I’m starting to think the Capitals and Maple Leafs might be the NHL’s two worst teams when it comes to defensive coverage. Every week I could (and usually do) pick apart one of the goals they’ve given up, despite going through every game to find the biggest defensive lapses from the previous night.
What that means for fans of those teams: there’s room for improvement. If your team is doing all the right things and losing, well, your personnel probably just isn’t good enough. When it’s constantly brain farts, you can’t blame talent, and it’s fixable. (For what it’s worth: Toronto actually almost is the worst – they give up an average of 3.05 goals per game, good for 28th in the League. Washington is a bit better at 19th – 2.78 per - but that’s still pretty unimpressive.)
Let’s take a look at Josh Bailey’s goal from last night – he makes a fantastic play, but has some help from three Washington Capitals.
Whoa, nice move Bailey. If you’re an Isles fan, you desperately to need to see some flashes like this to keep up hope. It’s the guy’s fourth NHL season, and he has 15 points in 61 games. That ain’t good enough, and he only has one more year before the Isles have to decide whether to cut bait or not.
Let’s take it from the top:
The Isles are breaking the puck out of their own zone – you can’t see him right now, but Josh Bailey is low and wide on the weak side, as he should be (in case MacDonald runs the puck back to his d-partner Hamonic). Andrew MacDonald has solid possession of the puck, Frans Nielsen is providing an option in the middle of the ice, and Mathieu Perrault is trying to take that away.
MacDonald makes a predictably skilled play for the most underpaid player in the League (four-year deal through 2014, cap hit: $550k), saucing it over Perreault’s stick onto Nielsen’s.
Something to note from here out: check out Chimera’s legs in every pic going forward. Locked on tracks, not trying to rush back to help. Just because you “have numbers” doesn’t mean you don’t come back into the zone with a little zest.
Things look good for the Caps. They have three guys back on the Islanders three (knowing Bailey is just out of the picture), so what should they do? Everybody lock on to a guy, and we’re cool.
But, Semin lets Ullstrom beat him up ice, leaving the D to take care of him. By doing that, he’s essentially made this a three-on-two for the Isles, since he’s too far away from Bailey to take him.
Nielsen has moved the puck to Bailey, who’s afforded a ton of time and space thanks to Frans “I do everything the right way” Nielsen and David Ullstrom, who have driven hard to the net once they got across the blueline, pushing Green and Schultz back.
Schultz is backed off deep, So Bailey takes the puck to the slot, and does what most forwards do with a d-man backed in deep – walks the puck to the slot, and uses the defender as a screen. Schultz does the only thing he can do: try to block the shot.
He winds up! Here comes the hammer!
Oooo, just kidding bro, I’m not shooting that. U mad??? (Reminder: note Chimera’s backside non-pressure.)
Annnnd now we’re here:
Here’s the only thing that bothers me about this play by Bailey, which ultimately pans out – how does he not pull the trigger from there? In the NHL, you don’t get that look very often. There’s traffic around the net. Don’t bring it in there and allow their defensemen another shot at you.
Butttt, he does.
Now Semin has resumed his coverage of Ullstrom, Green has Nielsen, and the world is Bailey’s oyster.
Had Chimera taken a single stride, he’d be on him. Perreault has come all the way back and is reaching, but can’t quite get to him. And Schultz is just completely out of it.
Like basketball players when a guard calls for an isolation play, Nielsen and Ullstrom wisely back out and take their defenders with them. For my money, that’s too good of a scoring spot, and Green should jump in on Bailey and force a play quickly. But then, Green has never exactly been Nick Lidstrom.
Green often does this poorly: he doesn’t bail out his d-partners when they fail. He thinks sticking with his guy is the right thing to do, but sometimes you hope a defenseman’s “Don’t let them score” instincts will override his obsession with “his job.”
This means Bailey is able to make a move. He shows forehand….
He goes backhand….
And eventually, it ends up in the net.
Small errors were made by people away from the puck, and the snowball grew into an avalanche. Semin releases Ullstrom to the D. Chimera makes no effort to help. And after Bailey gets Schultz to bite, Green finds it easier to sit on the post and hope his goaltender bails them out.
And just like that, the Capitals are back in another Systems Analyst post.