Let’s celebrate our favourite newlywed: Jake Gardiner

It’s the middle of July and I think it’s safe to say the hockey community as a whole is going through it’s annual NHL hockey withdrawals.

In order to counteract my symptoms I occasionally go back and dig up some of my favourite clips from the 2016/17 season and re-post them on twitter. The threads usually contain my favourite clips of individual players and today I chose Jake Gardiner because he is a wonderful creature and he does good things very often. Also, he got married last weekend. I thought I’d share some of my favourites from today’s thread with TLN’s loyal readers for those of you who don’t have twitter or, probably more likely, have it but don’t follow me (for good reason.)

Catch, toss between the legs, exit pass during game three vs. the Capitals

I’m probably going to say this after every clip, but this is one of my all-time favourite clips of Gardiner. Kevin Shattenkirk crosses the red line and attempts to chip the puck between Gardiner and Auston Matthews to a streaking Justin Williams. If this pass gets through, Williams is in alone on Frederik Andersen with the chance to make it a 3-0 game for Washington. The puck is about thigh height when it gets to Gardiner and he proceeds to catch the puck, throw it backward between his legs as he spins and controls it on the other side. This is all at top speed while under pressure and he then casually hits a curling William Nylander on the tape with a little saucer pass to exit the zone and the Leafs are headed the other way. I’ve watched this clip on loop a couple of times and when I saw it live I actually laughed out loud at how easy he made it look. Who even thinks of this play in any scenario? Let alone in a playoff game down 2-0 early in the first period against the President’s Trophy winners. 14/10 on a scale of “slick” to “what did I ever do for my eyeballs to deserve something this aesthetically pleasing?”

Using his skating ability to create a chance game one vs. the Capitals

This one begins with a pass from Mitch Marner to Gardiner just inside the offensive blue line during game one of the Leafs/Caps playoff series. Gardiner is charging in from the point when he receives the pass while pivoting backward. He then quickly pivots back to skating forward as Williams goes for the puck and he leaves him in the dust. Gardiner does this all the time, and by “this” I mean evading pressuring using pivots at full speed, but more often you see him evading forecheckers in this manner. He then goes on to fake as if he is going to cut into the slot, but he takes the puck around the net without slowing down and when he comes out the other side he finds Matt Hunwick alone at the point for a shot. This is a very pretty display of Gardiner’s high end talent.

Neutral zone play vs. the Kings

This whole play is just extremely satisfying, but I actually struggle to comprehend how Gardiner pulled off whatever it was he did there. Gardiner is chasing the puck through the neutral zone back toward his own end and Tanner Pearson appears to have cut him off right before he gets to the puck. Somehow, he drags the puck past Pearson and into his own feet while doing a single axel, successfully evading the hit and buying himself space in the middle of the ice. He gives it to Nylander who is open in the middle of the ice for an easy zone entry and Matthews nearly scores after dancing around the defender. Let’s break this one down frame by frame.

Screenshot #1:

It looks like Pearson is going to get the puck, but without much room to do anything with it due to being surrounded by three Leafs.

Screenshot #2:

Wait, what? Gardiner has pulled some sort of sorcery and somehow ended up with the puck on his stick, but he is hitting the brakes and he has Pearson right on him as well as another King coming from the other direction. Now what?

Screenshot #3:

Oh, okay. He’s somehow on the other side of Pearson after doing his best Elvis Stojko impression and he still has the puck on his stick with Nylander and Zaitsev as wide open passing options with space.

Screenshot #4:

Gardiner has now hit Nylander with a pass in full stride with room to skate which nearly results in a Leafs goal.

Once again I’m left laughing and thinking 1. “I love this man” and 2. “who the hell does that?”

The answer, of course, is always Jake Gardiner. Jake Gardiner does that.

Bye bye Brad Marchand

Remember when I mentioned Gardiner’s ability to evade forecheckers with his footwork? This is the kind of thing I was referencing. He goes back to retrieve the puck at his own blue line on a powerplay and Bruins star forward/rodent is going full out trying to pressure Gardiner to make a mistake. Gardiner opens his feet up, giving the impression that he’s going to pivot toward the boards on his forehand. Instead, he quickly pivots toward the middle of the ice when Marchand commits to the board side and he takes off through the neutral zone and into the Bruins’ zone. He proceeds to make a backhand pass through the slot to Nazem Kadri who is cruising by and makes a beautiful bump pass back to an open Matthews who gets a shot on goal. Also, Marchand should be barred from the NHL for repeatedly slashing my son Jake like that. Appalling behaviour.

