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Key Play Breakdown: Joe Pavelski’s tip-in game-winner

No man goes unpunished as we look at the Wings’ breakdown on the last goal San Jose needed to win on Sunday.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings lost another game, Filip Zadina got less ice time than everybody except Jacob de la Rose, and the team only put eight shots on goal in the last 40 minutes. I really wanted to highlight a good play by Tyler Bertuzzi leading up to the Gustav Nyquist goal but the game-winner by Joe Pavelski was a better example of how this game went.

The Setup

On the shift after Pavelski ties it on a power play, the Sharks again find themselves cycling in the Red Wings’ zone. Frans Nielsen misses Athanasiou on a 15-foot breakout pass for an icing and then gives the puck away off an iffy Mike Green pass trying to exit the zone after winning the faceoff. The Sharks get it back in and get a line change that gets Pavelski back on the ice.

This all happens after Joonas Donskoi takes a Tomas Hertl pass entering the zone and falls down on his own along the boards. Niklas Kronwall can’t take the puck away from a fallen player; even after Donskoi gets up and Athanasiou comes in to help. Tim Heed picks up a puck that AA digs out but can’t control and he steps into the middle of the ice to make some room. Donskoi misses a pass as he cuts to the front, but Hertl is able to pick it up in the corner and walk it up the boards while the Wings’ defense over-collapses.

The Finish

Hertl feeds it across the ice to Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the opposite point. Mantha gets over to get in Vlasic’s shooting lane, but he’s still too low on the ice to cut off options. This gives Vlasic space to throw a quick pass into the faceof dot where Joe Pavelski is positioned. Nielsen is slow to take up the space and Pavelski is able to angle his stick to redirect it in past Bernier.

The Blame Game

Well I got to mention all five skaters throughout the setup so there’s not just one guy this one falls on. Mantha is probably least-blameworthy, as his positioning far from Vlasic is due to him picking up the middle of the ice to cover for Nielsen jumping down low, but I also feel he has a chance to disrupt the zone re-entry by the Sharks with a play on Hertl that he doesn’t make.

I don’t like Green’s pass to Nielsen prior to the failed breakout. I feel he should have recognized Pavelski was in position to break up the exit and either gone to Mantha for a bump-up pass or he should have simply skied it out of the zone and let the skaters fight for it in the neutral zone. Otherwise, he only gets near this play again when Hertl takes it up from the boards to make the pass to Vlasic and I feel he plays this portion the way he should.

Kronwall’s inability to take the puck away from a fallen Shark is embarrassing. He tracks Donskoi off the boards after this and does help prevent him from taking the pass on his way to the net, then spends the remainder of the play tying up Donskoi out front.

Athanasiou losing the puck to Heed is one of two really bad plays by the youngster on this. After the turnover, AA then fails to effectively cut off Hertl as he walks up the boards. Athanasiou is responsible for the man at the point as Green hands off coverage of Hertl as well, but he doesn’t play it aggressively enough, which means the only option of Hertl that he cuts off is the lane to the middle of the ice. AA needs to put the body on Hertl before he reaches the half-wall or back off completely. Letting the pass get to the opposite point is real bad.

Finally, Frans Nielsen messes up the pass that leads to the icing, then he turns the puck over, and finally he loses coverage on Pavelski allowing the goal-scorer to get an uncontested tip in a position he should be tightly covered. I’m honestly very tired of writing up Frans Nielsen mistakes this season and I’m afraid at this point that I might just be hopelessly biased against him.