Film Session: Breaking Down Zach Werenski's Overtime Goal Against The Florida Panthers

By Dan Dukart on February 6, 2020 at 1:45 pm
 Zach Werenski celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Florida Panthers during overtime at Nationwide Arena
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

On the Columbus Blue Jackets' 68th shot attempt of the game, a quick flick of the wrist from Zach Werenski gave the club two massive points in the standings in a 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers.

Werenski, who has 8-4-12 in his past 15 games, leads all NHL defensemen in goals this season (16), which also ties him (with Seth Jones and his own record) for the Blue Jackets franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a single season.  

The Blue Jackets have played 16 games past regulation, going 7-9 in those affairs, including 0-2 in shootouts. That means in overtime, the team has gone 7-7, an impressive feat given the club doesn't have the luxury of leaning on a high-end scorer to truly carry the water. Aside from Oliver Bjorkstrand, Werenski may be the closest the Blue Jackets have to a genuine sniper (his career-best 12.2% shooting percentage suggests as much).

And while John Tortorella has historically given Werenski and Jones a long leash to roam all over the ice, that's especially true in 3-on-3 overtime, the closest NHL fans will get to position-less hockey. So what led to Werenski's game-winner? We broke the game tape:

From 0:00-0:06, Werenski is being pressured by Noel Acciari, #55 on Florida. He does a textbook job angling Werenski onto his backhand side and forcing him up the wall. Pierre-Luc Dubois realizes his teammate is in trouble and puts himself in a good position for puck support. 

It's hard to tell live, but if you freeze it at 0:07, you'll notice that Dubois sees Frank Vatrano, #77 on Florida, just stepping onto the ice. Flat-footed, Dubois knows he'll be able to utilize his crossovers to beat Vatrano to the net, creating a 2-on-1. By 0:11, this 2-on-1 is a go, though Vatrano does well to help on the backcheck. Mike Matheson, #19 on Florida, perfectly times his dive and breaks up a back-door pass that would have given Cam Atkinson an empty net. 

At 0:13, the Panthers, seemingly with full possession of the puck, push the puck to the corner. Enter Zach Werenski, eventual goal-scorer. He realizes he's being checked by Vatrano, a forward, and at 0:15 makes a nice read to simply chip the puck off the wall to himself and protect the puck. By now, Werenski has effectively left Vatrano in the dust, and now has time/space to walk out of the corner.  

At 0:17, Werenski walks to the front of the net. Atkinson sees that and heads to a dangerous spot at Sergei Bobrovsky's weak-side. Both Matheson and Acciari are frozen by the situation, and both hesitate to attack Werenski out of fear he'll slip a puck back-door to Atkinson. It's safe to say that Bobrovsky himself may have been reluctant to challenge Werenski (same reason as Matheson/Acciari), and you can see at 0:18 that he's deep in his crease. 

At that point, Werenski had seen enough. He's put himself in a dangerous enough spot to shoot his lethal shot, and he beats Bobrovsky clean to the short side. Without the zone exit/entry by Dubois and the intellect of Atkinson to make himself available on the backdoor, Werenski probably doesn't get the same high-quality look.