With Shea Weber on the mend, and out of the lineup, his duties in every situation fell on the shoulders of Jeff Petry. The 30-year-old defender responded by setting new career highs across the board, and staking a claim as one of the NHL’s better defencemen at both ends of the ice.
Among Petry's new duties was taking over on the Canadiens power play unit. While he typically played second wave minutes for Claude Julien, Petry moved up to the top unit almost instantly with Weber out. He proved he could easily hang with the best in the NHL there as well, finishing top ten among defenders with 23 power-play points, and perhaps none were prettier than his short-side snipe on Reto Berra of the Anaheim Ducks.
The play starts as Brendan Gallagher feeds the puck to Joe Morrow (black arrow) at the right point, while Petry (red arrow) slides to the left point. during this manoeuvre, both Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are occupying net-front space.
As Morrow travels toward the centre of the zone, Galchenyuk (now marked with a red arrow) moves into the face-off area and activates as a shooting threat. Petry has begun to slowly creep up towards the face-off circle as well . However, all three Ducks defenders (marked by blue arrows) don’t notice, as Morrow holds their attention.
As Ryan Getzlaf engages Morrow at the blue line, Petry is wide open and unnoticed as he continues to drift into the face-off circle. All three Ducks defenders have opted to encircle Pacioretty in the slot, while Gallagher is left to screen Berra unchecked. This space is what eventually leads to the ensuing goal.
At this point Ryan Kesler (marked by a blue arrow) has finally recognized that Petry now has the puck, and is wide open in a dangerous scoring area. His options are to either engage Petry himself, or hope that Cam Fowler (also marked by a blue arrow) will cut the shooting lane away from Petry.
Kesler does engage, albeit with a weak poke-check which Petry smoothly skates past, leaving Kesler on the outside of the circle, and allowing the Canadiens defender a clean shooting lane. Fowler maintains his presence in front of the net, preventing a pass back to Pacioretty or Gallagher in the slot, but giving Petry a mile of open ice to walk in and shoot.
That space is all Petry needs. Without Fowler or Kesler engaging him aggressively, Petry is able to walk into the face-off dot, and pick the short side corner on Reto Berra. Berra is playing his post aggressively, but fantastic shot placement from Petry beats him over the shoulder for another power play goal.
Decided to slow down the replay of Jeff Petry's second goal, and man he really picked his spot on Reto Berra. pic.twitter.com/3ccF7o3rC6— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 4, 2018
Watching the entire play develop, it’s all started by a good read from Morrow, who recognized Petry’s availability as a scoring threat when Kesler lost track of him. Petry also had the wherewithal to continue walking into the zone as the Ducks opted to not pressure him, and it paid off with his second goal of the game.
Not known as an offensive juggernaut, plays like this are part of why Jeff Petry’s point totals skyrocketed this year. He was trusted with first power play time, and produced in that role, and it’s likely we’ll see a lot more plays like this one in the upcoming season.