Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Struggles Costed The Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings lost Jonathan Ericsson before the playoffs began to a broken finger and severed tendon, which forced Brendan Smith onto the first pairing and Jakub Kindl with Brian Lashoff on the third pairing.

While Brendan Smith flourished next to Niklas Kronwall, who has had struggles of his own this playoffs, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff struggled and were regularly abused by the Bruins offense. It was bad enough that Mike Babcock turned to rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet and sat Jakub Kindl in Game Five. Unfortunately, it was not enough to turn the tide in the series.

In the third period of Game Four, Carl Soderberg not only beat Brian Lashoff to the puck, but went around him and was then able to pass the puck out front for Milan Lucic to score.

Lashoff is not the quickest player for Detroit, but he was late to the puck, late to turn his boy, and late with his stick. All of those compounded and Detroit and resulted in them losing their lead and eventually the game. Some of the blames does go onto Gustav Nyquist for not tying up Lucic well enough and then skating past his man, but Lashoff needed to be quicker and end the play before it began, but that did not happen.

It is not just the defensemen, who seemed to struggle defensively for Detroit.

In the third period of Game Five, we have Johan Franzen making his worst play in the playoffs, and that is saying something.

Franzen has the puck low in Detroit’s zone with a lot of room to skate, but instead he telegraphs a long stretch pass across the ice, which is intercepted by Torey Krug and then goes on to make a bonehead move in front to leave Lucic open for a tap in.

Brian Lashoff is behind Johan Franzen on this play and reading his body language to determine which player Franzen is covering. Franzen’s body language tell Lashoff the Franzen will be covering Lucic, so Lashoff looks up the ice for players entering the slot.

Lashoff notices Soderberg coming down towards Jonas Gustavsson and decides to tie him up and take him out of the play. Franzen notices Soderberg just after Lashoff begins to move in the direction and leaves Lucic, presumably thinking that Lashoff would take him, but the Red Wings run a man-on-man defensive system and the bonehead play by Franzen costed Detroit.

These are just two of the many bonehead plays made by the Red Wings in their defensive zone and the reason the series did not get more out of hand is because Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson each came up with big plays to bail out the defense and keep Detroit in the game.

The only goal of the series that I can unequivocally blame on the goaltender was Dougie Hamilton‘s shot in Game Three, which beat Jimmy Howard on the short-side. Hamilton changed the angle on the shot, but actually made his angle worse; it is a goal that Howard definitely wanted back after it went in.

Every other goal was either the result of an empty net, deflected pucks, or poor defensive play by the Detroit Red Wings.

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