With the Chicago Blackhawks coming to town on Friday night, many had their fingers crossed that the Canucks would exact some sort of revenge for the concussion Duncan Keith caused Daniel Sedin when he droves an elbow into the winger’s face last season. Obviously, no one was calling for a Canuck to skate up behind Keith, punch him in the back of the head, then ride him to the ice (we’re not so into that anymore), but most were hoping someone would, at the very least, staple him to the boards.
That proved easier said than done. Keith is shiftier than the eyes of a dog that’s up to no good, and he evaded attempts to destroy him all night. Incredibly, the best lick any Canuck put on him was dished out by Henrik Sedin. But that wasn’t the only time that Henrik got the best of Keith. The two also came together on Alex Edler’s first period-goal, and Henrik came away from that exchange the victor as well.
That’s just one of many things you may have missed on the play while you marvelled at Zack Kassian’s pass. So let’s break it down.
Here’s the goal, a 3-on-2 created by a cross-ice pass from Alex Edler to Henrik Sedin that ends when Zack Kassian gives the puck back to a trailing Edler for the score:
It’s important to note that what happened on this play is not what was supposed to happen on this play. You’ll notice the strange trio of forwards the Canucks have on the ice: that’s Henrik Sedin, Zack Kassian, and… Mason Raymond. Where was Daniel?
He just left the ice. The Canucks are supposed to be setting up for a line change, so Kassian is parked at the red line along the near boards. What Edler is supposed to do is hit Kassian, who will tip the puck into the Chicago zone. Then, the red line gained, he and Henrik will do as Daniel just did and change off for Dale Weise and Jordan Schroeder.
But Edler calls an audible. Bryan Bickell is behind him, Michael Frolik is challenging him, and Jonathan Toews, who isn’t in this frame, is skating in his direction. Thus, if he can thread the feed past Frolik and catch the fresh-legged Mason Raymond in stride, Raymond will blow by Toews, Kassian will join him, and the Canucks will have a surprise 3-on-2. So he does that instead.
But the pass is behind Raymond, and he’s unable to corral it. Instead, Raymond inadvertently deflects it past Toews, through the neutral zone, and right to Henrik Sedin, who’s parked at the Chicago blueline in front of their bench. Lucky, that.
This is the best part of the clip, and the reason we do this breakdowning series. Two things happen right here that you might have missed: first, Edler realizes his good fortune, and also realizes that, if he jumps into the rush, it could be a 4-on-2. But then his good fortune improves, as he collides with Toews on his way through, taking the Blackhawk centre out of the play completely.
Is this intentional? Edler sure looks like he hangs the leg, but he may have simply broken stride to firm himself up so the collision didn’t spill them both. Either way, Toews goes down, and Edler goes up ice.
While this going on, Duncan Keith challenges Henrik Sedin at the blueline. It does not go well for him. Expecting Henrik to go wide with authority, like most forwards would do, Keith turns towards the boards. But, instead, Henrik decides to walk the line like a young Johnny Cash and kill time waiting for his linemates. Silly Keith. Henrik has never attempted a power move in his life. Failing to wait for backup is for rogue cops. McNulty goes in alone. Henrik is Freamon.
The best part is the move catches Keith so off-guard that all he can do is swipe at the puck. And when Henrik dangles around the outstretched lumber and it hits shin pad, not puck, Keith loses his stick. Maybe he lets it go, afraid he’s either about to haul Henrik down or, at the very least, look guilty when Henrik goes down of his own volition. Maybe Henrik’s legs are so steeled up from years of ankle slashes that they forcibly repel Keith’s stick. Either way, the former Norris trophy winner is instantly disarmed and the 3-on-2 becomes a 3-on-1.5. He turns back the other way without it.
It gets better. Since Henrik’s already inside the zone, Raymond comes flying across the blueline and blows by Keith. It helps that Henrik freezes him in the slot with a fake slapshot. Raymond swivels, Henrik feeds Kassian, and suddenly, the Canucks have a potential 2-on-1 down-low.
But all is not lost for the Hawks. As Kassian poises himself to make his next pass, the Blackhawks’ reinforcements arrive to help Brent Seabrook and Keith out. Bickell takes Henrik, allowing the stickless Keith to shade down and do his best to take away the pass to Raymond. I don’t like his chances.
Will he be able to, somehow, break up that pass without a stick? If so, how? HOW?!
These are the questions I assume Michael Frolik is asking as he coasts into the zone. But a better use of his time might be focusing on Alex Edler, and shutting down the other passing lane that’s opening up.
Showing some impressive poise, vision, and maturity, Kassian surprises everyone by selecting passing lane B. Meanwhile, Corey Crawford reacts like Kassian has actually selected secret option C and passed it back to Henrik, as instead of sliding all the way across, he pulls up halfway, allowing Edler plenty of room to finish the play he wasn’t supposed to start.