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Playing the System: Going for a Skate

The Wild played nearly the entire first period in the defensive zone on Saturday, and unsurprisingly, it didn't end well.

The Minnesota Wild found themselves trapped in the defensive zone for seemingly the entire first period against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. It was an all out exhibition in swatting at pucks, poor passing and uncontrolled zone exits off the glass and out. Time and time again Wild defenders would fire the puck out of the zone only to have the Wings gather it in the neutral zone and come right back in on the attack. With the amount of time the Wild spent in the defensive zone, it was simply a matter of time before we saw a defensive breakdown. With just under five minutes to play in the period we got that breakdown when Kyle Brodziak decided to go for a little skate instead of sticking to his man.

As the puck is moved back to the blue line, the Wild find themselves in solid defensive position. Everybody is pretty well locked down on their man as Vanek closes down on Dekeyser at the blue line. Dekeyser swings it down to the half-wall to Weiss who grabs the puck, spins on a dime, and heads toward the net with the puck. For whatever reason, Brodziak does a nice little loop here instead of stopping and tracking Weiss. Brodziak allowing Weiss a clear path to the net causes Scandella to come off his man (Sheahan) in front of the net to close out on Weiss. Weiss sees Scandella closing in and takes a quick shot. Suter is just a hair too late in rotating onto Sheahan in front of the net, and therefore never establishes good body position. Sheahan gathers up a rather uncharacteristic Dubnyk rebound, absorbs a solid whack from Suter, and beats Dubnyk.

Side note: the Wild had plenty of time to make a change earlier in this shift and Suter and Scandella came out together. Even with Rick Wilson's defensive line blender, these two almost never play together. I don't think it was much, if at all, a contributing factor to the goal. Just a little bit odd.

Like most goals, it wasn't one isolated play that led directly to the goal, but a combination of Brodziak losing his man, Suter being too slow to rotate onto Sheahan, and Dubnyk giving up a pretty fat rebound, that lead to this goal. Mike Yeo has done a great job all season long of getting his guys in the best defensive positions, but even the most well positioned teams are bound to have lapses. This is why it is vital to have clean zone exits and maintain possession through the neutral and offensive zones. Hopefully the ugly first period on Saturday for the Wild can simply be chalked up to rust after a four day break.