Last week I broke down a line change by the Edmonton Oilers that could have been explained by my wife. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an incredibly intelligent woman, but hockey systems weren’t exactly a course she took in college. The mess up was just obvious.
This week….is a little harder.
The good news for Sabres fans is that no one player is going to get embarrassed during this video session. Sometimes when your opponent yanks the tender, you get running around and desperate, and you do anything you can to simply keep the puck out of your net. As the team on offense, chaos is a good thing – it’s easier to get lost in the shuffle, and that’s exactly what David Desharnais does en route to scoring his Teemu Selanne-esque lurker-style goal.
Let’s take a look, then break down what went wrong for the Sabres, and what went right for the Habs.
While I won’t pick on him too bad, be sure to note how many times Derek Roy hits the deck this shift. They’re going to have to thaw his jersey out before they can pack it.
Time to take a look at the 11 players on the ice.
Right now the puck is the offensive corner, and David Desharnais has full possession. Alexander Sulzer is out in the final minute defending him (which is interesting).
(“Some other d-man” is actually Markov, but he’s literally not in frame for a millisecond of this goal.)
As you can see in that picture, Regehr is heading back behind the net. He thought Desharnais may go behind the net with it, and he was cheating down to cut it off.
The problem is, he’s left Plekanec all alone in front….which isn’t really all his fault.
When your opponent has an extra guy on the ice, you match guy-for-guy down low, and prefer to be outnumbered up high. That means if they just have two d-men on the blueline, one forward is responsible for both of them, and you’re 4-on-4 down low. If they’re in an umbrella, you have two forwards up, and you play 3-on-3 down low.
Regehr cheats, and Pominville has an “Oh shit I’m supposed to be helping low” moment.
Regehr realizes the puck isn’t going back behind the net, notices Plekanec in front, and scrambles to get back to cover him. As he’s doing that, Desharnais throws the puck towards the net.
Unfortunately, with the way Regehr’s body is facing (at Plekanec), he’s unable to deal with where the puck goes – to Cole – and he twists himself into a pretzel.
The puck gets to Cole’s stick, who opens up his blade and directs the puck to the backdoor, where he knows Plekanec is lurking. Pominville is finally back on him, but he doesn’t have body position so Miller is forced to make a save. Chaos is starting to ensue.
Here’s where Plekanec makes one of those sneaky-smart offensive plays where people think “He didn’t mean to do that,” but he did. Miller has him fully walled-up, so when he gets his rebound he knows two things: I’m not getting it through him here, and he’s committed to this side of the net. So, he banks it off the end-boards and tries to have it come out on the other side:
…And that’s what sends the Sabres into full panic mode. Roy sees the puck coming out in front of their net on the other side, a Montreal player standing there, and their goalie down and out. Desperate, he tries to help Regehr and Miller out but stumbles and falls into the crease.
As the puck comes out that other side, he has nothing left to do while lying on the ice but try to stop Cole from jamming it in. In the process, he also jams Miller’s ability to get over and, y’know, goaltend.
So here’s the madhouse – Sulzer also saw Cole and wants to stop him. Regehr is still on Cole. Roy is down in the crease. ….that leaves a lot of open Canadiens.
Now that’s what you call “collapsing” (which is okay in times of chaos). The Sabres have five humans within a few feet of their net.
So the puck is at the side of the net now. What happens next: Cole punks Sulzer (literally just shoves him to the ice), stays strong against Regehr, and bats the loose puck in front of the net, to where Jason Pominville has regrouped. Unfortunately, he hasn’t regrouped well enough, because the puck slides right through the slot to PK Subban.
Miller has tripped on Roy, who’s still down. What’s really incredible here is that Roy manages to get up, and drop down to attempt to block the Subban shot in a matter of about a second. Goalies should be extremely jealous of his quick up-down abilities.
Pominville makes a nice block on Subban, who’s just trying to get the puck through.
What Roy’s doing is noble and all – keep the puck out of the net at all costs – but it’s also not that bright. He needs to let his goaltender play goal (he’s all over him here), and he needs to latch onto a guy.
The puck has now kicked off into the corner, so it’s is time for everybody to stop puck-staring and regroup. The puck is away from the net, so get your numbers right by finding a man.
Look how perfect the numbers could be for Buffalo – the two D behind the net can take the two forwards. Foligno could go after the puck (and Pacioretty), and leave Pominville to be the one forward on the two high D, as you hope. And, Roy could latch on to Desharnais, and everything is hunky-dory.
But man…in the dying seconds, you lose track of that stuff. “Keep the puck out of the net” is an easy distraction.
Both Sulzer and Roy are still thinking puck, not checks. As Pacioretty heads to the corner to retrieve the puck, he does just about the only thing he can do with the clock winding down - throw it towards the front of the net.
Throw Pominville into the mix, and look at how puck-obsessed they’ve become. There are two – TWO – Montreal Canadiens uncovered in front of the net while the three of them, like kids in a high school gym class, are only interested in the puck.
The point is that in these hectic, scrambly situations, it’s better to take a second and not look at the puck, find a guy, then find the puck. It’s what guys like Nicklas Lidstrom do best – they’re unflappable in flap-worthy situations. And there’s some serious flapping going on by the Sabres here.
Roy drops for the third time this shift, but it’s Sulzer who stops the shot/pass. Unfortunately, it goes right to Cole…
…who for the second time this shift has the sense to get the puck to the backdoor to a teammate. Meanwhile, you have Sulzer, Roy, and Pominville still interested in the wrong thing.
How do you like that view if you’re David Desharnais? The chaos has somehow ended up with you staring at a wide-open cage and the puck heading your way. He makes no mistake…
…And the game is headed to overtime. (Great effort by Miller on that, by the way. Almost got there.)
Montreal made some really nice plays during the mad scramble, but Buffalo needs to be more responsible in their man-on-man low coverage, and less worried about the puck (and also less concerned with playing goal for Ryan Miller). Right from Pominville’s scramble to get back on Pacioretty in the second screenshot you could see they were behind the 8-ball.
That’s when you most need to mentally slow down, find a guy, and d-up.