A Tale Of Two Fils: Breaking Down Zadina’s First NHL Goal

“Hronek to Zadina” is something Detroit Red Wings fans hope to hear a lot more in the coming years.

At 17:43 of the third period in last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Red Wings second power play unit was cycling the puck when Filip Zadina saw his chance. He was in that spot that shooters love to be in. He had space, so he called for the puck. It doesn’t matter whether Filip Hronek heard him or just knew he was there, but the 21-year-old right-handed defenseman made the head’s up play to dish Zadina the puck.

Then Zadina did what shooters do. His stick was above his waist before the puck was anywhere near him and he made perfect contact with it, firing it over the blocker of Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov. The chemistry between the two Czechs was palpable in the post-goal celebration.

“That was a great pass from Hroney,” Zadina said with a reserved smile in his post-game media scrum. “We’re kinda used to it from GR.”

But the shy smile on Zadina’s face as he spoke more about playing with his fellow country-man suggested their chemistry was from more than just passing the puck back and forth in the AHL. There’s a budding friendship there.

“It was so cool,” Zadina answered when asked how perfect it was that it was Hronek who dished him the puck. “I appreciate that it was him. It was awesome.”

Zadina’s first NHL was, indeed, awesome. And although it was Hronek who made the final pass that led to the goal, there was a lot of work done prior to even getting him the puck. Let’s break down the goal, starting with the full sequence:

The play started as so many Red Wings power plays often do: with the drop pass. The idea is for a forward to have more than half of the rink to gain so much speed with the puck that he can just bust into the offensive zone, catching the opposition flat-footed at their own blue line.

It doesn’t work perfectly for Andreas Athanasiou as he barely makes it to the top of the faceoff circles, but what I really liked about his play was that he did not dump the puck into the corner for a teammate to chase it. I’ll repeat it louder for those in the back: HE DID NOT INSTIGATE A DUMP & CHASE!

Instead, Athanasiou displayed some great upper-body strength, bumping off an Avalanche defender and sheltering the puck. In the meantime, Thomas Vanek made himself open along the boards and was able to carry the puck in deep once Athanasiou passed it to him.

Vanek doesn’t move fast, but he is so smart with the puck. He took stock of the open ice he had to work with, and fired it along the boards to where Hronek met it at the top of the face off circle. Under pressure from Matt Calver, the Avalanche number 11, Hronek kept his cool and flipped it back to Vanek who had made his way to the same side of the ice. This next part is the play that really makes the goal happen.

Standing at the hash-marks, Vanek has the attention of three Colorado Avalanche defenders. He moves into the center of the ice, taking number 11 with him, but he flips the puck back to Hronek, who now has all of the space in the world without Calvert applying pressure. Also worth pointing out as part of this play is that Athanasiou creates traffic in the passing lane, leaving the Avalanche defenders unsure if the pass was for him or the defenseman behind him.

This small, subtle move by Vanek, moving his body to the middle of the zone while simultaneously flipping the puck back to Hronek, is what creates the space for Hronek to find Zadina on the far boards and dish him that perfect one-timer pass. All Zadina had to do was shoot it on net, something they could never seem to get Martin Frk to do.

So much of this goal was created by things that happened away from the puck. Vanek may not have been involved in the final scoring sequence, but he is the true instigator of this goal. He isn’t the playmaker that he once was, but this little play is a perfect example of why it’s so important to have someone with that skillset on the ice with a shooter like Zadina.

This whole sequence was a hell of a lot of work by Vanek for an easy finish by Zadina.

It’s been an impressive stint for the young Czech in the NHL and I have a feeling we’ll see many more goals just like this one.