First off, on the question of “Who’s to blame?” …”Not James Reimer” is a good place to start. I’m not saying the guy is Patrick Roy reincarnate, but his three goals against came on a breakaway, a partial breakaway, and a 2-on-1 that ended in an uncontested snappy-wrist-shot from the slot by Daniel Alfredsson (while he was forced to move laterally). Out of 31 shots? Keep his name outcho mouth.
We’ll look at the Red Wings three goals, and just how Detroit earned (or were handed) the opportunities they needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.
What happened: Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring on a breakaway, 12:50 into the first period.
This is as far back as the video goes, but what we’ve got off the top is…
…Kessel and JvR forechecking, Kyle Quincey trying to break the puck out, the Red Wings looking sound positionally, and the Leafs F3, Tyler Bozak….oh god where’s Bozie going. Bozie, you’re high, what’re you creeping in for? We don’t even have the puck!
Bozak should be staying high, and be on the strong side. He’s cheating – and cheating curiously bad. It’s not like he’s going to an open spot of ice where his team gaining possession equals a goal.
Quincey bats the puck out of the air, and gets it up to the Red Wings winger, Gustav Nyquist.
Bozak has continued on to make dinner plans with Jimmy Howard, meaning all three forwards are trapped.
Still, that’s not really a huge problem yet – it’s bad positional play, but the Wings still have two forwards fairly deep, so at worst the Leafs are looking at a 3-on-2 with backcheckers – provided their Dmen read the situation and back off.
Oh, if only.
Tim Gleason decides to act like a real Glea-bag, and tries to pinch. Well, not so much really pinch, because that at least implies trying to take the body. He lunges for a 50/50 puck – as you see above, it’s more 60/40 for Nyquist – and as “lunging for pucks” goes as a defensive tactic, he’s dead in the water if Nyquist gets to the puck first.
Seeing the situation unfold, particularly with his partner pinching, you’d like to see Gleason’s partner Cody Franson back out into the middle of the ice for support. It’s weird – not a player on the ice seems to have had the thought “What’s worst case scenario here?” They all seem to be waiting for someone else to acquire the puck so they can be in a better offensive position.
Gleason and Nyquist both get a touch on the puck, but Nyquist makes a slick play to kick the puck up to his stick, and hops to the middle on Gleason.
I find it odd that Franson pivoted to backwards to back out the zone as the play unfolded – again, no panic button – but he again has to pivot, and now you’ve got Gleason and Franson in a foot-race with one of the NHL’s best skaters, Gustav Nyquist.
Snap your fingers and…
Granted, Franson was pivoting, but still. BYEeeeeeee.
Nyquist tries to go backhand five-hole, but Reimer, with his stick on the ice protecting there and pad down, gets a good piece of it.
As Reimer slides back, the butt-end of his own stick drags the puck back into the net. You’re also free to notice that after Gleason got beat, he stopped tracking back hard, so his attempt to stop the puck as it slid back was pretty hopeless.
Bozak was a mess at F3, Gleason offered very little resistance after a bad decision to pinch, and Franson’s lack of support (and panic) allow a guy a breakaway.
What happened: Gustav Nyquist scored on a partial breakaway two minutes into the third period.
Goal two starts as Joffrey Lupul, with body position, heads for a loose puck. Bozak is providing low support, and again, F3 (Kessel) is not in a very strong position. But, I do get it – when you see one of your teammates clearly going to get to a puck in the o-zone first, you’re more prone to cheat. It’ll likely either be cycled back or moved up high.
Lupul gets to the puck first, but Smith is doing a good job closing the gap, and “getting into his hands.” That’s a solid technique to cause, quite literally, what happens in the coming second.
Here’s when the meltdown begins – Lupul tries to get the puck immediately up to the point, which would be a good play, but Smith makes it hard on him, so he doesn’t get much wood on it.
Now, something to note: this is not Paul Ranger making a bad decision to pinch and getting roasted. Lupul was passing him the puck, so he was stationary, holding the line. If he were to try to back out and let Nyquist just grab full possession, he’s splitting the Leafs’ D up the middle…again. He’s forced into pinching because he was waiting for the pass.
Nyquist makes a smart play – with Ranger frozen, he’s free to poke it past him and skate into it with his speed up.
The other thing is…I don’t entirely blame Rielly here for not backing out either. The most likely thing that happens when – “when” – Lupul gets the puck up to Ranger, is that Ranger’s ripping it across the blue to Rielly to spread out the defense and relieve the pressure Nyquist would’ve put on him. They’re both assuming the play is going to work out, as guys often do to their offensive benefit.
From there, it’s simply a foot race between a flat-footed Ranger, a pivoting-and-wide Rielly, and Gustav Nyquist.
Rielly is one of the most electric skaters in hockey, but ain’t nobody makin’ up that ground on “Goose” from where he starts.
Nyquist takes a stride inside and gets it off before Rielly arrives.
I’ve heard people say that Reimer should’ve been farther out to cut down the angle, and I suppose in hindsight, sure, maybe a touch. But Reimer is in pretty great position at the top of the crease….the shot is just perfect. Seriously: perfect. Left-hand shot going low-blocker, puck 12-16 inches off the ice as it clears the goalie’s pad that’s taking away the bottom of the net…just inside the post.
Lupul flubbed a pass at a bad time and it froze his teammates. Great goal by Goose, 2-0 Wings, go on ahead and celebrate wit cho bad self.
What happened: Daniel Alfredsson scored the (eventual) game-winning goal on a 2-on-1 with David Legwand.
It looks like Johan Franzen reverses the puck to Danny Dekeyser to evade Tyler Bozak, and both carry on behind the net. Bozak’s role from there would be to come up through the middle and rotate in as F3.
Kronwall makes a great read to get open for Dekeyser and opens up for him, who sees this and makes a slick backhand pass to avoid Kessel’s (proper) forecheck.
Only…NOnonononoNO, Gardiner, what are you doing….
My guess is that this is a decision based purely on the scoreboard and the clock. You know you have to push to make something happen with the hourglass on its last grains, so I’m thinking he’s been given the directive to be aggressive. Still – that directive is never “be wrong,” and that’s a legitimately bad pinch decision.
So, Kron is on the wall, three Leafs forwards are trapped deep, and Gardiner is 403 stick-lengths away and approaching at mid-speed.
Wall-Kron takes a look, and goes off the boards and out to his open teammates.
And as depressing as it sounds, that’s basically all she wrote. Four guys are trapped, and now it’s about the odd-man rush.
Offensively, you like to make the goalie move early, and get a good shot. On D, well, I have my theories on playing a 2-on-1 but I don’t particularly like the strategy of “have kinda bad gap, have to slow down to take the 2-on-1, and leave a big triangle to pass under.” But what do I know, I’m a silly forward.
So Legwand really zips a hard pass over to Daniel Alfredsson under Franson’s stick.
First, look where Alfredsson receives the puck in the zone, second, look at Reimer – he’s been squared up to the shooter, and now has to shuffle (or whatever word goalies use) across.
Pass controlled and a stride later, here’s Alfredsson’s release point. Look again at Reimer who’s had to open up to get square to a new shooter.
Absolute goal-scorer’s release from Alfie.
All I’m saying is, if you’re letting a guy with 1,146 career points shoot from this spot in a close game on a moving goalie, maybe don’t blame the guy with the mask on?
Here’s what Ray Ferraro had to say about it on Twitter this morning.
— Ray Ferraro (@rayferrarotsn) March 19, 2014
Yes, yes it was.