Kovalchuk has had countless defensive mishaps that have lead to goals or high quality chances against. We know this and rant about it a lot. If your memory is short, and you need examples, one just needs to think of Grabner's shorthanded goal in the Islanders home game, some goals in Minnesota or last night, you may choose to focus on Winnipeg's 2nd goal (a SHG). However, that was not Kovalchuk's worst play of the night. The Hedberg to Kovy bad pass happens. If you've ever tried to control a bad pass, it is not easy. It's on Hedberg to make a good pass in that situation which lead to Winnipeg's 2nd goal. Kovalchuk was much more at fault for the GWG against, but it was subtle. You have to really break it down compared to his other blunders. And once you notice it, it was his most deplorable recent error IMHO.
Kovalchuk's defensive miscues can be called stupid. But stupid can be practiced and learned out. Lemaire was good at fixing stupid. But much worse than stupid, much worse, is laziness. Laziness if unforgivable. And Kovalchuk got caught being lazy last night.
If any of you ever coached, you know exactly what I mean. Laziness in the 3rd period, in a tie game, is hard to move on from. Allow me to breakdown Winnipeg's game-winning goal last night to showcase Kovalchuk's laziness:
1. Kovalchuk is skating right at Stuart #5, the Winnipeg defenseman.
2. Kovalchuk widens his stance, everything is still good if he continues to pressure Stuart #5.
3. Kovy decides to pull up, the fatal mistake, while Stuart is patient with the puck.
4. Kovalchuk is now in la-la land.
5. Stuart #5 now has a clear lane to the net.
6. Stuart #5 makes his move.
7. Stuart #5 drives to the net.
8. Elias #26 puts pressure on Stuart by forcing him wide.
You could say Kovalchuk was covering Elias's guy, but in a 4-on-4, players need to adapt and switch. Kovalchuk didn't really cover either D. Elias at least forces Stuart wide. Coaches preach how these are low percentage lanes, force the guy wide, it's a lower percentage play.
But the point of this is that Stuart never should have been allowed to skate forward or had an open lane to pass in the first place. Pressure forces a defenseman to make a lower percentage move or pass in that situation. Kovalchuk never exerted that pressure because of laziness, or in hockey coaching terms: gliding.
"Gliding" is a bad word in hockey lingo. Gliding toward a guy who assisted on the GWG while your team has lost three in a row is bad. Perhaps the offending player must be benched? This error can be overlooked after a video replay, but if you see it, there must be consequences. I hope DeBoer has the backbone to level with Kovalchuk somehow.