Detroit had a real bad defensive game against the Blackhawks on Wednesday. Hilariously, they played bad defense not by allowing too many shots, but by allowing pretty much every shot the Hawks took to be a real quality scoring chance.
Mostly, the problems were on the veterans too. Here’s a perfect example:
After picking up a puck behind their own net while both teams start a line change, Detroit is forced to dump the puck in by a neutral zone trap set up by all five Chicago skaters. Nick Jensen dumps it in for Cam Ward to pick up behind his net while Darren Helm and Michael Rasmussen skate in along the wings to pressure the puck. Ward breaks this pressure with a bit of a gutsy pass between the on-rushing Rasmussen and his own empty net, hitting Dylan Sikura with the pass at the half-wall.
While this is happening, Jensen and DeKeyser head off for Kronwall-Green and Athanasiou changes for Abdelkader. All of this happening simultaneously leaves no pressure on Sikura and he uses the open space to turn an face up ice to recognize he has Brandon Saad streaking up the right wing side and Detroit’s defense is still establishing position from having just come on the ice. Sikura throws a pass Saad’s way that Kronwall tries to step in front of at center.
Kronwall gets a stick on the puck, but can’t control it getting past him, giving Saad a 2-on-1 with Anisimov. Green tries to make up for Anisimov being behind him with an attempt at pushing his man offsides, but fails in that attempt and is stuck trying to cover a guy with a clear lane AND a passing lane to a player who is already between him and the goalie. This gives Saad all the room he needs to get off a snapper from inside the dot. Howard has no chance here:
The Blame Game
It’s real obvious that Kronwall screws up on this play and also pretty obvious that Green makes a mistake on his coverage too. Two veteran defenders like this should not let this play break down as it does. Kronwall gambles and loses while Green is not in good position from the very start of this play and this gives Saad more than enough room to kill them for it.
I don’t want to give these two any excuses here, but I do want to mention that this play is tougher to make for defenders just coming on and I feel a big part of this breakdown is that the dump-in, forecheck, and line change were all contributing factors in how this one happened and it falls into a general “attention to detail” problem. By themselves, none of these plays are “bad”, but combining them like this helped set up the Wings for failure. In general, I’d put this on Blashill.
The problem is that Jensen’s dump-in being hard enough to get to Ward but not hard enough to get past him gives him space to defeat the forecheckers with what really is a good pass from the goaltender.
This problem is only a problem because the three guys behind the two forecheckers are all changing and nobody is in position to take space away from Sikura, which allows him to make this play.
Finally, the Wings sending two forecheckers in along the routes they took exacerbates the problem of Sikura getting too much space. In a change like this with the goalie having plenty of time, either Helm or Rasmussen (and if I had to pick one it would be Helm) should not be pressing aggressively and should instead cut off his route around the middle of the ice. This would have given Ward more options, but also would have given the higher forward a chance to pressure Sikura earlier and prevent the pass.