When last we left you in Key Play Breakdown, we showed you what can happen when a low-to-high pass play against a collapsed defense leads to a turnover up high. This might end up being a recurring theme for the Wings, because this time I want to show you why the Wings can, will, and should continue trying to run plays like this. This time, we’ve got one that works out.
In this play, we’ll show a good forecheck and what happens when you get a mobile defender the space he needs. Here’s Mike Green’s third goal of the game against the Ottawa Senators.
The play starts with a lost faceoff in the defensive zone and a Phaneuf shot that goes high over the net. Hoffman recovers and pushes it behind the net, but Stone is covered by DeKeyser and lets it go. Frans Nielsen wins the race to the empty half-wall, immediately turning and firing past a pinching Phaneuf up the middle to Riley Sheahan leaving the zone. Wideman steps up, but Sheahan is able to get control and carry in. With Wideman cutting him off and Hoffman applying back pressure, Sheahan wisely recognizes his situation and positions himself to take it to the corner and initiate a board battle to waste enough time for his teammates to get up ice.
As Sheahan eats it at the boards, Glendening and Brassard show up to join the fray.
The Win Along the Boards & Pass
From here, it’s just Glendening and Sheahan against three Senators down low and the other two covering not far away. Sheahan keeps Hoffman from digging it out and then Glendening stymies Brassard before holding it between his skates. Sheahan comes across to cut off the battle and make it just Glendening vs. Brassard. This allows Glenny to escape up the wall that Brassard doesn’t have covered. He moves to the corner and makes a backhand pass up the boards past Frans Nielsen decoying at the half wall up to Mike Green. you’ll notice that at the time of the pass, the highest Senators player is Stone, who is below the top of the circle and out nearer the slot. Mike Green will receive this puck with a world of options.
With just one winger anywhere close to the top half of the zone, the center still chasing a guy in the corner, the other winger covering basically nobody, both defensemen just above the red line and all five defenders on one side of the ice, the Wings are in good shape. Green is already several feet inside the blue line and is pulling the puck off the boards as soon as he receives the pass. Nobody can challenge because Stone has to respect the cross-ice to DeKeyser and also worry about Nielsen cutting in front.
As Green walks to the middle, Phaneuf busies himself with spearing Sheahan and being nowhere near the front, Wideman wrestles Glendening taking a cut through the middle from the dot, Hoffman realizes how screwed he is, and Stone has to back off to make sure Green can’t thread it to Nielsen for a backdoor play. Brassard might as well be in Windsor with how far he has to come by the time Green is at the top of the circles in the middle of the ice with traffic swirling. Hammond can’t see through Glendening when Green releases the shot.
Alternate Angle - The Patience/Screen
From the surface-height back camera angle, you can see how the viewing angles change and how screwed Hammond is here by the time Green releases his shot. This is a key feature of why it’s so valuable for the defenseman to know when to step in from the blue line and when to immediately recognize the opportunity to pull the puck to the middle. With that much time and space, Green has three good plays to make at all times right up until he collapses and makes the decision to take the shot that ends with the goal.
The funny thing about how beautiful this goal turned out is how you have to accept the risks associated with the play. Green’s patience draws the defense to where Hammond can’t stop his shot and he perfectly places it. That same patience also draws both Brassard and Hoffman toward him in a way that means a blocked shot leaves DeKeyser alone to defend a 2-on-1 rush. We showed how such a risk can backfire badly on a poorly-executed play, but here’s a real good example of why you want to do things like that.
Congratulations to Mike Green for his first career hat trick. That’s a heck of a play he made to get there.