Think of this article as a companion piece to tonight’s game review.
Photos are a very important component of the game review articles. I take great care in selecting ones that I think will help tell the story. Let’s take a look at the photo that heads this article and the game situation when it was taken. I believe it depicts a turning point in the game.
It was the third period of Saturday night’s game. The Canadiens had come back after being down 2-to-0 and scored three unanswered goals. There were 15.5 seconds left on the clock.
Paul Mara had just taken a minor penalty for hi-sticking. With Semyon Varlamov pulled for the extra attacker, the Capitals had a six-on-four advantage. Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau called a timeout.
The photo shows coach Boudreau huddling with his team during the aforementioned timeout. Courtesy of some good camera work, those watching the TV broadcast were treated to a preview of the play that Boudreau diagrammed.
Boudreau sketched the following play on his whiteboard. The Capitals’ best faceoff man, David Steckel, was charged with the responsibility of winning the draw back to Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann would pass it rink-wide to Alexander Ovechkin, who would blast it from the point. Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich would head for the front of the net.
None of the players said a word.
The camera then peeked in on the Montreal bench during the timeout. Head coach Jacques Martin was looking nervous behind the Canadiens bench. Martin fixed his tie, fidgeted with his watch, and looked up at the scoreboard. He was leaving the scheme to defend against the six-on-four to assistant coach Kirk Muller. As Muller finished, there was some obvious confusion from Josh Gorges who spoke and gestured.
The timeout expired and the teams lined up for the faceoff.
Tomas Plekanec tied up the stick of Steckel on the faceoff, but Steckel kicked it back to Fleischmann. Fleischmann sent a quick pass cross ice to Ovechkin who fired a one-timer from the top of the face-off circle. Carey Price came across the crease to make a nice save but Fehr was there to put in the rebound, tying the game 3-to-3, with 11.4 seconds left.
It was good execution by the Capitals of a superior play design.
The Canadiens seemed less sure of their coverage. On the faceoff, Gorges seemed to take the wrong man. He should have been covering Fehr. Travis Moen eye-checked Fehr which slowed Moen in getting out to cover Ovechkin. Moen dived but was too late to block Ovechkin’s shot.
When Ovechkin’s shot was taken, Gorges was near Plekanec in the faceoff circle covering no one, with Fehr all alone in front of Price. When Price made the save, neither Hamrlik or Gorges could get across to cover Fehr who scored on the rebound.
It is a credit to the Canadiens that they were able to come back in this game and take a point from the Capitals. It is unexpected that the Habs’ injury-depleted lineup was able to gain three of four points in their two recent games against Washington. But, looking at a detailed analysis of a game-changing play, one sees just how close they came to a second straight win over the Capitals.
Whether it was a poor play design or a mistake in execution, the Canadiens should not be satisfied. Did Gorges know his role? Was Muller’s faceoff setup appropriate for a six-on-four? Why wasn’t Jaroslav Spacek on the ice paired with Hamrlik? (Spacek’s previous shift had ended at 1:46, which would have given him plenty of time to be rested including the timeout by Washington).
Let’s hope the questions will be asked and answered by all involved over the next few days.
(photo credit: Getty)