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Key Play Breakdown: Rasmussen’s First is a Well-Structured Effort by the Red Wings

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings are on the cusp of an actual winning streak after taking their 2nd consecutive victory of the season out of Columbus on Tuesday night. The game wasn’t without drama, but it ended fun and with a few good options for the key play, including a nice play by Dennis Cholowski and good support from Luke Glendening to help Tyler Bertuzzi score what was the game-winner (video linked so you can go see it, but I want to point out again that Glendening’s net-front work is downright masterful).

However, I want to celebrate Michael Rasmussen scoring his first NHL goal in his 10th (ELC-burning) NHL game, so here’s that one:

The Setup

We don’t have to wait long for this one, as a dangerous Anthony Mantha push into the Jackets’ zone draws a penalty and then a solid puck retrieval starts us off on the path to the goal. Rasmussen actually loses the offensive zone draw to Riley Nash, but Gustav Nyquist disrupts David Savard’s stick and Tomas Vanek hustles in to pressure Ryan Murray trying to clear it behind the Columbus net. Murray is able to get it to the opposite corner to Boone Jenner, but it’s on his backhand and his clearing attempt up ice is weak due to the immediate pressure from Tyler Bertuzzi. This allows Rasmussen to hustle to the point and keep the puck in the zone.

Rasmussen protects the puck from Riley Nash coming in on him and gets it back to Bertuzzi spinning back up the half-wall to support him. Jenner is all over Bertuzzi and Nash tries reaching in to help, but Lil’ Bert deftly pulls it off the wall and into the middle of the ice. Nash stays on him well enough to prevent a good shot attempt, but he still has space to officially set the power play with a pass to Nyquist on the opposite end half-boards.

Vanek had stayed low the entire time from the faceoff win and is now in net-front position with Rasmussen setting up opposite wing to Nyquist drifting to the center while Bertuzzi sets to cycle back around to where Ras is currently occupied. Cholowski is just getting back into frame after confirming he no longer had to hang out in the neutral zone to protect against a Columbus rush.

The Finish

Nyquist doesn’t have the puck on his stick very long from the point that still-frame is taken from, as he goes down low to Vanek, who has wandered off the direct net-front in response to Rasmussen’s arrival and is now a net-side option. Vanek receives the pass at the edge of the trapezoid and starts drifting behind the net, but before the frame eclipses him, he finds the seam in the collapsing Jackets’ PK box and puts it directly on Rasmussen’s stick in the slot. The young center wastes no time snapping it past Korpisalo and the Wings have a 1-0 lead.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Let’s start with the good head’s up play by Mantha to support a rush by Green and then backcheck responsibly in the neutral zone. He cuts off Cam Atkinson and then picks off his pass at center, immediately rushing back in to draw the call when Atkinson is caught flat-footed by Mantha’s surprising speed. He’s not on for the goal, but he helps make it happen by drawing the penalty.

From there, this is a good team effort showing a well-structured setup off a faceoff to responsibly recover the puck and then use quick and responsible puck movement to open up the PK for the goal. The windows to make these plays don’t stay open long, so the importance of quickness shines here, especially in the Vanek pass and the Rasmussen shot. There’s no time to take the extra half-second to settle the puck, and neither needs to do that before making solid, crisp actions on the finish.

I think the entire key to this play is the work by Bertuzzi and Rasmussen on the finish of the retrieval transitioning to the setup of the 1-3-1. The angles they take and the hustle to get there makes a huge difference and creates that transition which ends up catching the Columbus PK out of position just long enough for the finish. Watch here:

With Jenner taking it on the backhand, Bertuzzi comes in on an angle that prevents him from being able to turn to the forehand and get a good look up ice and with the speed to force a quick pitchfork attempt out over bertuzzi’s stick. This makes for a bad clearing attempt that’s defeated by the good hustle of Rasmussen, who wisely protects it instead of trying to immediately dump it back in. This gives Bertuzzi time to beat Jenner up the ice enough to again take good positioning and quick action to pull it off the boards and get to a dangerous area that sets the play.

Honestly, this is a time where you kind of wish third assists were a thing because I think Tyler Bertuzzi probably does more to create this goal than Gustav Nyquist (not to take anything away from Goose, who makes a good veteran read, just that Bertuzzi’s play is more-key for me in how the goal developed)

This entire time, Dennis Cholowski is back where he should be in case either Rasmussen or Bertuzzi lose their battles and he comes back in when necessary. After Bertuzzi escapes Jenner, he finds that Nyquist and Vanek are exactly where they need to be to continue the play. Vanek recognizes that he’s got the right opportunity to step away from the net-front and become the dangerous setup passer he is thanks to Rasmussen coming into that area.

Finally, Rasmussen’s shot selection here on a very tight opportunity to shoot before the defenders collapse on him makes all the difference. He doesn’t waste time trying to control or pick his shot; he just puts it on net as quickly as he can and is rewarded for that.