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Breaking Down the Breakdown

Absolving TvR (sort of) for last night’s game-winning goal

Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Last night the Caps let two points slip away when Ryan McDonagh scored with less than four minutes to go in regulation, putting the Predators up by one - a goal that would end up being the game-winner.

After the game, Trevor van Riemsdyk spoke about the play, and seemed to take responsibility for the play that transpired:

“I think I could have done a little bit of a better job recognizing that they had numbers and kind of just backing off. They made a nice play, made a nice finish but we can’t, I can’t put us in a spot like that.”

It’s a very selfless thing for van Riemsdyk to do... but is it really his fault? One could argue that, while there was plenty of blame to go around for most of the Caps’ skaters on the ice, it’s largely not on his shoulders.

Let’s take a look at the goal again:

Right off the bat, there are a couple of things to note. First of all, Evgeny Kuznetsov probably could have pushed the pace a bit more, but that’s largely hindsight as he did have position on his man when the play unfolded. Erik Gustafsson was way up ice, for some reason, but it’s possible he was pinching and Kuznetsov was back to cover.

So what about Conor Sheary?

As the play begins, we can see that Sheary and McDonagh are basically even as they come up on the red line, with Sheary having the inside track:

They remain essentially even at the offensive-side neutral zone dot, and we can see Gustafsson stepping up on the wing with van Riemsdyk and Kuznetsov marking the same guys they had from the defensive zone:

But by the time Ryan Johansen releases the pass, McDonagh - who is not exactly known for his speed - has already opened up about a stride on Sheary...

...because Sheary, for some reason, took his last stride at the top of the circle:

So now Sheary is basically out of the play and isn’t even within reach to foul McDonagh, who is able to skate in all alone and put the puck past Charlie Lindgren.

(Kuznetsov doesn’t read the play well, either, by the way, as another stride by him would have put him in better position to make a better defensive play.)

If you’re curious as to whether Sheary knew what part he played in that development, well... just peep his reaction after the goal:

Smacking the glass with your stick? Not a sign of a happy human.

Anyway, mistakes and misreads happen, and they sure did last night. Good on TvR for being a team player and shouldering the blame... but this one probably wasn’t on him.