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Detroit Red Wings Goal Breakdown: Good Backchecking, Strong Neutral Zone Play Earn Detroit a Game-Tying Goal

A commenter asked me to break down the Red Wings' fourth goal in their Friday Night game against the New Jersey Devils because the highlights package cuts off well after all the work is done for the Red Wings to recover the puck and get it into the New Jersey zone. The highlight video above shows the wonderful give-and-go play by Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Jurco, as well as the strong net-front play by Glendening which seals off that half of the ice for Kronwall to walk the puck in clean, and the subtle glide back into the slot by Drew Miller to give Kronwall the lane he tries to take with the puck. You can see in the highlight video how Kronwall's aggressive cut across the top of the crease makes everybody start to focus their attention toward the back post, leaving Miller in perfect momentarily-forgotten position to slam the loose puck home.

What we don't see is the work done to set up the possession. Let's show that now in two parts.


The play here starts as Nyquist does a cross-corner dump-in that Severson gets to with speed to spare on Abdelkader to get around his own net. Abby chases and Severson tries a backhand dump up the boards to Elias already being chased back by Glendening coming off the bench. Glendening blocks Elias' attempt to swat it out of the zone, but Cammalleri gets his stick on it first, poking it up to Ryder coming back to help. Nyquist is moving the right direction and Ryder the wrong direction here, so Goose gets on him before he can turn up ice.

Ryder just spins and throws the puck into the neutral zone trying to hit Cammalleri. Unfortunately for the Devils, Glendening is pushing back hard and is able to tie up Cammalleri by the Wings' bench. Nyquist cuts in front of and under Ryder to get over and help first while Abdelkader sets up below that and Ericsson hangs back. Nyquist figures he can't push up ice, so he goes back to Ericsson and the Wings have successfully defeated the New Jersey breakout and have recovered the puck.


Ericsson takes the puck behind his net allowing the forwards to complete their change and the Wings to set their breakout. Riggy goes to Glendening skating up the boards, but Cammalleri is there to threaten a pinch. With Ryder still deep in the Wings' zone covering the pass back to Ericsson, Glendening does the smart move and just chips it out of the zone up the strong side. Jurco is there to help, but he gets stepped up on by Harrold in a well-layered Devils' neutral zone defense. Jurco recognizes that Glendening has gotten around Cammalleri, so he tips the puck trying to let Glendening get it in stride.

Here the Wings get a little bit lucky, but not as lucky as you might think. Elias has his momentum headed to the boards to defend against Jurco and he has to turn back for the loose puck. Elias is on his wrong side and Glendening is charging hard at him. As Elias tries desperately to poke it past Glendening, he hits the pesky center in the shins and the Wings have a one-on-one rush into the zone.

As Glendening enters the zone, Marek Zidlicky is in perfect defensive position and Glendening's momentum is already starting to carry him away from his forehand. This is a situation where I'd want a dedicated dangler to try and push the 1-on-1 and get a scoring opportunity, but Glendening once again makes the smart safe play and drags Zidlicky down slowly to the corner. You can't see it happen in this play and I don't have a replay angle that shows the Wings' entering behind Glendening, but it happens in such a way as Kronwall is the last to enter the zone at the point, having been given just enough time to do so by Glendening and just enough space to receive a pass thanks to Ryder being forced to hand off coverage of two players while also respecting Glendening's ability to come up the boards himself and turn in at the top of the circle. Ryder's collapse-by-design gives Kronwall lots of space to make a decision with the puck at the point.

By now, we've already overlapped with the play developing in the highlight video. Kronwall gets it and goes to Jurco, who makes a slick backhanded return pass to spring Konwall in a lane to the dangerous spot of the ice. The forwards help make space for him and Drew Miller gets rewarded when he finds the loose puck right in front and the goalie already sliding the wrong way.

This is a great way to show how making the smart simple plays in forechecking, backchecking, and transition can lead to good opportunities. It took a fancy play to finally create the goal, but a lot of simple work went in to the Red Wings' comeback victory. This play highlights it very well.