The Wings and Leafs came out of the break by taking another break to watch the Red Kelly Jersey Retirement Ceremony taking place at the LCA on Friday Night and then finally resumed hockeying with the Wings taking a 3-2 overtime victory. Here’s your game-winner broken down:
Almost halfway through the OT period and just after Dylan Larkin came off and headed straight down the tunnel, the Leafs have a transition rush interrupted by a good poke-check from Anthony Mantha on Nazem Kadri that gives the Wings an opportunity to set up a rush and get a change started.
Mike Green takes the pass from Mantha and goes for a skate around his own zone while the Leafs also change. Auston Matthews traps Green behind his net while he waits for Gustav Nyquist and Andreas Athanasiou to come back and fly by to give options for the breakout. This takes place with a pass to Nyquist on the right side and an immediate bump up to AA on the opposite side with speed. Morgan Rielly is back enough to keep the blazing AA from having a full-fledged breakaway but not quick enough to deny him the lane to cut across Andersen for a very dangerous chance.
AA doesn’t get the finish here, but he maintains control of the puck as it goes to the corner and positions himself to protect the puck while his teammates catch up. This also draws the Toronto defenders closer to him and gives him space to feed it back to Nyquist at the point.
Nyquist is challenged by Matthews and briefly has it poked off his stick at the top of the zone, but is able to maintain body position and recover, using Matthews’ aggression to escape to the middle with the support of AA and DK in the faceoff circles.
As Goose drags it through the slot, Andersen comes out to challenge him, but Rielly loses his coverage on DeKeyser at the back door and Marner can’t stop the cross-ice pass. DK goes skate-to-stick and deposits it in past Andersen’s glove for the game-winner
The Blame Game
Ordinarily I’ll call this section “Credit Where Credit is Due” for a Wings goal, but I want to take a second to point out that Morgan Rielly has himself a pretty bad shift here. First off, he’s the far man back who has improper lane/gap control on Athanasiou’s rush into the zone that almost ends the game (although defending against that speed isn’t easy). Then, when Nyquist escapes Matthews, Rielly is the one caught trying to decide whether he should take Nyquist (no, because Marner is there) or keep defending DeKeyser who is jumping into the play. In his hesitation to make a decision, Rielly ends up defending nowhere and that’s a real bad place to be in 3-on-3.
With that said, AA’s play on this is fantastic. The speed on the rush is one thing, but I also really like how he protects the puck to let his teammates catch up after the rush and then maintains solid positioning to give Nyquist options as well as keep himself free to rush back and defend if need be.
Nyquist gives us a little scare on this play when he loses the puck temporarily, but keeps on it and is able to recover quickly; the lack of hesitation in going to the middle when he maintains possession is key here and, although not taking the shot isn’t exactly surprising here, it absolutely was the right call against a defender with a decent gap and a goalie challenging aggressively. He makes a very good pass to DeKeyser against the grain.
I also want to give shout-outs to Anthony Mantha for the good defensive work gaining possession for the Red Wings and to Mike Green for patiently setting up the change and starting the rush. Both change before the play finishes, but both are also big reasons it started in the first place.
Finally, DK jumping into the play and keeping himself open is what not only gives Nyquist extra space to make the play in the middle but also what gives him the ultimate passing option to finish the sequence. DK’s skate-to-stick play and quick shot were deft plays for a defender who has at times struggled to control things that well.