The overlooked thing on Pavel Datsyuk’s game-winning goal on Friday was just how close it was to going the other way. One bounce could’ve led to a goal the other way. One Detroit Red Wings player actually being in the right position could’ve meant the rush didn’t happen.
Go back to the beginning of the play. The Bruins dumped the puck in. Datsyuk got to it in the corner, but had Brad Marchand on him, so he touched it up the boards for Abdelkader. Patrice Bergeron closed on Abdelkader, leaving the pick for Reilly Smith. While that happened to Abdelkader, Johan Franzen took off towards the middle in anticipation of an outlet pass. But he left a little too early, leaving the far side of the ice open.
Alone, it’s not that big of a mistake, but instead of getting to the front, Brendan Smith was puck watching from the corner and Niklas Kronwall was sitting in the other corner. With Franzen, Smith and Kronwall where they were, the entire slot was open for Marchand. Datsyuk had lost track of him and decided to approach Reilly Smith instead, leaving Marchand wide open near the dot as he got ready to open himself up for a one-timer.
There’s no way to know what happens if Reilly Smith got the puck to Marchand. It certainly would’ve been a prime scoring chance, one of the Bruins’ best of the game. It might’ve found a way past Jimmy Howard, changing the narrative of the series. But Howard had stopped Boston’s other prime scoring chances, and he would’ve had a clean look at it. We we’ll never know what would’ve happened, though, because Abdelkader didn’t let it happen.
He swung his stick around to disrupt Reilly Smith’s pass. When that occurred, Franzen’s poor timing on the breakout became an advantage. The puck bounced off Smith’s skates. Franzen was there to pick it up, turn, and start the rush the other way. He then tried a backhand saucer pass near his own blue line. Reilly Smith got a piece of it, and it might’ve been enough to start a Bruins 3-on-2 if Datsyuk weren’t there reach behind him and pull it with one hand through his legs.
By now, just about everybody knows happened next. Datysuk took the puck into the zone, stickhandled around Zdeno Chara’s stick, cut to the left and fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Tuuka Rask, with the puck sneaking in below the glove and over the pad. But don’t forget about Abdelkader. As Datsyuk crossed into the zone, Abdelkader jetted straight into the middle of the two defensemen. Dougie Hamilton followed him, opening up the space for Datsyuk to get his shot off while simultaneously creating a three-man screen in front of Rask.
GRM on the play:
Datsyuk did most of the work here, but Abdelkader played a major part in creating this.
Pavel Datsyuk (+0.67)
Justin Abdelkader (+0.33)