The Pittsburgh Penguins defense did not have their finest hour on Tuesday night. The Montreal Canadiens split them, went around them and overpowered them. From the opening minutes when Artturi Lehkonen breezed by Justin Schultz, to the pair of wide-open chances which the Penguins afforded to Nick Cousins, it was an auspicious start which didn’t improve in the second period.
Montreal scored three goals in the second period, including a pair of late goals against John Marino and Kris Letang. The second Montreal goal was squarely on Letang who allowed Armia to easily pass at the blue line.
But the third goal is worth exploring as an academic hockey exercise. As one tweeter pointed out, Letang should have gone to the far post on Shea Weber’s wrap-around goal. That is textbook positioning on a two-on-two and if the goal were an even situation, that’s a no-brainer. However, this very quickly devolved from even to an odd-man break, which changes everyone’s responsibility.
Let’s start with the gap and play recognition. You can see in the first frame, Weber is at full speed out of his own zone, but Marino (top defender) doesn’t yet see it. Marino’s head is turned towards Artturi Lehkonen.
This is already a two-on-two. Lehkonen is Letang’s man. Marino (black circle) has to recognize the charging threat (red circle and arrow) but is focused on the puck carrier. Marino begins to feel the play at his own blue line and should be adjusting to get in front of Weber (red arrow) but is now caught between everything. This is where the pair could have called a switch, but 1) that is a long way for Letang. 2) Neither Marino nor Letang yet knew Marino was beaten.
Just feet inside the blue line, Marino is toast. He was forced to lunge at Weber and the play began to break down for the Penguins.
Weber is easily ahead before the faceoff dot. The television replays don’t show it as clearly but take it from someone whose pressbox seat was on top of the play, Marino was five feet behind by the dot. By beating Marino so quickly, Weber made the play a two-on-one against Letang. Weber even dipped his shoulder on the rush, to signal a pass.
Below, Marino is burned. The two-on-one means two things: 1) Letang must take away the pass. The dotted line denotes his path and his defense to prevent Lehkonen from getting an easy goal. 2) The goalie takes the shooter.
If Letang leaves his man, as some wanted, it’s an easy goal for Montreal because Lehkonen would have been on his forehand with a mostly empty net.
It is important to note, you and I know Weber went all the way around the net, but the Penguins defenders didn’t yet know. So, as you scroll through, keep in mind each stage is a decision.
The mistakes pile up as now Jarry is out of position in the next to the last frame. Remember, Jarry has the shooter, which is Weber, and Letang has to take away the pass.
In that context, the Pittsburgh Penguins hopes to stop the play are a few. Marino has to catch Weber or chip him just enough at some point as he circumnavigated the net. Jarry overplayed the angle. Notice Jarry’s right skate below. He has left the net and nearly all but his left skate is beyond the post. Jarry has put himself in a bad angle. His stick should have been ready to defend the pass or the puck, but he was passive on this attempt. At this moment in the process, Jarry must pokecheck Weber to prevent the play, or hope he passes it.
Marino is still trailing Weber and the defensemen didn’t switch. Marino is out of the play.
Letang can’t bolt for the post, or Lehkonen would be open for a tap in. The time for a switch is over.
The grand finale: A wide-open wrap-around by a defenseman and the backbreaking goal in the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 loss.