Scott Hannan: The Washington Capitals Screen Machine

In the NHL, an extra fraction of a second given to or taken away from a player is all it takes to score a goal. In the case of goaltenders, those extra fractions of a second are taken away by many different things, from redirected shots to strange bounces and deflections to opposing players setting screens. But nothing is more aggravating to a goaltender as having that screen set perfectly by his own defenseman. In Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the opposition’s lone goal was scored after what most coaches would call a perfect moving screen blocked the view of the shot’s release. Perfect, that is, if the screen were set by a Buffalo player.

Unfortunately for the Caps, Scott Hannan is a much better door than he is a window.

“Hey, you’re screening me.”

 In the 35 games Hannan has played for the Caps, he has amassed 40 blocked shots and been on the ice for only 25 opposition goals. His contributions to the Caps blueline (and to the locker room) have been substantial. If there’s one aspect of Hannan’s game that needs addressing, it’s his knack for screening his own goaltender in an attempt to block a shot. Of those 25 goals against, Hannan has directly screened his goaltender for 7 of those goals, with another two goals coming off rebounds from Hannan-screened shots.

A good shot blocker must always take into account that he won’t block the shot. Sure, a shot block is good because it’s one less save your goaltender is forced to make. But a missed shot block can often make a routine save into a much more difficult one (or an impossible one). It’s a ‘risk vs. reward’ play. Shot blocking is a science. In a very small amount of time, a shot blocker must do a number of things right to successfully block a shot:

-Identify speed and direction of the player
-Identify the correct angle to take
-Identify that a shot is coming
-Attempt to block the shot without screening the goaltender or moving out of position

On Jason Pominville’s goal on Sunday, Scott Hannan did several things wrong. First, he skated past the puck just as it was being released. A successful shot block must be timed to get the body in front of the shot as the shot is being released. Hannan’s timing was very much off and he was never in a position to block the shot. Instead, he forced Varly to re-identify the speed and direction of the puck mid-shot, 5 feet closer to him. Secondly, Hannan kneeled at the last second instead of staying upright. We’ll call this the ‘Olay!’ move. This is how they teach players to deliberately screen an opposing goalie: either skate through a goalie’s line of sight as the puck is released, or stand in the goalie’s way and move out of the way at the last second. Hannan did both.

The good news is, this is a communication error between defenseman and goaltender that is easily fixed. It would benefit the Caps to pay attention to these unintentional screens in practice with a defenseman and goalie only drill to work on their angles and make these screened goals a thing of the past.