Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:The Islanders scored three times late in the third last night to beat the Penguins 4-3. The third goal came from Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who had all the time in the world to bury a breakaway goal past netminder Jeff Zatkoff.
Except it wasn’t a breakaway.
Rather inexplicably, Bouchard was left all alone in front of the Pittsburgh net on an absolute gift of a defensive lapse from the Penguins. I mean seriously how did the Islanders get a 2-on-0 (see right) with the puck never leaving the zone?
The play begins with a Radek Martinek slapper from the point that Zatkoff steered to the corner boards. The puck comes out of the corner and Pens right winger Chuck Kobasew attempts to clear the puck up the boards (green arrow in the picture below). Also of note is defender Olli Maatta, in the red circle, who is starting to float way out of position. His defensive partner #2 Matt Niskanen is below him in the defensive zone. There’s an arrow on the direction of Evgeni Malkin, as he anticipates a breakout. So we’ve already got the left wing and left defender completely failing on the defensive coverage of the left side of the Pens’ net, a spot which happens to have two Islanders over there.
The problem with Malkin’s breakout idea is that Martinek is able to hold the zone. Martinek knocks it down and doesn’t get great control of the puck, but he keeps it from heading off to center ice where Malkin or Jussi Jokinen can attempt to make a rush. Bouchard and Regin are still hanging out in front of the net, seemingly in anticipating of Martinek holding the zone, which is OK since Brock Nelson is in a position to backcheck. Oh and that guy attacking Martinek? That’s Maatta, who again is a defender and is way the hell out of position. Pressuring the puck is great and all, but not if it’s at the expense of being insanely out of position and leaving the front of your net undefended. Maatta is way the hell out of position and Niskanen is just kind of watching. Not helping things are Malkin and Jokinen heading up ice, but to be fair if their defender is where he should be, they could get away with it (my assumption is that they usually do).
So now Bouchard has no one within 10 feet of him except the goalie. Malkin and Jokinen have drifted up ice and with Maatta way the hell out of position, there is one Penguin below the circles. Martinek is fumbling the puck a bit and barely holding the zone, but he is holding it. That’s one of two impressive things Martinek does on the play. He kicked the puck, looked like he couldn’t find it for a second, had a defender right on him, and didn’t really have any right to keep the puck in, but he did.
Well the second thing was the no-look pass he threw to Bouchard that no one on the Penguins expected at all. With his back turned — his back completely turned, I mean look at this ridiculous picture below — he tosses the puck to center. Is it a sort of dump in to hold the zone? Is it a conscious pass to Bouchard? I don’t know. But he puts it right to Bouchard in the middle of the ice. Malkin and Jokinen are off at the blueline straight chillin and so is Maatta who, to reiterate, is a defenseman (Malkin is circled because lol his back is turned to the play). Only two out of five Penguins are actually defending someone and defending the correct player.
By the time Bouchard gets the puck there’s no one within a country mile and he’s got all the time in the world to figure out how to beat Zatkoff who has been left out to dry by his teammates like wet laundry. The rest is up to Bouchard to finish, and he does. We talked about him being a good possession player the other day, but this had nothing to do with that. This was a hilarious defensive breakdown from the Penguins and a crazy, awesome no-look pass from Radek Martinek. Although, of course, credit to Bouchard for the nice finish.
The Penguins annoucers called Bouchard “sneaky” and “crafty, one of those guys who will sneak in behind things.” But none of those things were actually true on this play. You can actually hear one of the announcers start to blame Niskanen and Maatta and then cut himself off (homer?). It was more of a case of Bouchard being left all alone with the keys to the Camaro than him being elusive.