As you can see by the scoreline, Friday night’s Leafs-Sabres game was still very much in the balance with just under ten minutes left in the game. Francois Beauchemin was about to waltz into the offensive zone with some speed. Then he decided to make a play the Leafs had made a few times in the third which was to dump the puck back to a trailer who was coming up ice at full tilt. In this case it was Phil Kessel and unfortunately he missed the puck.
You wouldn’t think that there was much danger in this play as Kadri is ahead of his man, the other two Sabres are far behind the play, Beauchemin is turning with Patrick Kaleta and Phil Kessel is closest to the puck. Let’s see how things went wrong.
Here’s how I see the play: Nazem Kadri has to turn back up ice and bust his butt to cover Paul Gaustad, Beauchemin had to bust his butt back to cover Patrick Kaleta, and Phil Kessel has to bust his butt to get back to the puck.
Kadri, who cannot be criticised by some, has taken the junior loop that Ron Wilson is working to take out of his game. Beauchemin is holding up his end of the bargain and Kessel is striding hard towards Paul Gaustad. Things seem to be in control
This is where the play falls apart. While Kessel has covered Gaustad and has his resorting to a long-distance slapper. Unfortunately, in the middle of the ice, Beauchemin has been outmuscled by Kaleta and is now trailing him in the race towards the front of the net and any possible rebound.
So this is why coaches tell players to shoot low and hard. If the Leafs had had this opportunity it would have gone right into Jonas Gustavsson‘s gut and the play would have ended there. Instead, Gaustad fired it low and to the far side. In a perfect world, Gustavsson would have been able to use his stick to redirect it to the far boards. In a less than perfect world, Beauchemin would have been ahead of Kaleta and would have slapped the puck into the corner where Luke Schenn would have then picked up the puck and cleared the zone. In the world we inhabit, Gustavsson’s rebound went to the slot and Kaleta was all alone. Wonder how it’ll turn out…
The saddest part is that if Kaleta hadn’t fanned on the shot as Gustavsson slid across he might still have saved the play. Unfortunately, the shot went between his legs and the nail was put into the Leafs’ coffin in this game.