere is still at the crease, and a big nobody can get to Kovalchuk. All of that just exacerbates Gervais' bad move. Moreover, it's not like Gervais is coming in hard either. So Ponikarovsky is definitely going to get this puck and with Kovalchuk and Loktionov already turning and heading up ice, going in on Ponikarovsky in the corner was going to blow up in his face.
And now the puck is off the boards and away from Ponikarovsky. Loktionov has several steps on Couturier and so he'll get to this chipped puck first. Kovalchuk is going to head to the middle in support. With Coburn just coming on, the Devils have a great opportunity for a counter-attack.
Indeed they do. Loktionov collects the puck while hustling forward. As he should, no one is anywhere near him. Kovalchuk watches him to time his movements. It would have been a waste if he went offside or didn't keep going with Loktionov. He'll go forward with him, of course. At this point, Couturier is the only Flyers forward skating hard. I don't blame Gagne or Briere; it's impossible for them to catch up and make a play at this point. They got caught deep. Couturier, on the other hand, didn't stick with Loktionov so he's going to head up the middle as support for the one Flyer back.
That man is Braydon Coburn. He's 6'5", 220 pounds, 28 years old, and has played over 500 combined regular season and playoff games. He's been in bad spots before and he's in one now. He's the "one" in a two-one against Loktionov and Kovalchuk. Coburn made a beeline towards his own end as Ponikarovsky's chip to spring Loktionov forward when he came on the ice. Imagine if Timonen didn't go for that change. Would it have been a two-on-none? It might of. But it wasn't. He's in the middle, but he's got his attention the puck carrier, Loktionov. Still, he's in position to take the open Kovalchuk; a much better one than Couturier, who's really still catching up.
Loktionov sees Coburn too. If he was thinking about a pass to Kovalchuk in the neutral zone, then that thought just got erased. While there's a small window of opportunity to get it to #17, Coburn could conceivably deny the pass. The pass would have to be really on target for Kovalchuk to receive it while in motion, much less blow past Coburn for a one-on-one with Bryzgalov. Loktionov correctly keeps it himself as he carried the puck into the Flyers' zone.
As Loktionov carries it in, Bryzgalov correctly focuses on him to track the puck. Couturier, as support, is now focused on Kovalchuk. Both are heading towards the net. Coburn strangely decides to focus on Loktionov. Either he thinks Couturier alone can defend Kovalchuk or a pass to him, or he's making a mistake. Usually, in a two-on-one, the one is supposed to get the man without the puck. This way, the goalie can focus on the guy with the puck, the guy who could end up shooting said puck, throughout the whole play. Coburn will not do this. Instead, he's going to go to his right and stop Loktionov.
If Bruno Gervais' pinch was Big Mistake #1, Coburn going down on the ice is Big Mistake #2. For his sake, I hope he just lost an edge. If he did this intentionally, then Coburn was really stupid on this play. With his body just before hitting the ground, he's not going to be able to do much once he's on the ice. All he can do is get in Loktionov's way.
He did do one good thing: he kept his stick flat on the ice ahead of him. This cut off any passing lane Loktionov might have had for Kovalchuk. It's still a tight window as Couturier catches up, but a pass ahead puts Kovalchuk in a fantastic position to score on Bryzgalov's flank. Instead, Loktionov would have saucer pass it to get it to him because of Coburn's stick. However, diving down is only a success for Coburn and the Flyers if he stops Loktionov from going forward or gets the puck away from him. Even a shot block could work. Just denying a passing lane isn't going to be enough.
Loktionov sees Coburn's move, stops a bit, and is about to make him look very stupid.
Coburn's body is currently in a position where he denies the passing lane and a potential shot on net. This is definitely a hindrance for Lokitonov. It only lasts for less than a second. As Coburn's body is now fully on the ice, Loktionov is in the middle of a toe drag. He dangles the puck out to maintain control as he shifts his body to his right. Coburn bet on the 22-year old forward firing a shot once he got inside the circle, or pass it off to Kovalchuk. Loktionov's heads-up decision is about to make Coburn's gambit a big loser.
A closer look from the slow-motion part of the replay demonstrates when Coburn was in a position and how Loktionov literally gets around that.
Again, Coburn takes away two potential actions from Loktionov. He's about to find out what he decided to do instead. And it involved metaphorically taking his jock.
Coburn became a victim of physics as his velocity while going down on the ice plus the fact it's on ice carried him away from the play entirely. He still has his stick stuck out, but it's meaningless. Coburn is out of the play and looks like a fool. While Coburn can't do anything about ice's coefficient of fricton or Newton's Laws of Motion, he could have stayed on his skates and went after Loktionov if he wanted. He could have tried to body up on him. He could have been able to lean forward and sweep his stick instead of laying it out there. He could have held position and kept Loktionov from the middle. He did none of these things.
