I was watching the Senators and Coyotes late in the third period with Ottawa up 3-2 featuring a Jason Spezza natural hat trick, when blueliner Chris Phillips was called for interference at 15:04 of the third period sending the Desert Dogs to their fourth powerplay of the evening – and finally capitalizing with the man advantage.
I was focused on Colin Greening on the game-tying goal sequence from the Coyotes breakout to the puck breaking the goal line plane and hitting the mesh in the back. It was a kind of pinball play where the puck took some crazy bounces en route to beating Craig Anderson.
I was locked on Greening thinking, that he was puck watching the entire play and one of the reasons the puck ended up in the back of the net. It wasn’t just him, there were others involved however.
Here’s the play in full, before we get into the image itemization.
The game-tying goal started with a Coyotes controlled breakout with a fairly uncontested zone exit, given plenty of space to move the puck out.
Colin Greening was lined up on the left side of the ice, but playing it a little too conservative, giving up too much space for the Yotes to maneuver through the Senators penalty kill unit. It’s almost as if he was locking the left side lane to force the Coyotes to go up the right side.
Greening gives up a lot of space backing up into the neutral zone, offering little (interpreted as, zero) forechecking pressure.
The question here is where this is by design or simply an oversight on the winger’s part to fully engage? If it’s the former, that’s correctable by coaching staff, however, as the next image shows, lack of pressure from the left side forced Senators captain to do something to thwart a clean zone exit.
As the play moved into center ice, Spezza dashed from his position at center down towards the Coyotes blueline making a sudden stop. This seems a little odd given the situation didn’t require him to make the dash. The result was opening up a lot of ice for the two players (Antoine Vermette and Mike Ribeiro) clustered at the blueline to maneuver, as we see in the next image.
The pass is made to the dashing winger (Mike Ribeiro) as he darts through the neutral zone. Spezza must react to this threat and dashes back engaging the player on the blueline (Antoine Vermette) who receives the pass and controls the puck along the wall. In the meantime, all four Senators penalty killers are watching the puck carrier.
After the drop pass, Ribeiro pushes back the defense. He should be Erik Karlsson’s man, with Eric Gryba settling back into the slot to be ready to defend as a crease presence.
Greening is still watching the puck at this point too.
This is where the confusion and breakdown occurs. Spezza has his man covered as Shane Doan enters the zone behind Greening. Spezza is also limiting the pass back to the blueline as penalty killing forward should. Karlsson has whiffed on checking Ribeiro leaving him to Eric Gryba to handle, while he watches Vermette and Spezza battle it out along the boards.
Greening is gazing in the direction of the puck and Doan is sneaking in from the point into the slot and with a quick glance, Greening follows to take away the passing option. This is shown in the image below.
Spezza loses the board battle. I was still locked on Greening at this point and thought ‘too low, you’re too low in the zone; too low.’ Going back over the sequence of events, he had little choice to get low because of the combination Karlsson whiff and subsequent Gryba pick up of the man in front Ribeiro, not allowing for him to pick up Doan skating through the slot. Greening had to get there to prevent the pass in front.
Karlsson is in No-Man’s Land covering no one. Vermette beats Spezza along the wall and it’s all over, the play has broken down.
By the time the puck is passed back to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Greening has no chance to challenge the shooter and is too low in the zone, affording the rearguard a lot of space as he cocked back and fired a pinball into the crowd in front.
Greening if he was playing the zone a little higher would have been able to close down space quicker, or perhaps even prevented the pass across to the soft area of the ice by being ready with a stick or his body in the passing lane.
Of course, he was only the cog in the series of events that led to the goal. The play could have been avoided in one sense if he had applied more forechecking pressure during the Coyotes controlled breakout, but we can let the coaching staff address that.
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