Photo credit: Rob Carr

In overtime, unless you’re a really bad hockey team or extremely good at shootous, you play to win the game. A minute and fifteen seconds into overtime, the Washington Capitals tried to do exactly that, making an aggressive play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ offensive zone to try and secure that one extra standings point.

They paid the price for it however, as Jeff Skinner scored his hat-trick game-winning goal on a jailbreak odd-man rush into the Capitals defensive zone.

Every Capital on the ice minus Philipp Grubuaer shares blame on the goal. Let’s take a look at the bad reads and bad decisions. (This is as close as we’ll ever get to a Justin Bourne Systems Analyst post.)

As Mikhail Grabovski brings the puck into the Canes’ offensive zone, he tries skating towards the center of the ice. Justin Bieber lookalike, Jeff Skinner, will have none of that. He attempts to poke check the puck away. Grabo responds by dropping a pass to Alex Ovechkin skating into the zone behind him. It seems like a good play. The back-checking Skinner appears to want to double Grabo skating towards the net to force a turnover.

Instead, Skinner stays with the puck and skates to his spot on the ice in the Canes zone defense. He pressures Alex Ovechkin as he receives the pass.

This decision by Skinner appears to make Ovechkin uncomfortable. Not expecting Skinner all up in his grill, The Great Eight makes a quick pass to open space instead of continuing to try and carry the puck or forecheck. He authors a no-look, backhand pass to the opposite side of the ice, either to a) try and find Grabovski near the slot, b) hit one of the team’s defensemen potentially streaking towards the net, or c) throw the puck to the other side of the ice so he doesn’t turn the puck over and give up an odd-man rush.

Unfortunately, the pass is off-target, which exacerbates the problem. Meanwhile, Skinner sprints up the ice the other way.

Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who correctly had stopped at the blue line along with Mike Green, sees Ovechkin’s pass and thinks it’s for him. The third-year NHL player begins sprinting all out towards the puck, hoping he can end the game. He is an aggressive player by nature. This is the play that comes naturally for him.

Because the pass is poor and Ryan Murphy rotates correctly, the Canes defenseman is able to poke-check it away before Orlov can even get a stick on it. Since Orlov, Ovechkin, and Grabovski are all now deep in the Canes zone, this leaves Mike Green all alone to defend the Canes streaking down the ice.

Wuh oh.

As 20-year-old Ryan Murphy carries the puck down the ice on the 3-on-1 break, he actually makes — in my opinion — a huge mistake. Murphy skates with the puck waaaay too long, which allows Mike Green a golden opportunity — if he so chooses — to go down to his belly and take away the pass.

Mike Green basically has two plays here. I’ll let Blue Seat Blogs explain:

Step #1:

The defensemen should always try to start out in the middle of the ice. Once the d-man has that mid-lane in the defensive zone he can start to read the angle and the proper play. However, he really can’t make a move until the puck carrier skates through the faceoff dots. Most coaches call this the “go zone,” meaning the area of ice where the defensmen must decide what the proper move is to break up the play.

Step #2:

Once the play approaches the “go zone,” the defender essentially has two options. Option #1 is to be responsible for the player without the puck and leave the puck carrier for the goaltender to handle. In order to execute this properly, the defender has to cut towards the open man at the last second and make sure he doesn’t have the chance to tap in an easy back door play. Generally this involves a pivot and tight stick check at the last second.

Option #2 at the “go zone” is to angle the carrier wide and at the last second, lay flat on your belly with your skates facing the goal line to take away the passing lane. This move forces the puck carrier to shoot from a tougher angle, or if timed right, he will pass the puck right into your body. The downside of this tactic is, once you’re down on the ice, you’re no longer in position to defend against a rebound, so it is important that rebound control be one of your goalie’s strengths.

Instead, Green tries to block the pass with his knees and gloves, leaving holes for the puck to pass through.

Skinner takes the puck and slams it home. Game over.

Green spoke about the play after the game with CSN Washington’s Jill Sorenson.

“Yeah, they are a transition team that just take off,” Green said. “Their two guys recognized an opportunity to jump and it created a 3-on-1. That’s just a thing that can happen in overtime: a bad bounce, a team takes off. It is what it is.”

In his post-game press conference, head coach Adam Oates blamed a bad Dmitry Orlov read on the play.

“On the winning goal, Orly shouldn’t go there,” Oates said. “He’s a kid caught up in the moment of the excitement of the crowd and the rush. The puck was maybe going to come to him, but he should recognize it’s not. It’s a mistake.”

Regardless, all four players on the ice made either a bad read or a lackadaisical play to give up the goal.

