As soon as Daniel Sedin scored the gamewinning goal on Monday against the Capitals, we were inundated with requests on Twitter to breakdown the goal in our typical Breakdowning fashion. They weren’t the only ones: as soon as I saw the goal, I wanted to break it down, because it was just so perfectly representative of Wizardous Sedinery. The Canucks kept the puck in the offensive zone for a full 51 seconds, dizzying the Capitals with their cycle game before a couple short passes and a subtle move by Daniel created a wide open scoring chance.
We intended to have a Breakdowning post up on Tuesday, but circumstances kept pushing it back. Fortunately, three days since it was scored, the goal is still just as gorgeous and absurd. Let’s break it down to see exactly how it came about.
First, let’s take stock of the situation. The Canucks have been in the Capitals’ zone for about half-a-minute already and have had two decent scoring chances. Most impressively, they’ve kept the Capitals’ top line hemmed in and completely useless.
One of the most impressive parts of Monday’s game is how thoroughly the Canucks outplayed Alex Ovechkin’s line, getting 12 shots on goal to the Capitals’ 4 when he was on the ice. John Tortorella chose to match his top line with their’s and Ryan Kesler and the Sedins dominated the matchup. Of course, we’re likely telling a different story if Ovechkin had scored on his penalty shot attempt and had scored on his powerplay shot attempt that hit the post later in the first period.
At this point, the Capitals are in pretty decent defensive position. Nicklas Backstrom is shadowing Daniel, John Carlson is about to head back to the front of the net to mark Kesler, Karl Alzner is keeping an eye on Henrik, Marcus Johansson is playing high on Chris Tanev, and Ovechkin is pressuring Dan Hamhuis. Everyone is accounted for and there shouldn’t be any issues for the Capitals.
Uh, that’s an issue. As Hamhuis fires the puck into the far corner, Ovechkin blows the zone, hoping a teammate will come up with the puck and find him with a long pass for a breakaway. His absence creates a massive amount of space at the point and in the high slot, which surely won’t come into play later.
Everyone else on the Capitals is doing their job, just as described earlier: Alzner takes Henrik, Carlson is on Kesler, Backstrom’s still shadowing Daniel, and Johansson comes down to outman Henrik along the boards, with Tanev not far away if the puck goes to him. Everything’s still pretty hunky dory for the Capitals, though: Hamhuis isn’t going to get the puck anytime soon and Ovechkin should have time to come back into position.
Whoops. Ovechkin came back all right, but he drifted all the way down to below the hashmarks, meaning the Capitals now have five skaters at or below the hashmarks, defending against three Canucks. That open space in the slot and at the point I mentioned? Somehow, with the return of Ovechkin to the defensive zone, that open space is even bigger.
Kesler gets the puck behind the net, sees a wide open Hamhuis, and is delighted. Instead of having to force a pass into a contested area, he can make one really easy pass to the point.
Hamhuis relays the puck to Tanev, who is pressured by Johansson and makes a nice little pass to Henrik, who has cycled up through the slot. Henrik is really, really open, you guys. He’s more open than the legs of a man taking up too much space on a train and has even more space than that hypothetical man. Most teams don’t give the Sedins that much space, especially with the puck, to the point that it actually somehow looks wrong. Henrik looks more out of place in space than Matt Leblanc.
What’s astonishing is that no one on the Capitals moves to check Henrik, even after he receives the pass. He stands with the puck at the point for three whole seconds, baffled that no one is coming to get him. Since basically all of the Sedins’ moves are predicated on suckering a defender into getting too close, then making a two-foot pass that absolutely ruins that defender’s day, Henrik is at a loss in this situation.
Fortunately for Henrik, Johansson peels off Tanev, who goes for a spin through the slot to further confuse the Capitals, and puts some pressure on the Canucks’ captain. That’s when Henrik shows that he spent all that extra time the Capitals gave him thinking up a new way to pass the puck.
That’s just how Henrik spends his free time. His wife is afraid to ask him to pass the salt when they’re at home because she never knows how he’s going to do it. One time he used tweezers to pass her one grain of salt at a time.
Seriously, look at this pass. Henrik isn’t content to just pass the puck normally to his brother. Instead, he has to backhand it. But he’s not content to make a normal backhand pas,s either. Nope: he makes a backhand toe pass. He only uses the back of the toe of his stick to drag the puck to Daniel. It’s absurd.
Here’s where the rotation of Henrik, Daniel, and Tanev pays off. The Capitals are clearly playing a man-to-man system for the most part in the defensive zone. But when Tanev rotates through the slot, Johansson leaves him to pressure Henrik, mainly because no one else is doing so. Then, when Henrik drops the puck to Daniel, Johansson switches to covering him.
Backstrom was originally covering Daniel, but when Johansson switches to Daniel, Backstrom covers Henrik as he comes down the boards. That’s the wrong move, however, as John Carlson is waiting at the side of the net and can easily take Henrik, but no one is covering Tanev as he rotates back to the point. That leaves Johansson covering two players, while Backstrom is covering none and is just standing uselessly in the faceoff circle.
That’s when Daniel sees the wide open slot. All he needs is for Johansson to go back to his original check: Tanev. Fortunately, Johansson is already anticipating a pass to Tanev, as the endless cycling has fried his brain. One fake backhand pass later…
…and Washington has successfully put two Sedins in space. Meanwhile, Backstrom and Ovechkin are on some other planet. Backstrom is checking nobody and didn’t anticipate that Daniel, the goalscoring Sedin, might want to go into the slot, where lots of goals are scored.
Ovechkin is bizarrely concerned with staying close to Hamhuis, something he hasn’t seemed all that concerned about until this moment, when Hamhuis at his least dangerous. Not that anyone has ever described Hamhuis as “dangerous” before. If Hamhuis started riding a motorcycle, it would instantly be considered the safest and most humble of the modes of transportation, and the Hell’s Angels would switch to driving motorhomes to save their reputations.
Given acres of time and eons of space, Daniel steps into a slap shot like Clark Kent into a telephone booth. With Kesler screening in front, Neuvirth doesn’t even see the shot.
Incidentally, for all of John Garrett’s insistence that Kesler has his feet firmly planted outside of Neuvirth’s crease, you can clearly see that Kesler is standing inside the blue paint when Daniel takes the shot, making it awfully difficult for Neuvirth to come out and cut down on the angle. So, the Sedins were the Sedins on this goal and Kesler was Kesler — a little bit of a jerk.
Kesler’s in-the-crease screen gives Daniel a good foot-and-a-half to shoot at glove side. Daniel doesn’t miss.
Lessons to learn? Maybe don’t give the Canucks the entire top half of the offensive zone for them to do whatever they want. When you expect a Sedin to pass, that’s the one time he won’t pass. Don’t give a Sedin time to think or he’ll come up with a new way to embarrass you. Beware the freewheeling Tanev. If Kesler is in your crease, hacking his calves is more effective than half-heartedly shrugging your shoulders.
That about covers it.Tags: Breakdowning, Chris Tanev, Dan Hamhuis, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Wizardous Sedinery