By Sheng Peng
Special to NYI Hockey Now
Don’t blame Andy Greene and his turnover for the Nikita Kucherov ( game-winning goal in Game 2 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I know, the tape seems damning:
But instead of Andy Greene (4), focus on Ryan Pulock (6)
After the breakdown that leads to the Ondrej Palat (18) chance, Greene is able to pick up the loose puck. As Greene is headed behind the net, look at Pulock, in relation to Yanni Gourde (37).
When Gourde sees where Greene is going, he pressures Greene. Meanwhile, Pulock needs to help his partner with some type of soft pick.
That could be his stick held at its natural position at the hip, instead of raised like he’s a Buckingham Palace guard. A stick at the right-handed defenseman’s natural position wouldn’t be called interference and would at least provide a momentary impediment of Gourde. I’m not suggesting he hook Gourde by any means — just put the stick there so the Tampa Bay winger doesn’t have a clear path.
Better than just a stick, however, would be Pulock using his feet to keep up with Gourde, then a subtle stick check or step in front of or at the side of Gourde. Now yes, that kind of action can be called interference, but as long as Pulock is careful, what are the chances of the referees calling that with 15 seconds left in a tied playoff game?
Whatever it is, Pulock needs to do a better job of keeping Gourde from a straight shot at Greene.
Instead, Pulock does nothing and Gourde jumps out at Greene. Greene isn’t around his net, so his only options are to rim forward with his backhand, rim backward with his forehand, or eat the puck. Eating the puck there, however, might be more dangerous because of the proximity of the puck to the net. A rim up the wall, at least, creates another 50-50 battle that the Islanders might win.
Of course, New York doesn’t win that battle, but again, Pulock put Greene in a terrible position. Then Pulock makes another killer mistake.
Ryan McDonagh’s desperation pass is away, approaching Andy Greene. Greene is in perfect defensive position, his stick lined up with his man’s (Gourde). Pulock, however, is out in the woods once again, his stick and body caught on the wrong side of the left-handed Kucherov’s.
Now I’m not trying to shift ALL the blame onto Pulock. A lot wrong happened in this sequence leading up to Kucherov’s game-winner. But Pulock made some fairly elementary mistakes, and now, the Islanders are down 2-0 in the series.