The Canucks scored a number of pretty goals during Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. From Jannik Hansen taking out two players with a single dangle to the perfect passing of the Sedins and Burrows, it was a good night for aesthetically pleasing plays.
The goal that I found most interesting, however, was Daniel Sedin’s second of the night, where he got the chance to show off his league-best accuracy by beating Semyon Varlamov gloveside with a wicked wrist shot. The question is, how in the world did he end up with so much room in the slot in the first place? Most teams in the NHL work pretty dang hard to keep guys like Daniel out of that area of the ice and especially hard to give them no time whatsoever if they happen to get there.
The answer is that rookie defenceman Stefan Elliott had an absolute gong show of a shift that resulted in him trying to defend last season’s Art Ross winner without a stick. It did not go well for him.
The trouble starts as Elliott cuts too close to Varlamov while trying to get to Daniel behind the goal. Elliott gets Varlamov’s stick caught between his legs, causing himself to lose his balance and Varlamov to lose his stick. It also leaves Daniel with all sorts of time to go around the net and, as Canucks fans know, it’s not a good idea for opponents to give a Sedin a lot of time.
Because he’s a Sedin, Daniel doesn’t immediately try for the wraparound as soon as he gets some space. Instead, he passes the puck to his brother, Henrik, as he skates down from the point. His check is Shane O’Brien. Yes, the Avalanche have Shane O’Brien and a rookie out as the defensive pairing against the Sedins during a 4-on-4. It’s like they wanted to get scored on.
But I want to draw your attention to the area I circled: Elliott gives Varlamov his stick to replace the one he just kicked out of his goaltender’s hands. This is not unusual, but I’m wondering if it should be. When a defenceman loses or breaks a stick while in the defensive zone, a forward will frequently hand over his stick as a temporary replacement. This makes sense to me, as a stick is incredibly important for a defenceman for both tying up his check and for gap control. While a goaltender certainly needs his stick, it seems a lot more important for a defenceman to have his stick, particularly when up against such tremendous passers as the Sedins.
Is there some stick-passing hierarchy that I should be aware of? Are goaltenders at the top of the stick-passing pyramid, the carnivores atop the stick-passing food chain, if you will? Which is better: a goaltender without a stick or a defenceman without a stick?
Henrik drops the puck back to Daniel with a neat little back pass that O’Brien was powerless to stop. Meanwhile, because Elliott took the time to give his stick to Varlamov, he’s caught completely flat-footed and nowhere near Daniel. And that’s when Daniel notices that Elliott doesn’t have a stick…
…so Daniel skates straight at him. Somehow, O’Brien ends up chasing Henrik despite being so far behind him previously that he actually had a head start on getting to that area of the ice, so Henrik has no problem establishing position in front of Elliott, setting a subtle pick on the rookie. Meanwhile, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly look at what’s developing in dismay. As for Elliott, it looks like he’s about a stick-length away from the puck. Yep. A stick-length.
Here’s Daniel as he starts his shooting motion. Elliott appears to be, uh-huh, still a stick-length away from the puck. With a stick, he would be able to block or deflect Daniel’s shot or, better yet, prevent Daniel from getting there in the first place. Without a stick, he’s completely useless. O’Reilly has realized what’s happening and has transformed into Shia LaBeouf, while Varlamov has rendered his borrowed stick completely useless by blocking a part of the net already covered by his pads. Why he’s down on his knees already is beyond me.
From John Garrett’s colour commentary during the game to Gary Valk’s analysis during Sportsnet Connected, all of the coverage on Sportsnet focused on Varlamov playing with a defenceman’s stick instead of his own. But the real problem for the Avalanche wasn’t Varlamov playing with an unfamiliar stick — it was the defenceman assigned to cover Daniel Sedin giving his away.Avalanche, breakdowns, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, featured, Stefan Elliott, Sticks are important you guys