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Key Play Breakdown: Strome-in my pain with his fingers

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings lost their third straight game as they went to Chicago and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Hawks. The shot counter registered 45-36 in favor of the Wings, but the eye test suggested they were thoroughly outplayed by Chicago. The Wings got eaten alive by Chicago’s 2nd line, who scored all of the goals the Hawks needed to win before their overpaid anchors decided to show up to help salt it away. Here’s the second goal:

The Setup

The Mantha-Nielsen-Vanek line creates some decent pressure in the Chicago zone late in the period, but the Hawks manage to clear it and force Detroit to re-enter the zone on the right wing side. A Kronwall backhander to Mantha leads it into the zone where a drop pass to Vanek and a bump-up to Nielsen finishes the overload entry and draws all five Hawks onto one side of the ice.

Unfortunately, nothing good comes of this because Nielsen has the puck knocked away from him by Duncan Keith, who follows up by taking position to prevent Nielsen from recovering. This allows Dylan Strome to knock it around Thomas Vanek up to Alex DeBrincat, starting the rush up ice

The Finish

DeBrincat pulls into the middle lane as he enters the neutral zone and is joined by Dominik Kahun sprinting up the right side and Dylan Strome joining on the left in what is now a 3-on-2 rush. Kahun takes the pass at center ice and already has the speed to burn around Nik Kronwall on the outside, crossing Detroit’s blue line before the defender does.

As Kronwall reaches in helplessly, Mike Green recognizes that his partner is beaten and has to swivel his coverage from fully tracking Strome to the back post into more of a 2-on-1 lane to keep Kahun from being able to cut cross the net-front. In making this transition, Green loses his coverage of Strome, allowing Kahun to thread a backhand pass to the net-front that Strome redirects into the net off his skate in a distinct stopping-but-definitely-not-kicking motion.

The Blame Game

We’ve got a full five-man blame-game here on this goal (six if you want to get real mean about Bernier perhaps backing into his crease a split-second too early)

Anthony Mantha is at the net-front when the turnover happens and chugs back hard to eventually pick up coverage on DeBrincat as the trailer after the pass to Kahun. I’m least mad at him on this, but he probably should have been quicker to recognize Nielsen losing the puck and have gotten back sooner.

Vanek’s defensive play on this sequence is non-existent. He’s technically the third forward high here, so allowing both the puck AND Dylan Strome to get around him is a complete failure of his responsibility. The timing of where he’s at when the turnover happens doesn’t help, but Vanek never seems terribly interested in preventing the Hawks’ transition on this play and it leads to the goal.

Frans Nielsen is in the same boat here. He’s either got to keep the puck or he’s got to disrupt a Hawks player moving up ice. He’s got to protect it against Keith’s sweep-check better and losing the puck here along with body position has just about the worst timing.

... this is all because I believe (and I can’t confirm because I haven’t seen a full-ice replay of this yet), that Nik Kronwall getting burned at center ice is because of a combination of two factors

  1. He’s Nik Kronwall and he has the mobility of an oil tanker
  2. He’s in the process of deciding to jump into the play to take advantage of all five Hawks collapsing to one side of the ice on Nielsen and is angling to get into scoring position off an anticipated feed by Frans.

If (and that’s a big if) this is true, it kind of gives Kronwall a bit of a pass on getting burned by Kahun here, but not enough of one to fully absolve him. I think Kronwall has time to recover to the point where Kahun doesn’t cross the blue line before he does and simply misjudges the speed of Chicago’s forward here.

In Kronwall getting burned, the extra pressure put on Mike Green makes what he does in coverage understandable, but not acceptable. He’s correct in coming over to prevent Kahun from turning his positional advantage into a full breakaway, but he’s still responsible for preventing the pass. it’s harder to cover this versus just having to cover Strome at the back post, but it’s also expected of an NHL defenseman to do this and Green doesn’t. Not exactly a “IF HE WERE A ROOKIE HE’D BE STAPLED TO THE BENCH FOR THAT” kind of mistake, but it definitely was a mistake.