According to Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, Jeff Carter is a pretty smart player. But the bench boss still isn’t sure if the veteran forward-turned-defenseman can skate backwards.
At the 15:08 mark of the third period in Wednesday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals, the Penguins found themselves down to three defensemen. P.O. Joseph and Jan Rutta had already left the game with injuries. And then Jeff Petry went down the tunnel for medical attention.
Someone had to play defense. So Sullivan looked down the bench and summoned Carter, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, to take a shift alongside regular blueliner Brian Domoulin.
It wasn’t an easy assignment for Carter. Pittsburgh was leading 3-0. But the Penguins had already dropped three games this season when they held the lead going into the final frame. Not to mention that Pittsburgh had lost their previous seven outings.
After the game, Sullivan cited Carter’s “wealth of experience in the league” as the main reason for his decision. And after taking a look at the video, I can’t argue with Sullivan’s logic. Carter looked completely at home during his 47-second shift patrolling the Penguins blueline.
Play originates with an offensive zone faceoff. That’s a safe space for any forward masquerading as a defenseman. But Washington wins the draw and flips the puck to center ice.
It’s a smart play by the Capitals. They know Carter is playing D. And they’re trying to exploit him.
But Carter responds. Look at his coverage on Washington forward Nic Dowd in the neutral zone. The puck lands at the feet of both players, and Carter has the presence of mind to ride Dowd off to middle ice.