Red Wings: Let’s Talk About that 3rd Period Against Toronto

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When the Red Wings hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, they opened with a bang. 1:15 into the first period, Dylan Larkin capitalized off of a beautiful pass from Vladislav Namestnikov bringing Detroit a 1-0 lead. Namestnikov would score the go ahead goal for the Red Wings early in the second period as well.

Two more goals were scored in the 2nd, one by Tyler Bertuzzi,  and the other being a power play goal from Dylan Larkin.

Going into the third period, the Red Wings carried a 4-2 lead and the boys were buzzing’.

And then it fell apart.

A breakdown of the Red Wings Final 10 Minutes

The first 10 minutes of the 3rd were scoreless until Michael Bunting put one in net after Alex Nedeljkovic saved the initial shot and Seider blocked an attempt from Matthews. Bunting’s third goal of the game was recorded just two minutes later, tying the game with under half of a period remaining.

A 4-4 tie with eight minutes of play remaining in the 3rd should not be an issue, right? Well, it proved to be a rather large issue as the Red Wings play broke down, leading to the go-ahead goal.

The goal came from Bunting as a result of a miscue by Nick Leddy. Leddy stumbled while reaching after a puck, allowing John Tavares to spin off of him, and find Bunting–who finished it off.

Mistakes certainly happen but this one was particularly messy since it was on Nedeljkovic’s glove side on the edge of the faceoff circle. Leddy appeared to be a little bit lost on his feet leading up to that moment, missing a loose puck and drawing the rest of the defense around him, leaving Bunting wide open on the stick side of Nedeljkovic.

A Defensive Shell Doomed Detroit

This collapse occurred because Detroit shifted their focus in the third period to playing a strictly defensive game. Putting all of the effort and pressure into defense proved to be fruitless because a defensive game alone will not win a game. Shutting down plays from the opponent and blocking shots on net is only half of the game. There have to be plays that not only clear the puck out of the zone, but still control play and generate chances to put the game away.

The first two periods of play had strong offense and defense from Detroit because the team was not prioritizing one over the other. It makes sense to try to hold off the opponent when carrying a lead into the 3rd period but offense and defense are supposed to work in tandem, not individually.

Picture a team that can take shots in score goals but cannot defend the opponent or stop their shots- that balance is terrible and does not work. Deciding to rely on a strictly defensive philosophy to maintain a lead causes not only the defense to get tired quickly but opens the possibility for those tired players to make more mistakes.

For Future Reference….

The Red Wings were not playing poorly against the Maple Leafs on this occasion. Morale was high after stunning Pittsburgh a night earlier with a 3-2 shootout winner.

Going forward, Detroit needs to avoid choosing a single side of play to capitalize on especially while maintaining a lead. Keeping the balance between offense and defense is the only way to keeping that momentum going against top tier teams like Toronto.

Games like these can be great learning experiences for a young team. But they shouldn’t become a consistent issue.

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