Even though Montreal won their opening game versus the Leafs, the Habs penalty kill continued their preseason struggles. Let's see what went wrong in Montreal's defensive coverage during the Maple Leafs powerplay goal.
Right off the bat, Dale Weise is in no-man's land. He's too high up the ice to cover van Riemsdyk, yet he's not close enough to Stuart Percy to cause a turnover. Percy can either attempt a pass to Bozak, who's covered by Markov, or take the obvious choice of sending the puck towards JvR via his backhand. Since Percy was already on the backhand, he chose the latter.
Puck watching gone wrong; All four Habs penalty killers are focused on the puck, and this is where the defensive coverage falls into shambles.
The puck slides by the Leafs winger, and thanks to some incredible speed by Percy, and some lazy coasting by Weise, Percy manages to retrieve his own dump in. Weise had position on Percy before the dump in, and really should have been first to the puck. By the time he realizes that he's being outworked, it's too late. Dale Weise is forced to take over the coverage.
Mike Weaver wants to force his man into a turnover. At this point, Weise is really lost. He's covering a low-percentage pass that never came. Andrei Markov, who was also in preseason mode, decides to cut off Percy's path behind Carey Price, and abandons Tyler Bozak in front of the net.
Percy, who had an excellent game for the Leafs, notices that Bozak is sitting alone at the lunch table, waiting for a free steak dinner. Percy obliges with a very smart pass, giving Bozak an easy tap-in for the goal.
First of all, I'm well aware this was the first game of a very long regular season, and that this breakdown may be perceived by many as negative, considering the Habs have started the season with two wins. There are two reasons we picked this play. Most Habs fans know the Habs penalty kill struggled during the preseason, and this was a perfect example of how a few simple errors can lead to an easy goal for the opposition. Secondly, GameCenter Live didn't have the full replay available of last night's game versus the Capitals, thus leaving me with very few options of plays to breakdown.
A team can usually get away with one error during the penalty kill, however when half your players on the ice are still in preseason mode, you're probably going to get scored on.
Obviously the Canadiens will need to tighten up their defensive positioning during the penalty kill as the year goes on. The good news is that the Habs held the Capitals scoreless during their five powerplay attempts last night. Let's hope the trend continues.