The Wings still haven’t earned a victory this year, but as Meatloaf once said “two out of three OT/SO losses equals one win more or less.” Maybe I’m misremembering that song. I don’t know. It’s officially old enough that the oldies radio station in my town never plays it anymore so whatever.
At any rate, in this loss, I want to stay positive and highlight what can happen when well-structured pressure does good work to move pressured pucks off the boards and towards the middle of the offensive zone without taking unnecessary risks. Enter the first goal of the season that gave the Red Wings a lead:
Shades of uncle Todd, of course.
The play starts with a defensive zone faceoff win by Nielsen that Hronek plays behind the Detroit net for a ring up the boards and clear by his defensive partner DeKeyser. This has to be a planned play because it’s a simple icing by DK without the fact that Michael Rasmussen bolted immediately up-ice off the draw and was at the Anaheim blue line before either of the Ducks’ defenders got there. Rasmussen’s pressure forces Gibson out to play the puck around the boards while the rest of the players catch up to the play.
The Ducks’ defenders are Montour and Linholm on this play and neither is close enough to retrieve the dump-around that Gibson delivers, nor is center Adam Henrique, who is playing to the inside. The next two closest players here are Tyler Bertuzzi and Frans Nielsen, who both come in along the side of the boards where the puck is arriving. Bertuzzi lets it go for Nielsen and takes up position in the low corner to give his teammate an option to dump it back deep.
Instead, Nielsen backs onto the puck to shield himself from Henrique and passes it backwards through his own legs to Rasmussen, who is completing his cycle from the net-front back up through the faceoff dot. With the Wings’ player now controlling the puck in a high danger area but facing the wrong way, both Anaheim defenders move to close in on Rasmussen before he can spin and create a shot:
Rather than trying to spin and create a shot, Rasmussen immediately feeds it on the backhand to Bertuzzi recognizing the space left by Montour and coming out of the corner to approach the net-front area that his teammate just vacated.
You can almost hear the internal scream in Montour’s head as he realizes how badly the coverage is blown but is helpless to prevent Tyler Bertuzzi from gathering the pass and bringing it cross-crease on a spin-o-rama before depositing it past Gibson’s blocker into the net.
Credit Where it’s Due
The best part of this play is that it’s a well-structured setup that uses smart positioning and good communication to turn a “safe” dump into a dangerous chance without taking on too much risk. Tyler Bertuzzi told FS-D’s Trevor Thompson during the intermission that Nielsen told him to leave the puck for his teammate, which smartly allowed him to give an option that the Ducks’ defense was forced to respect and that helped force Adam Henrique to play the angle he did.
This in turn freed Nielsen to take a chance at plucking the puck off the boards and getting it to the middle of the ice where it’s more dangerous. If Bertuzzi plays the puck as the first man in on it, his first option to do such a thing would have been a pass to Nielsen, which Henrique would have been able to angle differently and potentially pick off with the momentum of two of the Wings’ forwards heading the wrong way.
Aside from that, Michael Rasmussen makes a great read understanding that he’s not going to have the time and space to make the turn he’d probably love to be able to do getting the puck in the offensive zone where he got it. Instead of forcing it into the two defenders closing on him, he keeps it moving in the middle and towards the net with a quick simple pass down to Bertuzzi, who shows great hands and patience on the finish.