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X's and O's - 700 and counting

by Jeff Angus / Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin is one of the best playmakers in the NHL – and very likely in the history of the game, too. His dish on Daniel’s goal against Los Angeles on Monday night was the exclamation mark on a huge comeback season for brothers Sedin.

Not only did the goal all-but solidify Vancouver’s postseason chances this year (against one of the league’s best even-strength clubs to boot), but the Sedins once again made some of the world’s best players – including Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick – look like amateurs.

The goal:

You know the drill by now. Let’s take a closer look.

Alex Edler starts the play off. Noticing that several Kings are heading to the bench, Edler banks the puck up the near boards to Henrik instead of making the easy cross-ice pass.

It is a bit of a mess in the neutral zone with both teams trying to complete partial line changes. Henrik and Daniel are very good at gaining the opposing blue line with what comes next – a slight hesitation move followed by a drop pass and a deft display of legal interference.

Henrik, like any good Swedish kid, takes the hit to make a play. The Kings have the numbers advantage five to two, but the Canucks have the Sedin advantage two to zero.

Daniel makes a very pretty pass – of the backhand saucer variety – through two Kings. Doughty cheats up a bit to play Daniel, which leaves Henrik open to sneak down along the wall. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Doughty made the wrong read here – sitting back on the Sedins wouldn’t have helped much either. This was simply a world-class play from a world class player (against perhaps the game’s best defenseman).

Henrik now finds himself one on five. He continues to skate towards the goal as Jake Muzzin attempts to take the pass away. There aren’t any other Canucks currently in the frame but Kevin Bieksa is about to make an appearance.

Henrik’s play on this goal reminded me a bit of a play he made in the Western Conference Final back in 2011 against the Sharks. His extremely display of patience with the puck forced Antti Niemi to expose his five-hole, and then he slipped a pass – not a shot, but a pass – through it to Alex Burrows for the gimme goal.

The Kings all collapse around Quick. Bieksa’s crafty play here didn’t get much attention after the fact, but by going to the net he forces the Kings forwards to play a bit lower than they would have liked. At this point, everybody on Los Angeles looks to be in decent position as Henrik skates the puck behind the net.

Henrik flips the script, whipping a blind backhand pass to a wide-open Daniel. There isn’t a King within 15 feet of Sedin, who steps into the perfect pass and absolutely hammers it home.

You can see the puck here – just about to go into the top right corner. Quick is both out of position (still covering the post in an attempt to cover Henrik’s wrap-around) and significantly screened. In addition to making the incredible pass, Henrik also has the best seat in the house for Daniel’s shot.

And the crowd – save for one unhappy baby – goes wild.

Another view of Daniel’s saucer pass to Henrik. It is very easy to dissect the position of the world’s best hockey players in this type of format – Doughty and Muzzin are one of the league’s best even strength defensive pairings, but both of them would likely want this shift back.

And here’s another view of Bieksa’s great read to pinch in deep. In hopes of making up for the sloppy change, all three of LA’s forwards converge on him in the crease (that King in the upper right is actually Doughty and not a winger).

Quick and Muzzin don’t even see the pass – which misses Muzzin’s skates by about two feet – coming. Henrik was able to get quite a bit on the pass too. I remember reading an interview with Wayne Gretzky in which he talked about using the boards as mirrors to see where other players were on the ice. Do you think Henrik was able to spot out the positioning of the other nine players? Or eight I guess, since he always knows were Daniel is.

700 and counting. Don’t take these guys for granted, Vancouver. Two of the all-time greats who are worth every penny to watch play. Let’s hope that we have many more opportunities to do just that this season.

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