The issue I will talk about today is caused when a node is missing, due to a post-optimization rewrite. I myself have so far only seen this in execution plans where a bitmap filter (created by a Bitmap operator, by a Batch Hash Table Build operator, or by a Hash Match operator with a BitmapCreator property) was pushed into an Index Scan, Clustered Index Scan, or Columnstore Index Scan operator. So that’s what I’ll focus on here. But do keep in mind that there may be other situations where a post-optimization rewrite removes a node.
To understand the root cause of this (and, credit where credit is due, I only understood this myself after getting it explained by Paul White, whose explanation I am now paraphrasing here), we need to dig deeper into the internals of the optimizer.
This is where you put on the internals mining cap and watch out for falling rocks.