Game Wrap-upsHockey Tactics

Breaking down the Ryan McDonagh game winner

Sorry I couldn’t get the goal breakdown last night folks, but they won, so I don’t think anyone really cares that I missed it. Anywho, I GIF’d up the Ryan McDoangh overtime winner here, and here it is in all its glory:

ryan mcdonagh
Courtesy of

A lot happens on this play, so let’s break it down. First things first, you notice how Jesper Fast creates this entire goal with two plays. First, he pressures Curtis Glencross into a neutral zone turnover.

jesper fast
Courtesy of

That one turnover traps three Caps on the left side and one mid-change, with three more Rangers coming in to join the play.

jesper fast
Caps out of position.

Fast will take the puck to the boards, while Chris Kreider will cut to the front of the net, getting in front of Braden Holtby. At this point, Fast draws two Caps to him, and Kreider cutting to the net has Tim Gleason’s attention divided. That opens up the passing lane to Derek Stepan, who joined the play off the bench. This play doesn’t happen without the long change.

jesper fast
Turnovers lead to blown assignments

Now here is where things really break down for the Caps. Tom Wilson is kind of gliding here behind the play. Gleason tries to cut off the pass to Kreider cutting to the net, but so does Mike Green. Curtis Glencross doesn’t stop the pass across to Stepan:

jesper fast
Courtesy of

Glencross, recognizing that Stepan has a wide open shot, does the only thing he can, and lay out on D to try and block the shot. Problem is that McDonagh is trailing the play. This is where Stepan has amazing poise and vision. He knows McDonagh is trailing, and he knows his shot will get blocked. So he fakes it and drops it to McDonagh.

derek stepan
Courtesy of

Now we can circle back to Wilson coasting, because yes it mattered. His responsibility is to have his head on a swivel and cover the guy trailing, in this case McDonagh. Instead, he’s too busy watching the puck, and by the time he catches McDonagh, it’s too late.

tom wilson
Head on a swivel Wilson

So we have a Glencross turnover and a Wilson coverage fail for the Caps. We have a pair of great plays by Fast and a heads up pass by Stepan. Then there was some luck as the shot went off Gleason’s leg. All that combines for a Game Six in Washington.

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  • Thank you, Dave, this breakdown is a thing of beauty. Hope you can do the same for (Nash’s?) Sunday game-winner as well.

  • Now to get back to my leaf clearing efforts – no longer Ken in Sarasota, I’m back to Ken in the Catskills! I’m developing a mean slap shot with my rake!

  • “Glencross, recognizing that Stepan has a wide open shot, does the only thing he can, and lay out on D to try and block the shot.” Yet when Girardi does it “awful snow angel”.

    • Glencross not only took himself out of the play but took out Greene as well, all while causing a distraction in front of Holtby and probably opening up the option for Stepan to pass pack to McDonagh. I’d say that’s probably worse than Danny G’s attempts to slide into passing lanes.

      • Girardi has also been the Rangers most consistent defenseman. I think we are all spoiled by Girardi and his level of commitment to selling out on every play.
        Just wait until he’s gone. Then when the Ranger defenseman are looking like “Hell no” I ain’t getting in the way of that! We will all remember Dan G who missed about 2 games in 10 years as a NYR.
        He has been the best at defending Alex “Oscar fish” Ovechkin. Mac has done it well too but G has made a science of taking away that screen that he uses.
        As far as Nash goes, I look at Stamkos who is as close to a sure thing as you get in the NHL. He has 1 goal in the playoffs. Nash is doing all the things that help a team win games. Without him in the lineup, guys like Brassard and Kreider would have a harder time than they already are. At least with him the Caps have to pick and choose when they match their better D against them. I think he may break through eventually. If the Rangers get past this round, Nash might just take off. The Caps make it hard for anyone to score. I’m more concerned with MSL and Yandle doing little to help the score. If we pull off a miracle and pass the Caps, TB could be a high scoring series.
        “As I was writing this, Stamkos scored to tie the game at 1 with MTL” he’s got 2 now

    • The snow angel is an inherently bad hockey play. When Girardi does it he takes himself out of the play and any chance of getting back into the play.

      • It takes oneself out of the play, but probably has a 50/50 chance of breaking up the pass if timed right.

        Every time Girardi does it and the pass makes it through, he gets hammered here, but how many times does he do it and break up the pass? Pretty frequently.

        If Glencross makes that block, I’d say it was the right desperation play to make. But he didn’t. He just ended up sliding into Greene, taking him out of the play, screening and distracting Holtby, and providing space for Stepan to find an opening for McDonagh.

        I can’t see how that’s best option he had.

    • im not getting in to whether it was the right play. The point was that when Girardi makes the same play, it’s poor decision making. When the opposition does it, it’s the only choice they have because of a brilliant fake by Stepan. I respect 95% of what this site posts but I feel Girardi is often unfairly targeted.

  • Although the Rangers dominated quality shots. The shots in general after long holds. The goals were generated from open one timers that altered the angle quickly on Holtby. Need quicker/crisper pass that become one timers.

    Also Rangers need to shuffle the lines one more time

    Nash Brassard Krieder

    hagelin Stepan Hayes

    St. Louis Moore fast

    Sheppard Glass Miller

    • Its about time we got some puck luck. Thanks for the deflection off Gleason. Think our guys played one hell of a game. MacD goes from a goat to hero. Every shift is the opportunity for something good to happen. Win your shift! Stay positive!

  • Again.

    One shift.

    One period.

    One game at a time.

    Get puck in deep. Get close together when doing so (Support), make short cycling quick passes, throw puck to point and quickly snap, wrist to net and forwards crash net.

    Hank will take care of rest.

    Let’s Go Rangiz!

  • They have to withstand the initial onslaught. Just play a defensive game, and let Washington blow themselves out. If they can, Washington will give up opportunities; and that’s when they have to pounce. I’ve said it before’ Hank is due for “one of those games.” The longer he stones them, the more the doubt gets in their heads. The best game of the Series will be tonight!

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