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Systems Analyst: Jaccob Slavin Shows Off in Ottawa

Slavin’s opening goal was a memorable one—let’s break down what made it happen.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes fell in overtime to Ottawa after a fast-paced 60 minutes. However, within the first of those 60 minutes, the game’s highlight had already been produced, and it was made by a guy in a Canes sweater.

Jaccob Slavin evoked shades of Bobby Orr with his goal; it was nothing short of spectacular. So how does a defenseman pull off an individual effort like that?

Go ahead and watch that a couple of times, it’s worth a replay or seven.

Satisfied? Good, let’s get into it.

The play begins when Jean-Gabriel Pageau (inside center circle) attempts a pass to Mark Stone (61) in the neutral zone.

This would be a smart play, but the pass is behind Stone, and ends up with Slavin.

Above, Slavin has just intercepted the puck and begins to survey his options up the ice. The players on the ice anticipated the play to continue swinging towards the benches, so their momentum has taken most players out of the play. Slavin’s scan of the ice shows that he has the entire neutral zone to skate ahead, which he does.

As he continues, notice the two Senators players (Dion Phaneuf and Pageau) who quickly adjust to re-insert themselves into the play at the Senators’ blue line. Pageau is closest to Slavin, and is the one who made the mistake, so he clearly is attack-minded in his defensive stance here.

Look at Pageau’s feet in the still-frame above. He is actually still skating fast towards Slavin, who already has a head of steam coming towards him, which is...well...not good for the Senators. The Laws of Physics say that an object (Slavin) will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (Pageau), but that outside force misses due to the slick skating ability of 74 in white.

The eagerness of Pageau costs him, as he neglects to account for the speed of Slavin. He reaches out with his stick when he realizes that his gap is closing far too quickly, but Slavin is able to see him coming with speed, and sidestep his poke-check with ease.

At this point, Slavin has two options. He can either continue ahead, as he now has all of the attacking zone open to him, or he can dish the puck off to Lee Stempniak on the far wing and bolt to the net to draw defenders with him.

I think he made the right call. The Senators’ Zack Smith has caught up to Stempniak and shadows him for the duration of the play.

After walking around Pageau, Slavin has to only worry about a backchecking Phaneuf who, let’s be honest, is not nearly the skater that Slavin is, and the prowess of Craig Anderson in goal.

Slavin’s speed forces Phaneuf to resort to a last-second slash/poke-check/gentle caress, but to no avail. However, being on his backhand limits Slavin’s options regarding shooting. Let’s look at a different angle.

Slavin’s angle on the net allows for a potential move to his forehand, but given that he is a defenseman, it makes sense that he would have a “shoot first” mentality. Unfortunately, his left-handedness forces him to his backhand.

When a player shoots on their backhand, lifting the puck is more difficult. The opposite curve of the blade does not control the puck as effectively, and maintaining height and power of the shot are a bit tricky.

Because of this, backhanders are often unpredictable. However, Anderson anticipates the shot well, coming out almost to the edge of his crease and preparing to go into butterfly stance. His glove, though, is low. Really low.

Anderson is probably not anticipating a world-class backhander from a relatively unknown defenseman (league-wise, at least), but nonetheless, the positioning of his glove leaves the top corner of the net wide open for Slavin to lift it home with said world-class backhander.

Also, as Slavin comes in, Anderson retreats quickly into the net, allowing for more room above his shoulders.

The decisions Slavin made on this play—skating ahead instead of passing after the interception, walking around Pageau instead of passing off to Stempniak, shooting instead of trying to cut to his forehand—show just how smart and talented the young defenseman already is. In a game that ended poorly for the Hurricanes, the first goal of the year for #74 was certainly a bright spot.