Now he just has his jock left on the ice because the toe drag is about to place Loktionov in the slot with the puck on his forehand and no one on him. Couturier finally caught up to Kovalchuk so he's out the play. Briere, Gagne, and Gervais couldn't catch up so they're non-factors at this point. Let's focus on the goalie now because he's the Flyers' last hope at stopping the Devils on this counter-attack. Bryzgalov sees Loktionov reverse into the middle and he moves to his left. As I noted in the picture, look at the wide gap between his legs. Since he was standing, his lateral movement would keep his legs open. The fact his stick is on the ice helps. It won't be enough, though.
Lokitonov is about to fire a shot. He saw Bryzgalov's current position and made a decision on where to place the shot. It's going to go low, between Bryzgalov's pads, an area I highlighted in this picture. I now realize I shouldn't have used orange but the point is the same: there's a lot of space there. There's not much Bryzgalov can do about it as he was shifting to his left in anticipation of Loktionov firing a shot from the slot. He's not actually set. His stick is in a good position, though. He can move it as he needs to do knock the puck away.
I don't know whether the toe drag can make a shot go faster. But Loktionov rifled that wrister low and hard. I was fortunate to grab this frame from the video. It shows how close Loktionov was to not scoring. Bryzgalov is collapsing down in reaction to the shot. Plus, that stick is still on the ice in case the puck was coming in through the five-hole. Loktionov's shot didn't go through the traditional, right-in-between the pads five-hole. No, it actually got through below the right pad and just past the heel of the stick. And the velocity of the puck was enough to get through that space before it went away entirely. Loktionov had a great shot after a great move, which came on a rush started by a smart read by Alexei Ponikarovsky.
The result, well, you know the result.
By the way, after Loktionov's goal, the Devils out-shot the Flyers 9-4 in the remainder of the second period according to the game's play by play log. The Flyers really weren't the same in the second after Loktionov owned Coburn.
The goal itself came off a counter-attack. The Flyers pressed on the Devils and after a denied clearance, Danny Briere was very close to scoring on a free shot right in the middle of the ice. He just didn't get enough of the puck. That in of itself wasn't a mistake. Just a lost opportunity. Ponikarovsky retrieved it and had Bruno Gervais approach him. Ponikarovsky chipped it out for a clearance, Gervais was totally beat, and Loktionov and Kovalchuk had the presence of mind to head up ice to get the puck and lead a rush. The Flyers were otherwise having a very good shift, but one boneheaded pinch by Gervais really set the table for this goal against. Give plenty of credit to Briere's miss and Ponikarovsky's chip pass past a prone Gervais. The miss made this play possible and Ponikarovsky's clearance alone was important to give the Devils a breather, much less kick off a two-on-one. I'm sure the coaches were rather displeased with Gervais on this play.
Coburn was at least back for the rush thanks to Timonen coming off early. Boy, did he make matters worse. First, he goes after the puck carrier in a two-on-one. Second, he slides in front of him, presumably in the hopes of surprising him and hopefully forcing a block of some kind. Instead, he takes himself out of the play. Loktionov picked the right time to use a toe drag and so Coburn slid away harmlessly. With Couturier focusing on Kovalchuk - Coburn certainly wasn't going to do that - Loktionov had the puck in the most dangerous part of the ice. I do give Kovalchuk a little credit for attracting attention as it helped Loktionov get the space for his goal. Talk about a decision blowing up in your face. Unlike Gervais, Coburn had a great view of his failure costing the team dearly.
The Flyers' loss was the Devils' gain thanks to the 22-year old wearing #21. Loktionov couldn't have done any better on this play and he deserves the most credit. Seeing him curl around Coburn while dangling that puck was brilliant. I don't think most players would have the patience to keep the puck away and slow down to get around a diving defender. I don't think they would have shifted their position in said move. I would think most would've fired the puck or forced a pass, both ending up with denials. They wouldn't have attempted a toe drag the very second he saw Coburn go down. Loktionov wasn't surprised or put off by Coburn, busted a move, and fired a well-placed low shot to beat Bryzgalov. It wasn't just a great move by a youngster, it was a great move period. That goal hurt the Flyers if the shots on net were any indication, the Devils took full control of the period after the score. It really did take a lot of wind out of the Flyers' sails. The great decision and finish by the young winger was appropriately rewarded. At the risk of hyperbole, I think this goal shows he's worth more than a fifth round pick.
Lastly, I wonder how much sleep Coburn is getting. It must be difficult with seeing Loktionov repeatedly in his nightmares.
What was your reaction to Loktionov's goal when it happened? What's your reaction to seeing it again on video or in this breakdown? Are you more impressed that the goal happened at all given how the play came about? Who made a bigger mistake: Gervais or Coburn? What did you make of Bryzgalov on the shot? Would you say he should have stopped it or he didn't have much of a chance since he had to move for Loktionov's shot? Is Coburn really Agony of Defeat Guy worthy with this highlight? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this goalazo by Loktionov in the comments. Thank you for reading.