7 of the Worst Defensive Plays in NHL History
It can be tough to play defense.
There is little glory in the task. The most recognized and objective statistics are all offensive in nature, leaving defensive contributions to go largely unnoticed on the scoresheet at the end of the night.
On the contrary, a mishap in the defensive zone is far more easily noticed than an error in the offensive zone. A defensive lapse can lead to a crucial goal and change the tide of the game dramatically.
Here, we will focus on some of the worst plays made in defensive zones, by both forwards and defensemen. The intention is not to turn these underappreciated warriors into laughingstocks, but instead to show the true impacts of their roles and the responsibilities they take on each game.
Sometimes, that responsibility simply becomes too much and gives us priceless moments like these, some of the worst defensive plays in recent NHL history.
The Glove Toss
When a player is on a breakaway in the modern NHL, it takes a very skilled player to stick-check the speeding forward and prevent a scoring opportunity. When a defensive player loses his stick entirely, there is simply nothing he can do.
Unless, of course, he is Scott Hartnell.
Chasing after a scot-free Ryan Malone in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Hartnell had neither the speed nor the stick to chase down the opposing forward. Instead of simply praying for his goalie to make the save, Scott Hartnell had something else up his sleeve: his glove.
Hartsy chucked the glove toward Malone, doing absolutely nothing to distract Malone from the breakaway. Amazingly, Martin Biron made the save, but Hartnell's boneheaded move had left Tampa with the opportunity to take the lead on a penalty shot.
Hartnell's idiocy forced Biron to make not one, but two breakaway saves to preserve the game. Usually when a goalie bails out his defender, we forget all about the mishap that occurred.
But this one is just too good.
The OT-Own Goal Killer
When Evgeni Nabokov and Craig Anderson dueled to a 0-0 tie in regulation during Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, it seemed it would take an amazing offensive feat to break the tie in overtime.
Turns out, it would be the exact opposite.
As Ryan O'Reilly forechecked into the corner, Dan Boyle attempted to nonchalantly send the puck around the boards to keep it away.
Maybe it was deflected by O'Reilly; maybe it was just a poor clear. Either way, Boyle's attempt went right at goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was so surprised that he didn't have time to hug the post and make the save.
The puck found its way through Nabokov and into the net, sending the Colorado faithful into a frenzy and sending Boyle and the Sharks to the locker room with the sort of stunned disbelief that you can only find in playoff hockey.
Getting Deked...And Getting Deked Again
David Legwand doesn't get paid to play defense, but he found himself at the point in a playoff game against the Anaheim Ducks during an offensive push.
Anaheim's Bobby Ryan stole Legwand's pass attempt and broke ahead, leaving Legwand as the only man who could cover him.
Legwand attempted to poke check the puck away from Ryan, who stutter-stepped and dragged the puck through Legwand's wickets as the Predators forward lost his stick.
Legwand recovered quickly and positioned himself to put a check on Ryan that would, at the very least, buy defenseman Shea Weber enough time to catch up to Ryan.
Ryan somehow saw the hit coming, pushed the puck past Legwand and again changed direction just enough to go untouched. With Legwand helpless, Ryan deked one more time to put the puck past Pekka Rinne.
As much as we want to give Legwand credit for trying, this defensive performance is just too embarrassing to let go.
In 2000, the Sharks were on the good end of a terrible own goal as the team faced Roman Turek, Marc Bergevin and the St. Louis Blues.
A centering pass deflected into the air toward Bergevin, who instinctively tried to grab the puck and throw it around the net to clear it out of the attacking zone.
Maybe he simply didn't know where he was standing, but whatever the reason, Bergevin quickly turned and threw the puck...directly past his own goalie, Turek.
The ensuing confusion lasted a few seconds as both teams and the referees tried to discern where the puck had gone.
The broadcasting team even began to get on Bergevin's case for holding onto the puck too long.
If only he had...
...And Another Toss
Keith Ballard could be blacklisted by Tomas Vokoun for his reckless stickwork alone, but this glove flub adds insult to injury in the Ballard-Vokoun dynamic.
Like Bergevin, Ballard was attempting to position himself under the puck so he could swat it out of the dangerous area. Sensing the charging Jarkko Ruutu, Ballard rushed his clearing attempt, swiping at the puck.
Unfortunately for Ballard, the puck got caught up in the bulky padding of Ballard's glove and instead of hitting the puck away, he managed to send it directly behind him and between the goal post and Vokoun's skate.
No man in the NHL is happier about not playing on Keith Ballard's team than Tomas Vokoun is.
Right Place, Wrong Team
Own goals are a part of hockey, and certainly not every own goal can be attributed to a boneheaded defensive play. Sometimes in the mad scramble around the crease, the puck doesn't go where it's supposed to go.
But every now and then, a player seems to intentionally score on his own net.
It's possible that Nicklas Backstrom was simply trying to clear the puck and failed miserably, but no matter how many times you watch the video, it's going to look like Backstrom was trying to score for the Penguins.
Every. Single. Time.
That momentary lapse in judgment has Backstrom committing the rare NHL equivalent of the guy who scored on his own team in a high school basketball game in a recent viral video.
The other defensive plays we've seen in this list are frustratingly boneheaded.
This one is just sad.
In a nationally televised game, the Philadelphia Flyers came up with a strategy to deal with the trap defense of the Tampa Bay Lightning: don't play.
The Bolts, under head coach Guy Boucher, sent no forecheckers into the attacking zone, instead choosing to clog up the middle of the ice. The Flyers chose not to play into the trap by not bringing the puck out of the zone until the Lightning sent in a forechecker.
The Lightning opted not to send a player to the puck until the Flyers exited the defensive zone, which, if you follow, the Flyers refused to do until a player went after the puck. Which the Lightning wouldn't do until the Flyers left the zone. Which the Flyers...
Ah, forget it.
Just watch the embarrassment for yourself.