“Jaccob Slavin is a stallion.”
Tripp Tracy’s strange-but-apt description of the Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman came after an impressive showing for the young blueliner in all areas of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Oilers. Slavin notched a goal and an assist, all while shutting down a guy by the name of Connor McDavid.
Slavin’s goal, while not the game-winner, was an important insurance tally for a Canes team on the ropes.
Slavin’s hands and deking ability don’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched him play, but he has a more keen offensive mind that you may expect, and this play was a prime example.
The Canes began the play deep in their own zone, with the Oilers marking each white sweater man-to-man, except, notably, Jordan Staal. Justin Williams, being the cerebral player he is, finds the open man with ease.
With two Oilers pressing low in the above image, and two Canes in the neutral zone, Slavin jumps ahead to even the numbers alongside the backchecking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The 5-on-5 situation has turned into a 3-on-3. Simple, man-to-man coverage will do the trick for Edmonton, no problem.
Unless Staal fumbles the puck a bit, leading both Oilers to commit to him and attempt futile poke checks...
As both Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse half-heartedly converge on Staal, they fail to commit enough to strip him off the puck, but do slow down just enough to ensure an easy lane to the net for Slavin. And with Nugent-Hopkins clearly out of gas, it takes one or two extra strides for Slavin to pass the forward.
Take a look; you can see Nugent-Hopkins stop skating at the blue line while Slavin goes juuuust a bit further before beginning his glide. With Larsson and Nurse resigned to merely containing Staal, and Nugent-Hopkins dragging his feet, Slavin sneaks past the defense into a passing lane.
This play isn’t all about Slavin though. Above, Staal does a fantastic job of using his frame to protect the puck, keeping his hands far from his body and turning his back on the would-be defenders. This also shifts the angle for Larsson; he drops to a knee to block a lane from Staal’s body to the goal, but fails to account for his stick position. Staal instead uses his long reach to easily find a lane past Larsson.
Okay, now it’s all about Slavin.
Slavin’s offensive mindset showed before when he read the play and jumped in perfectly, but this is something else. Most defensemen would simply one time the puck and hope to catch the goalie napping, but Slavin deftly pulls it to his backhand and tucks it away.
The term “200-foot-player” gets thrown around a lot, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more accurate description of Slavin. Well, besides stallion, of course.