Breaking down a Caps breakdown

The Avalanche goal to tie the game at 1 against the Caps on Thursday never should have happened. Here’s a look at the play and why the goal was avoidable.

breakdown1

The play starts as Daniel Briere (#48) carries the puck over the blue line with teammate Nathan MacKinnon (#29) on his left. The Caps seem in good shape, as Mike Green and Nate Schmidt are back and in good possession with Evgeny Kuznetsov arriving to provide backside pressure.

breakdown2

Next, you’ll see Briere throw a saucer pass into space for MacKinnon. MacKinnon has ridiculous speed and good hands, so this is a good decision by Briere. Schmidt goes for the pokecheck, but as you can see, the puck goes between his stick and his body. The puck is now headed into space to one of the best skaters in the league (MacKinnon) who gas nearly half the zone to work with and the defender marking him (Schmidt) leaning the wrong way. Not good, but not necessarily due to any defensive lapse.

breakdown3

Schmidt is in trouble here. This is more a case of getting burned by one of the best skaters in the league than a lapse or poor execution. Yes, he could have pivoted sooner in the second picture, instead of going for the puck, but that’s a decision I can live with. The red arrows are used to point out the guys that are really at fault here.

Mike Green, the right arrow, either needs to have already pivoted to try to help cover up for Schmidt or he needs to be paying very close attention to Briere. Instead, he just kind of hangs out and watches MacKinnon burn Schmidt without paying Briere much mind.

If Green kind of hangs out, Kuznetsov (the arrow on the left) completely and totally hangs out. Give him a beer and a sandwich, at least that way he can have refreshments while being a complete spectator. Kuznetsov should be marking Briere here.

(As an aside, this isn’t any sort of general indictment of Green or Kuznetsov. They were bad on this play, but I’m not suggesting anything broader than that.)

breakdown4

MacKinnon puts a backhander on net and Holtby makes a kick save. Green and Kuznetsov continue to be completely mesmerized by the puck, not seeming to have a care in the world that Briere is in the slot.

Holtby kicks out the rebound to the aforementioned slot (the one that Briere and a couple of spectators in Caps jerseys are occupying). This was pretty bad rebound control by Holtby, but it’s hard to put much blame on him for this goal. I think I remember reading a quote after the game where Holtby said he anticipated MacKinnon trying to go high with the shot, so he was caught off guard by the low shot. This resulted in him not controlling the rebound very well (AKA really badly). This is bound to happen if you let a player like MacKinnon this kind of opportunity.

breakdown5

Mike, Evgeny. Your “oh, crap” reaction here is appreciated, but it’s far too late. Briere, untouched and less than 10 feet out, has the entire right side of the net in which to deposit the puck at his leisure.

This was a bad goal. Schmidt, who I’d argue deserves the least blame of the 4 Caps involved, got burned by MacKinnon because he got caught leaning while going for a pokecheck. Holby could have controlled the rebound better, but those kind of things are going to happen over the course of a hockey game. What can’t happen is two guys being passengers on the play, seemingly mesmerized by the puck. Kuznetsov and Green are to blame for this goal.

By the way, the Caps went on to win 3-2 on an unbelievable goal by Alex Ovechkin.

About Pat Holden

Pat writes regularly about hockey on Brooks Laichyear and Russian Machine Never Breaks. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com and The Washington Post. You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pfholden

Posted on November 24, 2014, in NHL, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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