Poor defensive zone coverage continues to haunt the Red Wings

I am not sure how these types of topics are still being written at the end of March, but here we are. Breaking down the Red Wings latest defensive zone blunder.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
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It's time for the Detroit Red Wings to make some changes on the backend if they hope to sneak into the postseason. Over the past few games, the Red Wings have been without top-pairing defenseman Jake Walman. That loss has forced Detroit to use a variety of other looks. Ben Chiarot has jumped up in Walman's place to play with Moritz Seider; they've performed well together for the most part. That leaves Jeff Petry to play with rookie phenom Simon Edvinsson, leaving the usual third pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere and Olli Maatta together.

That second pairing of Edvinsson and Petry has played well together at times when Edvinsson is carrying the bread and playing with confidence as he did in Nashville. However, things didn't go so well recently in Carolina for the Red Wings' backend, partly because the Red Wings ran a rotation of seven defenders. This complicates things because sometimes, every shift, the pairings are different, and it's hard to build chemistry and continuity when you're playing with a different player each shift.

The player that stood out the most, and not in a good way, had been the scapegoat among Detroit fans, Jeff Petry. Petry was directly involved in three of the four Carolina goals in their 4-0 drubbing of the Red Wings. The goal that seems to be garnering the most attention is the three-on-three goal, with Seider defending the puck carrier, Petry backpedaling in the middle of the ice, and Michael Rasmussen backchecking the forward in the center position. As the Hurricanes entered the Red Wings zone, Petry was trying to sort out coverage and clearly pointed for Rasmussen to take Sebastian Aho streaking toward the goal as the far left skater. Instead, Rasmussen doesn't cross over the back of the skater in the center spot on the rush (Jake Guentzel). Still, Petry closed in on the same player, leaving Aho all alone in front of goaltender James Reimer, where he'd deposit an easy one-touch goal from the Jake Guentzel feed.

Following the game, Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde explained the play and mentioned that the missed assignment was indeed from Rasmussen, not Petry, as many of us thought. I do believe that in a perfect world, the rotation Lalonde spoke about and Petry performed would be how they'd draw it up, but in this specific situation, I am not convinced that Rasmussen is going to get to the front of the net in time to disrupt Aho anyway.

"We duplicated on it," explained Lalonde. "The D slid; Ras should've took the backdoor guy. So if you can see it in a split second, and it happens quick, that's why you middle lane drive [as a forward away from the puck with your team in possession], but you had Ras and [Petry] basically covering the driver and leaving the most dangerous guy on the weak side. It happens. We're usually pretty good with tracks. It's a missed play. Unfortunately, that's the goal that got them going."

Rasmussen is backchecking on the right side of Guentzel and not on the center ice side, and the puck carrier is along the wall. The carrier eventually chips the puck past Seider, and it's quickly retrieved by Guentzel, who swiftly sends it to a waiting Aho. If Petry remained near the front of the net, and Rasmussen backchecked on the left of Guenzel and remained with him, maybe the play would get foiled. Instead, Aho is left alone, and Rasmussen is in no man's land, leading to an easy goal. Regardless of whose fault it is, we've seen these types of defensive breakdowns far too often from the Detroit Red Wings this season. This latest defensive lapse, as so frequent this season, comes from experienced players, which should drive the coaching staff nuts. These are the types of plays that are expected from rookies. If Edvinsson made a similar error, we'd hope he would learn from it.

The Detroit Red Wings need to remove Jeff Petry from their top four.

The Jeff Petry circus can't continue to happen. He's 36 years old. Perhaps the coaching staff is asking too much of him. He's played a ton of hard minutes this season, and although he hasn't been 'good,' he hasn't performed as poorly as the Red Wings want to admit until March. Before March, Petry played 51 games and recorded two goals and 18 points while maintaining a plus-4 rating, averaging nearly 19 minutes per night. In the month of March, Petry has played 13 games, recorded two assists, and is a minus-14 playing 19 minutes. Now, plus/minus is a frowned-upon stat in 2024, but it can be telling if it changes drastically over a short period of time.

Whether they will ever admit it or not, the Detroit Red Wings waited too long to recall Edvinsson. He's an upgrade to Petry at this stage of his career on Detroit's second pairing. The Red Wings have a minor problem brewing with too many left-handed shot defensemen. When Walman is set to return, he and Seider will likely be reunited, and that should leave Edvinsson paired with Chariot, with Ben sliding over to his off-side. Maatta and Gostisbehere are left-handed, and Petry and Holl are right-handed. Perhaps the Red Wings will return to the third pairing rotation with a combination of one righty and one lefty. The unfortunate reality is that Lalonde will likely return to his usual top four once Walman returns, leaving Edvinsson to scrounge for ice time on the third unit. I know it.

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