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What Went Wrong: vs Washington

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Let's take a look at how Washington scored their goals.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to What Went Wrong, where we examine, well, what went wrong. We'll look at breakdowns in coverage or misplays that led to goals against. Keeping brevity in mind, I'll try to pick one or two goals (if more than that were scored) from a game, especially ones with potentially game-changing consequences. I will then choose a PLAYER TO BLAME and he shall be tarred, feathered, and forced to give directions to tourists in Times Square.

For the last game against Washington, I'll be looking at both goals against, scored by Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.

Goal by: Alex Ovechkin (Asst - Nate Schmidt) Video

The play that leads to this goal starts with the Rangers holding the puck in the offensive zone. Chris Kreider carries the puck on the left side, and as he enters the zone, drops the puck back to Derek Stepan who takes it to the half boards.

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Stepan stops by the hashmarks, and passes the puck to Dan Girardi who is making his way into the zone. The puck is deflected, however Girardi still manages to corral the pass. He then keeps skating and moves into the slot for a shot.

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The shot hits the far post and takes a big bounce into the corner and moves up to the far half boards. At this point, Marc Staal is the only defenseman back, as Girardi has circled below the goal line on the near side after his shot. At this point, Chris Kreider (who is the high forward) needs to recognize that Girardi is caught in deep, and hustle back to cover his position. Instead, he lackadaisically skates out of the zone as Nate Schmidt races past him, seeing the opportunity for a 2-on-1.

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Girardi ends up racing back into the zone, actually beating Kreider, and attempts to get a stick on Ovechkin before he can shoot.

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Unfortunately, Ovi gets enough of the puck to chip it over Lundqvist, and the Capitals tie the game at 1.

Player to Blame: Chris Kreider

Whenever a defenseman pinches deep into the zone, it is the responsibility of one of the forwards (usually a winger) to cover his position on the point. Most often, it is the high forward, or whatever forward is closest to the point. In this case, as Girardi moved into the slot to shoot, Kreider should have noticed that he is the high forward, and started moving to the point pretty much right after the shot. Instead, he fails to notice this, gets burned by Schmidt, and then gets beat back to the 2-on-1 by Girardi, who started the rush below the goal line.

Goal by: Marcus Johansson (Asst - Karl Alzner, Justin Williams) Video

This goal is a little more complicated, since the Capitals controlled the puck in the offensive zone for about 20 seconds before scoring, and were making passes and moving the puck. There were some cases of blown coverage, however.

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The above picture shows the events that lead to the coverage breakdown. In this situation, Backstrom has the puck and is carrying it down to the corner boards. McDonagh, being the left defenseman, is tasked with covering and attacking anyone on the left side from the corner to about the half boards. Klein, being the right defenseman, is tasked with staying in front of the net and covering/tying up any attacking player there. If the puck is swung to the right corner, their roles would be swapped. Stepan, being the center, has almost free rein to help the defenseman on either side or in front of the net, and is usually supposed to stay below the hash marks. Zuccarello and Nash, being the wingers, are tasked with covering the attacking defenseman on the point, and sometimes helping out along the half boards. In the play above, you can see McDonagh closing the gap on Backstrom, Klein covering the front of the net, Stepan there in support of McDonagh, and Nash and Zuccarello more or less in their position. Everything is fine for now.

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Backstrom ends up making a back pass to Justin Williams at the point, which draws Nash, Stepan, and Zuccarello in his direction. He then fires a pass to Karl Alzner, who has nothing but wide open ice in front of him. Seeing this, Klein leaves the front of the net to put pressure on Alzner, since Zuccarello got caught on the wrong side and is unable to do so.

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Here we can see the full severity of the breakdown. Klein, being forced to leave the front of the net, has left Johansson wide open. With McDonagh still in the corner after finishing his check on Backstrom, Stepan is out too high to effectively cover the front of the net. Seeing this, Alzner is able to make a pass to Johansson.

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With no one to tie him up, Johansson is able to get a stick on the puck and tip it over a rolling Lundqvist, and the Capitals make it a 4-2 game heading into the third period.

Player to Blame: Derek Stepan

There were a number of blown coverages and poor decisions here. Starting at the beginning, Stepan gets caught too high on the pass from Backstrom to Williams, Zucc is too far to the left to effectively cover his point man, Alzner, and Klein makes the decision to abandon the front of the net (probably assuming Stepan or McDonagh is there to cover for him). Ultimately, though, Stepan is the most guilty, as it was his man who ended up putting the puck in the back of the net. If he makes his way to the middle of the slot when Williams gets the puck, he is able to cover Johansson in front or put pressure on Alzner when he gets the puck, leaving Klein to cover Johansson.

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I hope this was somewhat informative and relatively simple to follow. If you guys have any suggestions to make the images more readable or analysis easier to understand, please let me know. Hopefully we get shutouts for the rest of the season and I'll never have to do one of these again!