It’s fitting that Jeff Skinner, the guy who first made the heads-up defensive play, ended up scoring the game-winning goal. It’s just so frustrating to know that if any one of those guys made a different choice, the goal wouldn’t have happened.

What do you think?

  • A+

  • Michael Reschly

    You keep saying ‘all four’. What mistake did Grabo make?

  • nogreenlife

    trying to decide on what part of green’s game he said he has improved on for team canada. still loading please wait………………………………………system fail please try again later

  • Matt

    Grabo could have slid back up to the top of the circle when he saw Orlov come that deep. He stopped, fell to almost below the goal line, and ended up being in a bad position, not entirely of his own doing. They were at the point of a fairly long shift too if I recall. I don’t like that line for overtime. It screamed of high reward and high risk…and well.

  • Blaine

    I blame Green the most, again…. He is supposed to take away the pass, that is his only job on these types of play. I know it’s not always possible, but that attempt was pitiful at best. He should leave the shooter to Grubi and do everything he can to block or complicate the pass…

  • I think Grabovski’s pass to Ovechkin put him in a bad spot which started that whole train wreck of decisions.

  • CapsSuck

    ovechkin’s crap pass is to blame.

  • Michael Reschly

    That’s not clear from the article. “It seems like a good play.”


    Green got burned making the same bad play against Ottawa on a 2-on-1 rush. Defending those are very hard, but the way he’s trying to defend the pass, with his gloves and knees, is not working. He needs, in my opinion, to go to his belly.

  • Keyword: “seems” I then spend the next two paragraphs explaining how Ovechkin makes a bad play from that pass. I thought that was clearly inferred.

  • Michael Reschly

    Which I read as ‘Ovi’s fault’ and not ‘Grabo made the wrong play’

  • Ben Reed

    Another problem here is shift length. This is Ovi’s third straight full-length rush (up, then back, now up again). That behind-the-back shit is a product of being tired. The right move is to take it to the corner and suck it up for a few while fresh legs come out.

    Then, the dominoes fall.

  • JH

    I don’t see how Grabo erred on this at all. Orlov is most to blame for abandoning his post, although it was a calculated risk. Ovie’s pass was off. Blaming Green for not flopping on a 3-1—a bit harsh. I mean, he was hung out to dry for starters, and it’s pretty easy for an NHLer to saucer pass over a prone body. Hey, we still came up with a point so let’s not get too exercised.

  • Matt

    Is it unprecedented to do the anti-Buf? Move a guy from D to wing. The broken record of deensive liability is old…

  • Matt

    He could have made the sitiation better after he gave up the puck. What was he hoing to do, shoot from no angle?

  • Ben Reed

    Agreed. Love the stats posts, but I think I love the actual hockey analysis more. I love watching the sport and breaking it down. It’s…why I watch!

  • Ben Reed

    It’s a natural thing for centers unfamiliar (i.e. not Backstrom) to try to make the overly fancy play with Ovi. Ribeiro used to pull this all the time, too.

    What’s incredible is that, for the poor decision it was, Grabo’s pass couldn’t have been placed in a more perfect spot.

  • Daniel Meridieth

    No defending Green, it is once again an example of how he is a defensive liability. 2-1/3-1 one may be hard to defend but he doesn’t even put in a good effort, if he takes Skinner away the goal doesn’t happen because he has guys coming in on the the third guy high and Murphy is a right handed shot that took the puck in so far that his only options were a bad angle shot or the pass… Orlov probably shouldn’t have pinched so far in but he did and he was trying to win the game… I wish Oates and the team would stop covering for Green.

  • Lawrence

    My summary of it:
    Grabo was the least person at fault, he makes that drop pass every game and it creates a ton of our offense. I don’t agree that he was put ovi into a vulnerable spot.

    Ovi’s pass was either hero or zero, which some would say is not worth it (I would disagree however).

    Orlov’s play was a bit more risky and unfortunately most of the blame goes to him, but I completely understand why he would feel the need to take that risk (Ovi eing the one passing to him, benching earlier in the season, wanting to prove himself).

    Green I find hard to blame on the situation, hes not a defensive defense-man, and he was 1 vs 3.

    I think the underlying issue is the fact that we have our 2 most dynamic offensive defenseman on the same pairing together. They should be split up, Alzner needs to be with one of them.

  • Marky Narc

    Another unfortunate aspect of this play is that if gives the MacLeans and McSorleys of the world more fuel to spout their bull [droppings].

