Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chalk Talk: Blame Defense, Not Backstrom

Last night, in an ugly display of defense by both teams, it was the Jets defeating the Wild 6-4 at MTS Centre last night. Now before you all sit there and try to say that Niklas Backstrom is terrible, please take a look at some of the goals that were scored on him last night.

Out of the five goals scored against Backstrom, only one could be solely blamed on him. The remaining four are credited to the Wild defense, which looked down right awful last night.

So in today's chalk talk, we look at the Wild defense on those four goals (you can click on the link before each goal to watch the video in real time).

Michael Frolik and Evander Kane bring the puck up the ice on a 2 on 1 (shorthanded too) and as they bring the puck into the defensive zone, Ryan Suter sees Jason Pominville on the chase and appears to be trying to run down Kane. Suter thinking Pominville will catch him or at least be able to break up a pass begins to move over to try and take Frolik off the puck.

As Suter comes over to take Frolik, Pominville has no chance of catching Kane. Frolik gets a pass through Suter to Kane and he has half the net to shoot at with Backstrom out of position. Given a 2 on 1 with Frolik and Kane, Suter should have played the pass to Kane. Let Frolik beat you there.

After Mikael Granlund loses the puck down low to Devin Setoguchi, Seto moves towards the right here to create some space from Granlund. Meanwhile, there are four Wild players present in this picture who are keeping their eyes totally on the puck. The most notable player watching the puck here is Marco Scandella who is leaving the front of the net wide open for Olli Jokinen as he tries to block a potential pass out front.

Setoguchi holds the puck to get a good pass off around Scandella and hits Jokinen who is right in front of Backstrom. Easy goal.

Jacob Trouba gets the puck off the faceoff, moves down the boards a few feet, then fires a shot towards the net. He does so with two of his teammates in the direct path of the puck, including Blake Wheeler who is winning the battle out front with Jonas Brodin. As the puck gets to Wheeler, he is able to deflect the puck past Backstrom to tie the game. Also take note here the Wild players in the path of the puck who did little to block the shot as it made its way towards the cage.

On the back end of a horrendous defensive shift, Wheeler moves into the corner taking the attention of two defenders to him. He sends a pass out to Bryan Little in the slot and has Andrew Ladd standing untouched in front of the net. Backstrom makes a pad save on the shot and then a net mouth scramble ensues as the puck floats around.

As the battle in front continues, there are three Wild players and one goalie down on the ice. The puck continues to sit free on Backstrom's left side (debatable) as the Wild try and block out the incoming Jets players. Meanwhile, Wheeler comes in from the corner and gets his jabs at the puck until it crosses the goal line to give Winnipeg the lead. Wheeler went right up to the net virtually untouched and no one got a finger on him until it was too late.

Could Backstrom have made saves on these plays? Sure. But to put the blame for this solely on him is ridiculous. Take any of the league's best goalies and put them in Backstrom's shoes last night and see how many of these plays end up being goals. Good chance the Jets still score on these four plays.

We can all sit here and wish for Harding to come back. But when your defense gives you efforts like that last night, it makes no difference who is in net.

Play better defense, you win that game. How many teams can say they got Ondrej Pavelec pulled in the first period after three goals, and ended up losing the game? Not many, if any.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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