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.
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:
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.
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?