Goal vs. the Hurricanes

That is a world class head fake, folks. I really like how the high forward goes from in position to block the shot to skating toward the boards and Gardiner fires the long wrister on net as soon as the forward bites on the fake. This should never go in the net, but I just love the fake.

No look backhand exit pass

Here Gardiner is allowed to cross the ice and support his defence partner (Conner Carrick) because Zach Smith (the forward he is shadowing) goes over toward the puck carrier and Carrick. Carrick knocks the puck off of Turris’ stick, right to Gardiner, who makes a casual looking no look backhand pass up the middle right on Nylander’s tape who is curling with speed. Unfortunately, Nylander immediately flips it to Zach Hyman who is in very close proximity to Erik Karlsson. Hyman, likely already panicking about how bad Karlsson is about to make him look, takes the option on accepting the pass, effectively skipping the middle man and just letting Karlsson have it. I’m sure Mike Babcock nearly had a stroke watching Gardiner make that pass, but it was perfect.

Between the legs pass from the boards vs. the Islanders

This is peak Gardiner. The puck is against the boards at the hashmarks and Gardiner is first to it with Islanders forward/noted old guy Jason Chimera right on his tail. Without so much as gaining control of the puck, Gardiner backhands it between his feet to Carrick who has a tonne of space in front of his own net, leading to an easy zone exit. Again, I’m sure every coach witnessing it vomited in his mouth, but that’s just part of the fun.

Solo zone exit vs. the Flyers

Again we see Gardiner leaving the forechecker in the dust, although this time it’s not using his usual pivots. This team he uses the back of the net to cut the forechecker off who had the inside track on him. He swings around the other side of the net and starts up the ice, sucking in another forechecker, leaving Matthews open in the middle. Gardiner flips it to Matthews and the Leafs are headed the other way.

Setting up a high danger chance vs. the Flyers

This is another one I could watch on a 24 hour loop. Gardiner receives the puck at the offensive blue line and immediately starts skating backward across the blue line with speed, looking for a shooting lane. He fakes a slapshot which gets the forward down on one knee and he starts to curl down deeper into the zone while still skating backward. He then makes a spin move and now has more space and speed skating forward into the corner. Flyers’ defender Radko Gudas leaves his man, Komarov, open in the slot to help Matt Read chase Gardiner behind the net for some reason and Gardiner recognizes this. He hits Komarov with a pass right in the slot, but he is stopped. Gardiner isn’t done there though, as the puck comes back to him as he is retreating to the blue line. He controls it and hits Kadri with another pass into the slot, but he is also stopped. I love this clip as if it’s my pet.

Solo zone exit, zone entry, shot on goal

Thomas Vanek never stood a chance. Gardiner picks up the puck behind his own net and just turns on the jets, just wheeling all the way up the ice and taking a slap shot on net from the middle of the ice. This is just pure speed which exposes the very passive defence by the Red Wings.

Taking over the game vs. the Rangers

Here Gardiner just decides that he’s going to do everything. He begins it by evading a forechecker and leaving him in the dust, shocker, and then proceeds to be the lead forechecker, resulting in Nylander gaining possession of the puck. Nylander promptly gives it back to Gardiner who makes a ridiculous pass backward between his feet along the blue line to Hunwick who now has a clear lane for a shot on goal.

Toying with the Buffalo Sabres

This is another play where he made the opposition look so bad that I laughed out loud. He starts pulling the puck along the blue line while skating backward and Sam Reinhart is right on him. He first drags it around Reinhart while pivoting to forward skating. Marcus Foligno now makes the mistake of thinking he can cut Gardiner off and take the puck. He can’t. Gardiner chips it by Foligno to the boards and jumps around him on the other side. He scoops the puck back up and curls back toward the blue line where there is space to make a play and he sends it across to Carrick with space on the far side, but Carrick’s pass to Matthews in the slot fails.

If, like myself, you can’t get enough Jake Gardiner clips, here is a streamable I put together in January. I can’t wait until October to have this beautiful being grace my eyeballs again.

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