He has recorded five points in his past seven games and is centering Vancouver’s most effective forward unit between Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett. So much of what makes Horvat an effective NHL player (at the age of 19) is what goes unnoticed. He’s great on the draw (6-2 against Pittsburgh) and is strong on the puck, but those things are easy to see. It’s his instincts and his ability to position himself in the right areas more often than not that has allowed Horvat to succeed as a teenager in the world’s best league.
Let’s take a closer look at the little things that added up to the 2-0 goal against the Penguins.
The play starts off with some casual own-zone play from the Penguins, including former Canuck Max Lapierre (who almost scored a beautiful goal of his own earlier in this game). Lapierre isn’t the real goat on this play though – he fires a crisp pass right on the blade of Evgeni Malkin, who proceeds to bobble the puck and lose control of it near his own blue line.
Horvat first knocks the puck away from Malkin, and then deftly shields himself between the puck and Lapierre.
Horvat makes a strong move to his backhand to take the puck around Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin. He then proceeds to make a very quick touch pass over to Dorsett (a very similar pass to the one he made on Ronalds Kenins’ first career NHL goal earlier last week).
Dorsett whiffs on the one-timer, but manages to regain control of the puck through a sea of sticks and legs. He then makes an equally-deft touch pass of his own back to Horvat, who has followed the play to the net.
And we have a goal. For a team that has struggled to generate consistent scoring chances in recent weeks, this is the exact type of play that can spark confidence. A depth line (at least on paper) creating offense against the grain – and against one of the league’s stingiest defensive clubs.
Malkin is (rightfully) feeling some shame after the brutal own-zone turnover.
Upon second glance, Lapierre’s pass to Malkin may have featured a rolling puck. It was also delivered in Malkin’s feet instead of outside of his body a bit. Still, it should have been a routine zone exit for one of the world’s best players.
A closer angle of Horvat’s strong move around Martin to create the two-on-one situation with Dorsett.
Kris Letang also wants to enter the debate for who ultimately was to blame on this goal. If you are watching this angle in real time, notice how Letang nonchalantly attempts to play the two-on-one instead of committing fully to either pass or shot. This was a complete defensive zone breakdown by all five Penguins.
Any time you have two opposing players in behind an entire team… bad things (or, in the case of Horvat and the Canucks, good things) are soon to follow.
And the fact that Horvat smacked the puck in out of mid-air makes this goal that much nicer.