By Sheng Peng
Special to NYI Hockey Now
Two defensive plays — one right, one wrong — helped turn the tide for the New York Islanders in double-overtime Tuesday night.
Before Kevin Shattenkirk’s whiff, Anthony Cirelli had his swing to win the game for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov (86) receives the lead pass from Cirelli (71).
Kucherov has a step on Nick Leddy (2), so Scott Mayfield (24) switches and helps out. Mayfield’s hustle discourages Kucherov from continuing a straight-on attack.
Also, Cirelli’s own hustle — he beats Anthony Beauvillier (18) up the ice — gives Kucherov a trailer pass option.
Critically, Leddy doesn’t double-team Kucherov, trusting his partner to cover the 2019 Hart Trophy winner. Instead, he takes the middle, where he’s waiting for Cirelli walking down the slot.
Granted, this is basic defense from Leddy. And actually, Cirella works him, getting off a dangerous shot.
But imagine if Leddy chased the puck and hadn’t been there?
Speaking of chasing the puck…
Shattenkirk (22) doesn’t deserve the flak that he’s gotten for shanking his shot attempt.
Mikhail Sergachev (98) also failed to stop the Anders Lee (27) cross-ice pass to Jordan Eberle.
That happens too.
But what shouldn’t happen — albeit understandably because Shattenkirk usually thinks offense first — is this:
Shattenkirk whiffs, but instead of backing up to play defense, he lurches toward the puck. At that moment, Shattenkirk is in no man’s land and Lee has him beat.
It’s a split-second decision: In fairness to Shattenkirk, he’s certainly not the only NHL defenseman who would have made this mistake.
But chase the puck when you shouldn’t get left behind.
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