After Tuesday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to Washington, a few Wild players noted that there was a plan to defend Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin while on the penalty kill.
For those who watched, it was blatantly obvious that whatever strategy was put in place did not work, as Ovechkin posted his 17th career hat trick, with each goal coming on the power play. In fact, it was his first career hat trick where all three goals came on the power play. So that had some — myself including — wondering what exactly the plan for this penalty kill was.
Let’s go back and check the tape on this, shall we?
Goal #1 – 7:31 of 2nd period
Right as the puck crosses the blue line, you notice Mikael Granlund look back to see where Ovechkin is. But then Granlund stops, thinking Ovechkin was going to stay up at the top of the circle, which is where he normally stands when the Caps set up the power play. But as Nicklas Backstrom gives the puck off the side boards to Marcus Johansson, who is flying into the top of the right face-off circle, Ovechkin drifts down to the bottom of the circle. Johansson sees Ovechkin slide down and then catches Granlund flat footed and nowhere near No. 8 anymore. The pass fires right past Granlund to Ovechkin at the bottom of the circle, and he has a gaping net to shoot at.
Ovechkin, as always, buries those.
Goal #2 – 12:28 of 2nd period
With the Caps set up on this power play, Johansson has the puck behind the Wild goal. He catches a hole between Marco Scandella and Eric Staal, and is able to get a pass out to Kevin Shattenkirk out at the blue line. Here you see Ovechkin remain at his usual spot at the top of the circle, with Hanzal (and Jonas Brodin protecting the pass from down low to Ovechkin) looking like he is the player responsible for keeping tabs on him this time around.
As Shattenkirk moves in with the puck, Hanzal gets caught trying to decide if he should continue to let Shattenkirk skate in with the puck. Hanzal hesitated on sliding over, which allowed Shattenkirk to get a pass over to Ovechkin in his spot, and he blasts home the one-timer. Dubnyk had no chance on this one, again, as not many, if any, goaltenders can get over quick enough to stop the Ovechkin one-timers.
Goal #3 – 12:29 of 3rd period
Right off the faceoff (which has been a problem for the Wild lately), the puck goes back to Ryan Suter, who loses and edge and the puck in the corner. Johansson gets the puck poked to him from Backstrom, and Johansson gives it right back to Backstrom on the side boards. Standing right above his usual spot at the top of the circle is Ovechkin who is just waiting to get another pass. The skilled passer Backstrom finds an opening in the Wild penalty kill, again, and gets one to “The Great 8”. Instead of one-timing this pass, Ovechkin skates in with the puck, which allows Dubnyk to get set in his net. It did not matter, as Ovechkin buries a wrist shot by the glove of Dubnyk.
This is one that needs to get stopped, and it allows Ovechkin to pick up the hat trick for the 17th time in his career.
The first two goals you can put on the Wild penalty kill. Whatever gameplan was put in place to stop Ovechkin clearly did not work the first two times, as they were not anywhere close to him on those goals. The third goal is a bit on both, as the Wild won the draw but then lost the puck in the zone and then Dubnyk was allowed to get a great look at the shot, but he could not stop a seemingly stoppable shot.
Not a banner night for the penalty kill. But thankfully it doesn’t seem like the Wild will get matched up with Washington again this year (joke).