Most of the time, we use the “Breakdowning” feature to unpack busy goals. Back in December, for instance, we broke down two Sedin goals versus the Minnesota Wild. Both featured a great deal of movement and, eventually, a tiny defensive error on which the twins were able to capitalize. We also looked at a powerplay goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. In it, the Leafs’ penalty-kill unit made an error, and the Canucks were able to pull off a complex scoring play as a result.
Alex Edler’s end-to-end rush Saturday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets was hardly complex. Basically, the Swedish blueliner just skated straight up the middle of the ice.
And no one stopped him. If you’re wondering how this goal happened, let me make it very clear: typically, a skater isn’t allowed to do that. But Edler was, and thus we break down exactly what allowed Alex Edler to go coast-to-coast like Space Ghost on the Columbus penalty kill.
First, a little credit where it’s due. While no NHL defence should ever allow a player to do what Edler just did, his skating in this sequence is downright beautiful. From the moment the puck crosses Vancouver’s goal line to the moment it crosses Columbus’s, Edler makes 16 perfectly fluid strides, picking up some incredible speed as he bursts out of his own end.
It’s an unexpected burst, as evidenced by Derek Dorsett staying wide, probably expecting Edler to turn the puck over to Ryan Kesler streaking down the near side. Instead, Edler recognizes that Dorsett is giving up the center of the ice in preparation to circle around and chase Kesler; the moment he reaches the faceoff dots, he goes into a full power skate, blowing by Dorsett and racing into the neutral zone untouched.
Completely flummoxed by this sudden burst of speed, Dorsett is forced to come to a near stop and turn back up ice. But, with Edler already in motion, the lost momentum results in the Columbus forechecker getting left completely behind.
Ryan Russell also falls victim to Edler’s unexpected solo dash. I’d imagine the Blue Jackets were fully prepared for the Canucks’ neutral zone drop pass — any game tape is likely to yield multiple sightings of it — but Edler going end-to-end? There’s no game tape on that. It’s never happened before, and furthermore, he’s the only Canuck defenceman on the ice. He’s literally the last guy out there you’re expecting to make a power move. By the time Russell realizes Edler won’t be leaving this puck behind today, it’s too late. He’s watched Edler pass him by.
Now, it’s still okay. Even though Edler has beaten both penalty-killing forwards with little trouble, he’s entering the Blue Jackets’ end all alone. Since Columbus have two defencemen back there, something would have to go horribly wrong for Edler to get to Steve Mason without being checked. Unfortunately, this is about when Nikita Nikitin briefly forgets where he is.
Nikitin does so much to help Edler on this play you’d think the Canucks had an inside man. (He wouldn’t be the first Nikita in the espionage business.) He shades so far to the wrong side of the ice that he doesn’t just leave a massive lane for Edler to continue through to Mason — he sets a screen, preventing John Moore from coming across. I’ve circled the problem, just to ensure that you can see both the absurdity of the alignment and the trajectory it allows Edler to take to the goal.
IT’S LITERALLY A STRAIGHT FREAKING LINE. Let’s take a look at what Mason is seeing, shall we?
What blows me away is that Nikitin and Moore are both natural left-side defencemen. How the left side of the ice could be completely vacated by this duo is beyond me.
But let’s not drag Moore into this mess: we’re looking at Nikitin’s miscue, and my favourite part of this sequence comes just after the above screenshot, as Dorsett comes to realize this and stretches out his arm in total disgust. Amazingly, Nikitin appears to be the only guy unaware of what’s going on in the screenshot below.
You can sort of make out Dorsett’s frustration above, but to really feel his pain, let’s look at the angle from the replay:
That’s the worst.
But Edler’s not home-free just yet. Finally cluing in, Nikitin dives out to prevent Edler from getting by, which does nothing, and John Moore manages to give Edler a two-handed slash to the back. Unfortunately for Moore, Edler’s from central Sweden, like the Sedins, and in central Sweden, children’s spines are forged from carbon steel. They don’t feel a thing back there.
So Edler scores. And thus, the Columbus Blue Jackets prove once again why they have the worst penalty kill in the NHL.Tags: Breakdowning, Canucks, columbus blue jackets, Edler, end-to-endler, powerplay