With 14 minutes left in game two, the Rangers’ Derick Brassard found himself all alone in front of Braden Holtby. With Matt Niskanen and Jay Beagle in the rear view, Brassard scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Here’s a view of Brassard all alone, just before the goal. Niskanen (blue arrow) and Beagle (black arrow), look like they’ve completely blown their assignments on this goal, meanwhile John Carlson (red arrow) is hanging out up by the blue line.
(Note the color assignment of the arrows, they’ll be used throughout.)
But, if the entire sequence leading up to this play is taken into account, it becomes hard to find any fault with Niskanen on this goal.
Here’s a look at how the play starts.
Carlson has tried to force a pass up the left-wing side by the Rangers bench, but the pass is picked off by the “Chase” logo in the neutral zone. Each of the three Caps mentioned above have their positioning noted by an arrow at this point. It’s especially important to note that when Carlson turned the puck over, Nisknanen is on the far left side of the ice, near center ice, not a totally uncommon position for the left defender to be in when his defensive partner is responsible for the puck in transition.
Due to the Carlson turnover in the neutral zone, the Rangers have a 2-on-1, which isn’t an uncommon result of turnovers between the blue lines. Carlson, the right defenseman, scrambles to the left side to attack the puck. Niskanen can do nothing but try to cover the right side of the ice, the opposite side of the ice he was on since he was playing left defense. Beagle tries to throw his defensemen a bone by hustling back on the play.
At this point, Martin St. Louis pulls up with the puck, freezing Beagle, who now has to worry about the trailer. As you can see, Niskanen is in no man’s land. Remember, this is through not fault of his own. Niskanen is the left defenseman on this shift, so he’s left with no option but to try to scramble back, as players normally are when one of their teammate commits a turnover in the neutral zone. It’s at this moment that St Louis sends the puck to a wide open (despite Niskanen’s best efforts to get back to cover him) Brassard.
Due to Carlson’s turnover, Niskanen couldn’t get back to mark Brassard by the time St. Louis sends the pass. But yet, he’s in position to break up the pass. However, Beagle also tries to break up the pass. While his intentions were nothing but good, Beagle actually chips the puck through Niskanen to Brassard. Woof.
To review, Niskanen was playing left defense when Carlson turned the puck over in neutral. Despite his best effort, Niskanen could not get back to cover the side of the ice Carlson had to abandon due to the 2-on-1 his turnover created. Caught in no man’s land, Niskanen still managed to be in position to break up the pass to Brassard. A well-intentioned Jay Beagle spoiled his efforts, and we all know what happened from there.
Make no mistake, the Rangers third goal was John Carlson’s fault.
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