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Key Play Breakdown: Red Wings veterans feed Maple Leafs youth for a goal

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NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings remain winless after a 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs that saw them muster all of 11 shots on goal through the first two periods of play before turning it on for a more-exciting third in which they just couldn’t overcome the hole they dug for themselves through the first 40.

Also, I wanted to be able to write this post about the first goal of the game, which was a really good play by Nick Jensen and Christoffer Ehn, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be because there ended up being a much more-definitive play that kind of summed up this game:

A couple of veterans on the Red Wings’ squad making mistakes:

The Setup

It’s early in the 2nd period and the score is 1-1. Rasmussen, Abdelkader and Nielsen are your forwards who are trying to break out of their zone after the Leafs got through center ice thanks to quick puck movement aided by a poke-and-hope step up by Nielsen at the top of the faceoff circle in Toronto’s zone that fails and creates a 3-on-2 opportunity crossing the Detroit blue line.

Mitch Marner tries to feed Zach Hyman on the back post to finish the rush and while Hyman wins the race, it just misses, bouncing off the corner boards up the ice to Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader skates up to it and is immediately pressured inside the blue line by Morgan Reilly; he tries to break the pressure with a pass back to the middle of the ice that Frans Nielsen doesn’t even have his stick on the ice to receive:

The Finish

Martin Marincin stops the puck and then pokes it past Michael Rasmussen to where John Tavares gets to it first with room to put a dangle on Jensen and get a shot off from the high slot that goes just wide. The momentum of the play takes Tavares to the corner to get his own rebound, but Jensen is with him and forces the Leafs center to dump the puck back low to try to set up a cycle.

Nik Kronwall is there to pick off this attempt, but he does it in the worst possible way: by mishandling the puck and digging it off the boards for the Leafs, setting up Zach Hyman with the puck and a lane to the net along with a 2-on-1 against Justin Abdelkader covering the net-front/cross-ice lane to Mitch Marner.

It goes as-expected:

The Blame Game

I focus heavily on the veterans in setting up blame for this goal, so I’ll start with the fact that Michael Rasmussen does contribute by failing to clear the puck after Marincin gets his stick on the Abdelkader pass. Allowing Marincin to poke it past him is a rookie mistake and Rasmussen deserves his wrist-slap for doing it.

That said, this might be the worst shift in the most-infuriating game I’ve seen Frans Nielsen play as a Red Wing. The Abdelkader pass to the middle was a bit of a risky decision, but Nielsen not being ready for it is basically unforgivable. Combine that with a bad step-up read on the Leafs’ breakout that even got the puck into the Wings’ zone in the first place and I’m real unhappy with Frans here.

Abdelkader’s shift is also pretty bad. His positioning on the forecheck before Toronto broke out didn’t do anything to slow them down or prevent the breakout, then he chose the riskier play along the boards when he had the puck on his stick and finally, he got caught puck-watching on a goal going right through a coverage lane he was responsible for. He was basically a practice pylon throughout this shift.

Finally, Nik Kronwall’s turnover to Hyman is brutal. Could not have set it up better for the Leafs to score without the use of a red carpet.