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Key Play Breakdown: Flyers outhustle Detroit for Sunday’s game-winner

Philadelphia Flyers v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Red Wings dropped both games to the Flyers over the weekend and Sunday’s game wasn’t nearly as fun as Saturday’s. The game wasn’t totally bereft of fun, but I don’t have any of that stuff to cover. For this one, we’ve got a point shot that ends up the game-winner for the Flyers.

The Setup

The play starts with forechecking in the Philly zone by the Ehn-AA-Glendening line with Danny DeKeyser jumping low into the play and Christoffer Ehn throwing a good angled-shoulder check at Andrew MacDonald. Unfortunately, Andreas Athanasiou is hesitant to join the scrum as the third forward and the loose puck off MacDonald’s stick ends up being picked up by Shayne Gostisbehere, who gets it around AA on a dump around the boards. Claude Giroux picks it up in the corner and immediately flies a pass up ice that definitely would have been icing had it not been a set play where Travis Konecny had long-since flown the zone and was already behind both Nick Jensen and Luke Glendening (who as back covering for DK’s pinch).

Glendening takes Konecny to the boards and pins him there as defenders get back, allowing DeKeyser to come in and pull the puck away before James van Riemsdyk can get there. Under pressure, DK pushes it up the boards towards a backchecking Ehn, but this route is quickly cut off by a pinch at the half wall by Phillippe Myers reaching in to poke it back to the corner.

Glendening again traps Konecny to keep him from making a play while DeKeyser comes in to help and move the puck away, this time jabbing it behind the Detroit net where Nick Jensen is there to get it. However, quick Philly skating once again causes problems, as van Riemsdyk gets his stick in and is able to dispossess Jensen and come up with the puck along the opposite corner. As Andreas Athanasiou pinches in to help cut off JVR down low, he again is beaten by a puck flipped over his stick. This time Phil Varone is the recipient of the puck.

The Finish

Varone skates to the puck at the half-wall and gets it on his backhand before Athanasiou can reach him. Varone positions his body to defend the puck and immediately passes it back to Ivan Provorov at the point. This gives AA a slightly longer route to address Provorov and the ability to pull a few feet closer to the center before one-timing the pass from the point.

As this shot is developing high, Konecny is working down low to set up a screen on Jimmy Howard that makes the shot invisible to the goalie until it’s too late.

The Blame Game

There’s enough blame to go around for everybody here, but I’ll start with the smallest cuts going to Jimmy Howard, Luke Glendening, and Christoffer Ehn. A screened goalie is always going to have a tough time making saves. I do wonder if him skating into contact with Konecny and diving would have worked, but that’s a big gamble and it makes him look like a big jerk if it doesn’t work. Glendening contains Konecny twice as he should to allow his teammates to try (and fail) at their jobs, but he also fails to block the Provorov shot while being responsible for that lane. Ehn could have taken a better angle to allow him to take the puck off MacDonald at the offset of this sequence and he needs to be in better position for when Myers steps up on him.

The middle guy here is Jensen. He doesn’t really have a lot to do with this play, but losing the puck cleanly to JVR leads directly to this goal. He essentially had one job on this play and didn’t do it. Also, you can see on the behind-the-net that if the Provorov shot is stopped, Jensen is not in position to eliminate van Riemsdyk on a rebound opportunity.

The real stars here are Athanasiou and DeKeyser. AA twice has an opportunity to pinch aggressively and instead twice positions himself slightly up the boards trying to intercept a puck. I don’t mind the first one (in the Philly zone) so much because that’s not terribly risky versus the potential reward of him knocking it down, but on the second one, he either needs to be farther up the boards to start when JVR beats Jensen or he needs to be much quicker to prevent the puck from getting up the boards and to the defender who is his coverage responsibility.

DeKeyser, meanwhile doesn’t make a great decision on the offensive zone pinch in the first place and then twice fails to get the puck cleared meaningfully as he jumps in as the extra man to help take advantage of Glendening disrupting Konecny. After that, he loses the positional battle in front and ends up contributing to the screen rather than either preventing it or solidyfying it to the point where the puck never gets to the goalie in the first place.

As far as breakdowns go, this was an example of the Red Wings simply being outworked and outskated. The defense spends too long waiting for the puck to come to them while Philadelphia’s skaters work to get to the puck first and let the rubber beat their man for them.