  • billy

    Maybe Orlov should have simply backed off, but that was a pretty lousy play by #8. He needs to knock it off with the blind passes to nobody across the middle of the ice.

  • Barrett

    Cannot blame Green here at all. Blame Ovechkin for not getting the puck deep in the offensive zone, making a horrible blind pass into the center of the ice, not driving hard to the net after his horrible pass and then putting no effort into back checking (great job coasting into the defensive zone once you reached the blue line Ovie). Green and MiG84 are least to blame here with Ovechkin the most then Orlov for pinching when he shouldn’t have.

  • Kelly Johnston

    Extremely good blog post, and I totally agree that nearly everyone, except Grabo, makes poor decisions here. Green also continues to violate Defense rule #1 with regard to odd-man rushes — let the goalie handle the guy with the puck and take away the pass. He consistently does the wrong thing to the point of insanity. There is also a reason why good coaches teach younger players NEVER to leave blind drop passes — bad move by Ovechkin. I hope he does that a lot for team Russia, especially when they play USA (take note, John Carlson).

  • Dawn Pepin Greenway

    Great description of the defensive options Green had, and I think he’s second most at fault. He’s got to get all the way down, that puck would have gotten trapped under his belly and given us a fighting chance. The biggest problem here is Orlov, he should have enough hockey sense to not go for that puck. Poor decision making, which is what separates AHLers from NHLers.

  • rotearth

    no, it all started with a very poor, soft pass into the middle by Ovi.

  • rotearth


  • Barrett

    If Ovechkin back checks with any effort once he reached the defensive blue line, maybe Skinner doesn’t have a wide open net. Watch the replay. Pathetic. I love Ovechkin and the offense he brings, but a player wearing the “C” on his jersey should never give up on plays, ever.

  • H70

    This just gives me another thing to put on my growing Reasons I Don’t Like Oates list. Blame Orlov? Sounds like the dumb pass was not just Ovi’s idea.

  • JH

    Grabo was in the right position. He was covering left post and left corner and closest to get any puck behind the net.

  • Freedoooom

    Apparently I have to post these again.

    Apparently Ovechkins area pass is supposed to predict Orlov being over confident in doing a toe drag, which could of easily of gone right on to the stick of the other defender and still been a 3 on 1.

    Orlov made the wrong play, he could of shoveled it on the net or most likely would of just went out of play, instead he went for the toe drag. Its his fault.

  • James Desautels

    Everyone on the ice tried to force that play, but in the end, if Green (or any Dman in that position) is going to make an attempt in the go zone to break up the play they have to commit to the decision. Green decides to go for the pass breakup at the right time but he didn’t make a committed move. The half slide, half kneel down move left tons of space for a Pro NHLer to easily move the puck. Either lay down and take as much space as possible or go hard at puck carrier and force him wide and making a off angle pass or shot.

  • M Taylor

    I will defend Mike Green’s positioning here since rebound control seems to be a weakness in Gruebauer’s game. However I do think he should leave the shooter to the goalie to handle. The player I feel worst for is Orlov. He was in a damned if he did and damned if he didn’t situation with that horrid blind pass. I agree with another poster that the two defensemen able to skate the puck out of their own end should be separated,both due to the added help that gives in clearing the Caps own end as well as 2 defensive pairings with good offensive instincts. Also can we have someone who can skate on the third pairing please? I love how Ersk keeps the front of the net cleared, but bless his heart speedy skating is not in his repetoire.

  • Matt DV

    If one guy screws up, it is his fault. Don’t panic, he’s human.

    If three guys screw up – if three guys fail to make a good decision, Coach failed to do enough teaching. Guys are not prepared. It’s not a game failure – it’s a practice failure (insert Allen Iverson rant here as counterpoint).

  • Paul Musselman

    “Let the goalie handle the guy with the puck and take away the pass.”

    They teach you this in Juniors… cause its when you get fast enough to matter about the odd breaks. The goalie always has to worry about the puck going in, but the defensemen has to make sure the tic-tac-toe pass doesn’t happen. It’s tough on a 3 on 1 but still taking away the passing play is crucial.

  • Matthew Kory

    Unfortunately it seems this is how this team has to win. By that I mean, they don’t possess the puck, so they rely on plays like Ovechkin’s behind-the-back pass to nobody. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s hailed as genius. Sometimes it doesn’t, and in this case it set up a series of unfortunate events.

    As to who is at fault, from my standpoint it’s tough to blame Grabovski. He seemingly did his job getting Ovie the puck and then going down low. It looked to me like Ovie could have carried the puck into the corner around Skinner if he wanted to, but he picked a riskier option. Orlov maybe could’ve done a better job of knocking the puck away, but he was trying for the home run too, just like Ovie. If he chips that pass past the Carolina player it’s he, Ovie, and Grabo against one Carolina player, and he’s a genius.

