With just over a minute remaining in the second period of the Caps’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Pens, Evgeni Malkin found himself in all alone with Braden Holtby, with enough time to make a sandwich and have half a cup of tea. Malkin, as the world’s best players do when given glorious chances, scored to give the Pens a 2-1 lead as the second period wound down.
There were a couple decisions that led to Malkin’s opportunity. The two main parties involved were Dmitry Orlov and TJ Oshie. Which player is more to blame for the goal depends on how you read their decision-making. Let’s take a closer look.
At the start of the play, Conor Sheary has the puck along the near boards. Sheary dumps the puck behind the Caps net (the green line in the image below). But what Sheary did after he dumped the puck is what sets up the play that led to Malkin’s goal.
The black arrow next to Sheary indicates the direction he went after he dumped the puck. Sheary retreated, setting up a situation where the Pens had three players back.
The puck comes around the net to the far-side boards where Orlov, under pressure, picks it up.
Sheary (black arrow) is now high in the zone, in good defensive positioning. Two Pens’ defenders are also back. At this point, Orlov (red arrow) has three reasonable options. He can:
Orlov chooses option number three, which is probably the best play. Some might say it wasn’t the ‘safest’ play because it’s not getting the puck out of the zone, but the other two options are almost certain turnovers in the neutral zone and, further, Oshie has the room to skate the puck to neutral if he catches the pass cleanly.
Oshie didn’t catch the pass cleanly.
Instead, Oshie tries a one-touch pass to Nick Backstrom. This is a really risky play, considering it was made right at the defensive blue line. This is where Sheary’s decision to retreat after the dumped the puck comes back into play. Oshie doesn’t seem aware Sheary had retreated into such a defensive position, leaving the latter in perfect position to cause a turnover at the blue line.
The one possible excuse here for Oshie is that Orlov’s pass was too hot to handle or it handcuffed him and, out of desperation, he gave the puck a whack towards Backstrom. Only Oshie knows what he was thinking, but it sure seems like — since he has the hand-eye skills to one-touch the puck in the manner he did — he could have instead opted to receive the pass and skate with it to neutral.
In the end, Sheary deserves more credit than Oshie or Orlov deserve blame. While Oshie’s decision wasn’t great, it’s a reasonable decision under other circumstances. Unfortunately for the Caps, on this play Sheary was in great defensive positioning to force a turnover.
Check the video below and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Headline Photo: Joe Sargent
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.