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Frame-By-Frame: Max Johnson’s Between-The-Legs Goal

Bowling Green defeated Western Michigan 4-1 in some midweek #MACtion on Tuesday night, completing a season sweep of the Broncos. Bowling Green’s Max Johnson scored the game-winning goal at 13:01 of the second period on the power play, with what might be an early candidate for one of the best goals of the year.

I really liked this goal, and there were a couple things I thought were worth highlighting on the play. Here’s a closer look at how this goal came to be.

The play starts with Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Brandon Kruse getting the puck at the left point on the power play. It’s important to note that Kruse is a left-handed shot playing on the left side. Traditionally, teams would put a right-handed shot in that spot to set them up for a one-timer on a pass from the other side of the ice, and in fact, I still see many fans complain when they don’t have a point guy playing on their off-side on the power play. But teams have gone away from that in recent years, largely because opposing teams have gotten so good at clogging up the middle of the ice and blocking shots that it’s rare to get an opportunity for a clean one-timer. And if a player does score on a shot from the point, it’s going to have more to do with taking a lucky bounce off whoever it hits in front of the net, rather than how hard the shot is.

So instead, as in this case, teams have started putting guys on their normal side, which opens up a different array of options. Kruse can begin sliding to his left(or in this case, he starts pretty wide) with the puck still on his forehand. There are a couple different things he can do now. He can change his shot angle quicker to get it around the first wave shot blocker. By stretching the play wider, he potentially opens up the ice more, allowing him to make a cross-ice pass. And finally, the safest play, which Kruse ultimately ends up making, is keeping the puck on the perimeter by feeding it down low to Max Johnson at the side of the net.

Johnson is able to receive that pass, but isn’t in a great position, since he is facing away from the net. He can try for a quick jam play on goal, but Western Michigan’s goalie is in pretty good position to have that covered. There’s also a set play that many teams run in which Johnson takes that pass and immediately makes a blind pass between his legs to a guy crashing down from the slot. In this picture, you can see Connor Ford crashing down into the slot for a potential pass, but the Western Michigan defender reads that possibility and has him fairly well covered.

So instead, Johnson goes with Plan C. He makes a tremendous skill play to change the angle of his shot by putting his stick between his legs and giving himself enough space to sneak the puck around the Western Michigan goalie.

I really like this play because it’s a combination of a good x’s-and-o’s set-up with just a crazy skill play to make it succeed. Here’s the play in full to get a real sense of just how smooth it was.