Tuesday night’s winning goal was scored by Jiri Hudler and was the direct result of two major breakdowns on the play, and could have major implications down the stretch. Let’s explore it a little, shall we?
As the rush starts, Chris Butler looks to be in pretty good position against Valtteri Filppula. There’s a large buffer, and both players are probably accelerating at the same rate. This is pretty much a perfect situation for the defenseman-he can cut the angle, forcing the player to the middle and slowing him down or he can play him to the outside and take him out of the play single-handedly.
Unfortunately, Butler loses an edge and takes a tumble. I’m not going to blame Butler yet, because this type of thing (losing an edge) happens 5-10 times a game; we just don’t usually notice it. At least it looks like Butler’s trying to poke the puck away here.
Butler recovers, but by this point it’s already too late. Butler’s on his second stride and Filppula’s going full speed-there’s not much the defenseman can do here except for throwing his arms out and hoping for the best.
Even though he’s pursuing, Butler’s out of the play here. Tanguay’s the first man back, so he should be covering the middle of the ice, which he looks like he’s doing. Bouwmeester is now the defenseman with focus. With this type of situation-well, any time the opposing team is breaking into the zone, really-you want to push the play as far away from the net as possible. We should expect Bouwmeester to come from the right side of the ice to the left, taking away Filppula’s lane.
Bouwmeester does his job perfectly. Butler, recognizing this, cuts to the right side of the ice to cover the now-open lane. He should now be covering anyone in that lane.
That’s what not happens, though. Butler, Backlund and Tanguay are all way too deep into the zone to cover a trailing forward and Iginla isn’t aware of his lane. This is one of my biggest pet peeves-when players are reactive instead of proactive regarding a play. Bouwmeester has obviously taken his man out of the play and behind the net. That’s all you can ask him to do there. The other three guys, however, are all reacting to what they think is Kiprusoff freezing the puck on the side of the net. Kiprusoff isn’t in proper position, though-he should be hugging the post here, but for whatever reason he has left a space between his pad and the post, and the puck squirts through towards the middle.
It’s quite clear all three deep men are facing away from the direction of the play and all three have for the most part stopped moving. They’ve taken the save for granted, whereas Hudler obviously has not and is streaking towards the net. Since they’re all facing away from Hudler, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to redirect their bodies to the way the play is going. Thus, they won’t be able to cover Hudler. It’s also notable that the players’ respective motions are taking them out and away from the slot area, the most dangerous scoring area on the ice.
All 3 and Kiprusoff realize the direction of the play too late, and Hudler has an unimpeded lane. He takes advantage, and the Red Wings score.
Just brutal positional and reactionary plays from everyone on the Flames side here save Bouwmeester. In my opinion, the major breakdown was Kiprusoff not playing his post correctly-Bouwmeester played the streaking Wing in such a way that the only thing Filppula could do was kind of direct it towards the net from a extremely low percentage area. Butler’s fall really has no bearing on the actual goal here, as it should have finished with Kiprusoff freezing the puck. Saying that, though, there’s no excuse for the complacency demonstrated by the forwards and Butler once the puck is past Kiprusoff. The goal was basically a total systematic failure on all levels.