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Key Play Breakdown: Canucks take advantage of over-collapsing Red Wings defense

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings remain winless through Western Canada after blowing a third-period lead on their matinee trip to Vancouver on Sunday. The Canucks scored two of their three goals in very similar fashion. We’ll take a look at the one that counted as the game-winner for this installment of Key Play Breakdown.

And of course it had to be Roussel.

The Setup

Vancouver gets it into the Detroit end after clogging up the neutral zone and preventing transition while the Wings changed. A harmless shot by Bo Horvat on a sharp angle turns into a 2-on-2 board battle behind Bernier with Antoine Roussel joining his teammate against the Wings’ Jonathan Ericsson and Frans Nielsen. Roussel does a very good job of angling off Nielsen and then using Ericsson to squeeze him out of the play to win the battle and get it back to the point.

You’ll notice by the end of this gif that all five Red Wings players are below the circles by the time the puck is dug out. This gives Troy Stecher room to reset the play with a pass to his defensive partner Alex Edler.

The Wings stretch back out to take away an immediate lane for Edler, so he dumps it back behind the net to keep the defenders chasing the play.

While the puck rings around behind the net, Jake Virtanen cross-checks Frans Nielsen to the ice. Nielsen wasn’t getting to that puck anyway but it’s worth mentioning.

Stecher steps into the corner watched by Vanek to get the puck that Edler dumped back in and throws it to the front where Roussel tries to tip it in using the space that Frans Nielsen would have occupied had he not been knocked down.

The Finish

The puck doesn’t make it on net, bouncing off bodies in front and up in the air. It comes down to Vanek, who bunts it up ice trying to clear the danger, but ends up directly on Virtanen’s stick. The Canucks’ forward, who is covering for Stecher’s pinch is above the circles at this point; he collects the puck an throws it back towards traffic where Antoine Roussel gets his stick on the shot and deflects it in past Bernier.

The Blame Game

Anthony Mantha isn’t totally blameless here, as he’s the player who last has an opportunity to get the puck deep on the neutral zone turnover that turns into the rush that starts this play and he’s collapsed too low when the puck gets to his man Edler on the board battle win by Roussel, but that’s all I’ve got for him.

Similarly, Hronek also falls victim to getting a bit too low and he perhaps could have been more-aggressive during the initial behind-the-net battle, but he spends most of this shift keeping Horvat under wraps and it’s not really on him.

Jonathan Ericsson and Frans Nielsen flat out lose along the boards and they lose badly. Thomas Vanek also chases this play far too much and ends up bunting the puck directly to the guy whose shot ends up deflected into the net. These three are the big culprits.

Aside from individual player stuff here, I’m mostly putting this one on Jeff Blashill because this is more than 50 minutes into a game where the Red Wings’ defense had consistently been over-collapsing like on this sequence and had already given up one goal (the Pettersson marker that opened the scoring). By this point in the game, the coach needs to have recognized that the Canucks were playing to the advantage that his team was giving them and had that hole fixed.