The Washington Capitals are back in the win column thanks to a 4-3 overtime win in Detroit on Friday. Alex Ovechkin netted the game winner on a wide-open one timer that beat goalie Petr Mrazek.
How does Ovechkin get wide open in overtime? Because the Detroit Red Wings all got caught watching Nicklas Backstrom on a beautiful cycle by the Caps.
When you have to cover Ovechkin in a four-on-three penalty kill, you have your hands full. There is a lot open ice for the power play to work with in those situations. In a regular power play, we often seen teams play Ovechkin closely, sometimes even dedicating a player specifically on him and going four on three with the rest of the power play.
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Look how closely the Red Wings were covering Ovechkin on a power play earlier in the game.
There’s not a lot of room to work with, but you can’t play that tight on a four on three penalty kill.
With only three penalty killers on the ice, they have to play closer into the net. You may leave end up leaving Ovechkin open for the shot, but at the very least you can get a body in front of him to either block the shot or pressure him when he has the puck.
Here is what Detroit’s three-man penalty kill looks like when it is set up.
The Red Wings are yielding the point to John Carlson but are tight in front and in good position to attack the players set up in more dangerous areas.
But this all breaks down if the players get caught watching the puck instead of focusing on their assignment. We saw this in the second period when, on a five-on-four, all four of Detroit's penalty killers move too far over to one side leaving Ovechkin wide open for a one-timer.
Somehow Mrazek stopped it, but I am sure his life flashed before his eyes when he saw the Great 8 stepping up for the clear shot. Even though it did not result in a goal, it was a clear breakdown by the defense as the Caps were able to draw the penalty killers out of position.
On a three-man penalty kill, the penalty killers do not want to move. They want to stay in position and attack you when you come too close. So how do you draw them out of position? You cycle.
Watch how much the Caps move with and without the puck on this power play.
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What the Caps are essentially doing here is fishing. They have their line out and are waiting to catch one of the penalty killers. Backstrom eventually does as Luke Glendening chases after him and the puck. The result?
Yeah, can’t leave that guy open twice and live to tell about it.