    As for Green, he was in the correct position, but I agree, especially when the Carolina player skates past the circles, he’s got to get down on his belly and block the pass. Got to. You worry about the rebound later. We’re not at that point yet. If the pass gets through, it’s a goal. If it doesn’t, that’s a much more advantageous setup for the Caps and that’s what Green has to try to do in that situation (again, in my humble opinion).

  • Eric Schulz

    Green isn’t good defensively, but he needs to be. You can’t absolve him of blame; he’s been in the league long enough that he needs to have some defensive ability by now. Also, he is no longer good enough offensively, consistently enough, that he can get away with his defensive lapses (not that he ever could, but now it’s exacerbated).
    As far as defensive pairings, Alzner needs to be with Carlson, and Green needs to be with Schmidt. I don’t like Green with Schmidt logically, but they just work well together.

  • Eric Schulz

    I don’t think it was a bad pass. It looked to me like Orlov was about to get a scoring chance, it just barely missed. Not sure how much that was because of a great stick check.. by Murphy?

  • Eric Schulz

    First of all, who cares if it’s unprecedented, it may well be the right move. Second, Brent Burns in San Jose.

  • Eric Schulz

    Murphy kind of came out of nowhere to check the puck away from Orlov. Every time I see the GIF, I think Orlov will have it uncontested in the slot. Had Grabbo driven the net, he probably forces Murphy to deal with him, and Murphy can’t make a play on the puck. Perhaps I’m wrong, and there was no way to eliminate Murphy from the play without committing interference, but it seems like that play should’ve worked. Obviously, Ovie’s pass wasn’t perfect; had it been a touch further to the blue line, Murphy is also eliminated, but I don’t think that’s the only way to take him out of the play.

  • Eric Schulz

    Green isn’t the least to blame. He’s the one guy back on a 3-on-1, and he essentially didn’t do anything.

  • Eric Schulz

    It’s not easy to saucer pass the puck over a prone body. It takes a little longer, and there’s enough degree of difficulty that a guy can mess it up. The point is, FORCE him to make the harder play, instead of letting him make the easy play. That’s not overly harsh at all.

  • Eric Schulz

    Theoretically, I like one puck-mover, and one people-mover, per defensive pairing. However, we don’t have enough people-movers for that to work; right now I think we have Alzner, who isn’t overly physical but is enough of a shutdown guy to qualify, and Erskine, who seems too old to be effective anymore. The Alzner-Carlson pairing works, as does the Green-Schmidt pairing. The former makes sense, the latter not so much on paper, but they work on the ice.
    As far as adding more defensive talent, that’s reason 3 the Forsberg trade was indefensible. I can’t imagine I would’ve moved him, but if I did trade him, it would’ve only been for a top-3 defensive defenseman. Say, if the Sabres wanted to give up on Tyler Myers, something like that. There’s not a lot of them on the market, so you’d have to take a chance on him; with his contract and his regression since his rookie year, it would be a gamble,, but that would’ve at least been a worthwhile gamble. Adding an overpaid winger wasn’t worth it. I hate to keep harping on that trade (mostly because I wish I couldn’t harp on it, because I wish it never happened), but with the gaping hole on defense, it’s amazing to me that GMGM has made so many moves while ignoring that.

  • Barrett

    What’s he supposed to do? It’s a 3v1, the offense is supposed to score. If he goes to his belly, he takes himself out of the play entirely leaving two players alone in front of the net if there’s a rebound. If Ovechkin doesn’t make a horrible pass and give up on his back check or if Orlov doesn’t pinch in then Green isn’t hung out to dry, again.

  • Barrett

    Maybe Oates and the team should stop covering for Ovechkin. His lack of defensive effort in almost every game is becoming tiring to watch. He hustled to reach the blue line, then coasted in the rest of the way to watch a goal. Pathetic effort from the supposed “captain”. No wonder this team gives up all the time.

  • Eric Schulz

    Go down on his belly. Yes, he’ll leave two guys open in front, but the puck will be behind the net… so, I wouldn’t worry about the guys in front of the net. Take away the pass to the slot (both players are there, it’s not like they are separated, with one player in each faceoff dot, making it impossible to cover both… in that event, cover the far guy so that you reduce the amount the goalie has to move laterally), and let the goalie worry about Murphy. Since Murphy has no shooting angle, if you take away the pass, the play is dead.