FF Telestrator: Penguins Rebound Against Senators
The Penguins got themselves into serious trouble against the Maple Leafs and Jets this past week by poor puck management that resulted in fast paced plays the other way.
The defense struggled to recover, and it appeared as if the forwards were coasting higher and higher through the neutral zone and the defense was forcing passes through a gauntlet of opposing forwards.
In the diagram above, you see how Winnipeg was able to score their first goal of the game. The high forward for the Penguins, denoted by “X” is hanging up ice waiting of a long, stretch pass through the neutral zone.
The opposing forward is taking away the easy lane along the wall, and the high forward for the Penguins has a defenseman draped on him.
This isn’t a recipe for success.
The pass was picked off, and the deep defenseman is now trapped on an island. One of Winnipeg’s goals on Friday was essentially a 3 on 1 that started with this pass and ended with Ben Lovejoy on an island.
Last night, James Neal was the benefactor of a similar play by the Ottawa Senators.
The above freeze frame is a still depicting Evgeni Malkin picking off a pass from a deep Ottawa defenseman who actually threw this pass from all the way back below the defensive circle.
The player in green is highlighted as the intended recipient. The easy play along the wall isn’t so easy when it’s stretching three-quarters of the ice surface.
Geno has picked this puck off and is now about to head back and set-up James Neal on a one-timer in a high percentage scoring area.
Here is the key moment of this sequence.
In the green circle, Zack Smith is going to attempt to check Evgeni Malkin. The problem is as a result of the turnover, Smith is forced to turn back quickly and is heading the wrong way. Take a look at his posture, he’s just adjusting himself to reverse flow of play as Malkin is approaching.
The Senators defenseman in the red box is on an Island, he’s facing the play, as is his partner, and James Neal is about to sneak into the zone on the far side of the ice.
Smartly, Eric Tangradi drives the goal and takes the highlighted Senators defenseman out of the play completely.
Erik Karlsson should mark James Neal, but he’s lost on the ice and doesn’t have his head on a swivel.
Because of the drive to the net by Tangradi, Geno will have a passing lane to James Neal, who is in the perfect position for a solid one-timer.
This entire sequence has gone awry for the Senators because of the quick reverse in direction the play took. From Zack Smith on down, the Senators were heading up ice. The stretch pass was intercepted and now they’re stuck. This is exactly how the Penguins were torched against the Leafs and Jets.
Take a look at the above still. The Senators don’t exactly have the defensive posture of a team that was prepared for this rush. This was the result of a quick turnover that the Penguins capitalized on.
How about a little comparison still?
That’s the Penguins defensive breakdown after a quick turnover on the first Winnipeg goal Friday night.
Matt Niskanen, the near side D, is flat-footed completely.
Kris Letang has just turned around to head back the other way and is completely on an island.
Crosby/Cooke are adjacent to each other and haven’t even entered back into the defensive zone yet.
The Lightning are about to burn the Flyers on transition from a poor turnover deep in the offensive zone.
Victor Hedman is up ice, like we mentioned last week, the extreme reverse in the play has completely eliminated both Flyers defensemen in the above still. Hedman is alone to knock in an easy rebound.
So, in short, this weekend was a true testament to how badly a quick reverse in play can be for any team in the NHL. The game is all about speed, and coughing the puck up to guys like Evgeni Malkin is a sure fire way to allow a team to find holes in your transitional defense and exploit them.
Turnovers in areas of the ice that present a quick reverse in flow create problems for defensemen in a major way. The Penguins successfully cut this out of this list of issues yesterday.