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Key Play Breakdown: Dennis Cholowski Wins the Trade

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New Jersey Devils v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the Red Wings are on an impressive streak. Jimmy Howard has won five straight games and Detroit’s most-complete win of the season is in the books after they drubbed the Coyotes 6-1. There’s a lot of pretty to go by here, but we’ll be focusing on one of the goals scored before this one turned into a laugher:

The Setup

The play starts on a dump-in to Jimmy Howard’s left that Danny DeKeyser bodies off Vince Hinostroza to retrieve and pass behind his own net where Dennis Cholowski beats out Brad Richardson in order to free it for Tyler Bertuzzi coming in to help start the breakout. Lil’ Bert does this by drawing both of the aforementioned Arizona forecheckers a little up the boards before reversing back to Cholowski, who turns and fires a pass to DeKeyser in the slot above Jimmy Howard’s crease. Grabner comes in to pressure DK, but the defenseman gets a pass off through Grabner up to Glendening on the right side and Detroit is able to gather speed through center on a 2-on-2 rush with #41 supported by Abdelkader.

Detroit sets up quickly on the cycle, which is almost broken as Bertuzzi loses a puck he’s trying to center and Oliver Ekman-Larsson gets a clearing opportunity that he bounces off Glendening’s skate just outside the crease. Jason Demers is able to punch the puck out of immediate danger, but only as far as the blue line where DK picks is up and feeds Cholowski for a one-timer he misses just wide.

The Finish

The puck hits the end boards and bounces at an odd angle off the back of the net, allowing Bertuzzi to get to it first at the half-boards. He’s pressured by Grabner, but threads a pass to DeKeyser walking the blue line to the middle. Hinostroza charges at DK but isn’t on-time to prevent him from going to his D-partner Cholowski jumping down from the opposite point. C-Lo takes it to the top of the faceoff circle while Justin Abdelkader positions himself in Kuemper’s line of sight and snaps it into the net to make it 2-0 Red Wings with what becomes the ultimate game-winner:

Credit Where Credit is Due

This is a well-executed series of plays by the entire five-man unit.

Glendening - Receiving the pass from DK and carrying in, then waiting for the setup and maintaining good positioning throughout is all appropriate. It’s also kind of fun to consider the guy who brought the puck into the zone might have had the least overall effect on the goal being scored. It’s worth noting that the timing of his positioning in the slot draws OEL away from the lane that Cholowski shoots his goal through.

Abdelkader - He’s playing support for this entire shift but doesn’t get into the play until Glendening gets the puck in the neutral zone. From there, his biggest contribution is the net-front battling for position that he consistently wins. He prevents Demers from being able to effectively clear the puck after Glendening blocks the OEL attempt and he screens Kuemper very well on both Cholowski’s shots, including the one that goes in.

Bertuzzi - The best play he makes here is in drawing the forecheckers in his own zone and making the smart pass back to Cholowski to start the breakout. He definitely earns his assist with the good pass to DeKeyser and also battles well positionally. Perhaps a bit lucky about being the first to retrieve the puck off the missed shot, but it’s because he was in position where he needed to be and made quick decisions with the puck.

DeKeyser - Winning the battle against Hinostroza at the outset and the good outlet to Glendening starts this play off on the right path. Collecting the failed Demers clear and feeding the first shot attempt is pretty standard, but I like his decision to go from his point position to the middle of the ice on Bertuzzi’s puck retrieval. He’s positioning himself in the middle not only to make room to make a play, but also to be in the right spot in case Grabner’s pressure on Bertuzzi turns the puck over and he has to be the man covering back. He’s got a good instant sense of where Cholowski is and doesn’t hesitate unnecessarily on the pass to him, which helps Cholowski take advantage of the room given.

Cholowski - The won position battle against Richardson and the quick pressure-relieving pass to DK in is own zone are a big part of this play’s success, Cholowski maintains smart positioning and exhibits good decision-making once the puck moves into the Arizona end as well. He keeps his feet moving in the offensive end, which is what creates the lanes he is consistently finding to get pucks through. Both times he receives a DK pass, he’s already in position to either one-time or walk to a more-dangerous area and it’s fun to see that he did both of those things on this shift, getting rewarded for keeping his options open like that.