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Systems Analyst: Phil Di Giuseppe’s Overtime Winner

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The young forward scored his first of the year and had the deciding goal in a win over Tampa Bay. Here’s how he did it.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes, for all their offensive prowess, relied quite heavily on depth scoring this week. And while that Brock McGinn/Derek Ryan 2-on-1 goal from last night would have a great segment for this week’s Systems Analyst, it was another former Checker’s goal that was even more fascinating from a team system standpoint.

Phil Di Giuseppe scored on a quick shot in overtime last Sunday—the only goal of that game—to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning. 3-on-3 OT is known for the open space available, but it’s how Di Giuseppe found himself so open and what he did with the space that was truly impressive. Let’s get into it.

It’s a short clip, but there is more going on here than it seems.

We begin with Ron Hainsey(??) skating the puck through the Tampa defense before it rolls off his stick towards Ben Bishop. Notice that Viktor Stalberg is lingering behind, uncovered, as is Di Giuseppe, who is off-screen to the left.

As Hainsey pressures Bishop, the latter calmly dumps it into the corner, which is the correct play to make from his standpoint. But... Tampa Bay player goes to get the puck. They could have been tired or perhaps they had a miscommunication, but look at Bishop’s glove hand. That’s not him telling them where the puck is, that’s him wondering why they are all still standing in front of him.

Viktor Stalberg gets to the puck first, and draws Vladislav Namestikov to him immediately, which is good 3-on-3 defensive coverage—individual assignments, not zone defense.

But Anton Stralman is standing in front of the net, covering nobody. Think that could come back to haunt them in their own defensive zone?

As soon as Stalberg got the puck, he cycled it along the boards to the awaiting Di Giuseppe. Now, in the frame above, Stralman has realized his mistake and begins to press towards Di Giuseppe. Nikita Kucherov, on the left of the screen, is in position to cover the Canes player coming off the bench for the changing Hainsey.

Di Giuseppe’s first instinct was probably to take one step and shoot here. But he noticed the space in front of him and began to take it.

See how he keeps the stick loaded to shoot the entire time? This helps buy him another second or two because it freezes Stralman, who stays mostly still. This is a highly cerebral play from Di Giuseppe, as most depth players with this opportunity to score would only be thinking to shoot.

Also, Stalberg has made a crucial decision to cut back in front of the net rather than to skate around the back, thus giving a screen for 34’s impending shot.

Di Giuseppe uses some clever subtle stickhandling to open up a bit more space for him as well. By pulling the puck from a loaded shooting position to his backhand, he confuses the defense and makes them think he could be looking to pass. If you watch the clip at the top of the page, you can notice it more clearly.

Stalberg’s screen has just arrived in time, however, and Bishop’s eyes are taken away from him. Di Giuseppe has wisely waited to make a play until the screen was in front of the net, and Stralman still hasn’t come over to Di Giuseppe. Now is the time to shoot the puck.

And shoot, he does. Just as soon as Stalberg is out of the shooting line, Di Giuseppe fires a low shot under the stick of Stralman. Notice, too, that Bishop’s stick is around Stalberg’s legs. This was highly contested by Lightning Coach Jon Cooper as interference, but it was not called.

Nonetheless, with Bishop’s stick out of the way, you could drive a truck through that five-hole.

Di Giuseppe’s shot finds its way off Bishop’s ankle and into the net, winning the game for Carolina, and the celebration is on.

One point that I found interesting—while Jon Cooper was insistent that Bishop was interfered with, his goalie showed no signs of protest. He simply got up and skated off the ice without so much as a word to the referee. Perhaps this was just a coach trying to take the pressure off his players in the media, but it seems like if Bishop were impeded, he certainly would have said something, right?

In short, this goal was made possible mostly by a few Tampa Bay miscommunications and mistakes. But some teams (Carolina included) would not usually capitalize on a chance like that; they would have just shot it quickly rather than waiting for the net-front presence to arrive.

And many players wouldn’t have exhibited the skillful patience that Di Giuseppe did here—waiting for a few seconds when you have an open shot feels like an eternity, particularly in OT, when the mantra is “shoot everything.” Without the execution from Stalberg and Di Giuseppe, this play likely ends up as nothing more than a missed opportunity.