Perhaps we’ve come to expect smart defense, world-class skating ability and a sense of comfort when we see Jaccob Slavin step onto the ice, but he’s not done impressing yet.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ blue line stalwart continues to lead the defense corps, but is more than capable of chipping in on a rush. Last night in Washington, he created the rush. It’s nothing new for a defenseman to skate it out of his own zone, and perhaps even across the far blue line, but this play was worth a second look.
Maybe it’s the fact that he starts below his own goal line, with a fairly-skilled player in Evgeny Kuznetsov draped over him until Slavin dusts him with two easy strides, that raises eyebrows.
Just watch Slavin’s first few steps. More and more emphasis is being placed on skating ability in modern defenseman, but Slavin is ahead of the curve. The power is obvious, but the rapid succession of stride after stride in the blink of an eye represents the difference between Slavin blowing past Kuznetsov and the Russian forward pinning him to the boards to continue the battle.
And he’s not done — as Slavin continues around the net, he’s not gliding. With his head up, he can scan for passing options, but he knows he has a head of steam and room to work with as he sets the pace up ice. It’s a confident move to motor ahead with Tom Wilson bearing down, likely looking to find him a nice seat in the third row, but Slavin doesn’t hesitate.
Slavin, with head still up, wheels past Wilson and Alex Ovechkin and breaks across the Caps’ line.
If you’re having trouble believing that Slavin is as good a skater as this article would have you believe, watch Ovechkin. You’d say he’s pretty good on his steel, no? He’s got a great mind for the game, can probably stop a third-year defenseman with a limited lane up the ice, right?
Ovechkin sure thinks so. He’s got a bead on Slavin as he ducks behind Joakim Nordstrom, but 74 sees him coming, shakes and/or bakes, and sees himself past another Cap. Again — the confidence to not just dump the puck in and let the forwards do what they do is outstanding, and shows another layer to the clear maturity in Slavin’s game.
Jumping ahead, Slavin still has the puck at the Capitals’ goal line. He took it 200+ feet with two marquee players (and Tom Wilson) within a stick-length of him at times, and now sets up the tying goal.
There’s definitely a lot of luck involved here, as Slavin’s pass finds just the right bounce to end up on Nordstrom’s stick, but scroll back up and watch as Slavin crosses the blue line. His head is up and his eyes are scanning for the right pass to make. He knows he has two forwards crashing the net.
The Canes have been undone by their tendency to unleash a high volume of shots in low-danger areas this season, but it’s different here. When you’ve got attackers buzzing the cage, and the goalie perhaps isn’t expecting a shot, just get the puck in front and see what happens. Sure, he could carry it behind the net, but that just gives Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Co. more time to cover back. It’s fantastic leg work by Slavin to carry the puck for so long and even better cerebral play to know where his teammates are and when to get the puck on target.