Tuesday, June 27, 2017

All Rounds Done, Part Three

The NHL playoffs ended more than two weeks ago, so I really should stop writing about them, but first I feel like listing what I consider to be the best goals scored during them.

So, below are my picks for the Top 15, in no particular order, along with links for watching them.

You might ask: Why 15 instead of some other number? Well, I have to admit that 15 is a bit random. On the one hand, limiting the list to 5 or 10 would, in my rarely humble opinion, cause too many fine goals to go unrecognized. But on the other hand, extending the list to 25 would seem too long, even though it too would still result in fine goals being controversially excluded. And so I have decided on 15.

Since there were probably about 30 goals scored this post-season that deserve being included on a top 15 list, but, obviously, there only 15 spots to give out, I have proudly engaged in some affirmative action -- which is to say that I have made a point to include goals that represent certain categories, such as redirects, one-timers, etc.

But dammit I'm rambling and need to stop, so here are the 15. And fyi, although most of the links go directly to video, some go to articles that include embedded video of the particular goal, which means you'll need to scroll down after you open the link...

In Game Three of Round Two, Connor McDavid's pivot and pot saw him undress Sami Vatanen then rifle a top-shelf shot past John Gibson -- a shot that flew so rapidly Gibson still hasn't seen it.

At full speed this goal by Auston Matthews looks good, not spectacular... but then you watch in slow motion and realize it was a virtuoso performance, with him stopping the hotly bouncing puck and snapping it over Braden Holtby's arm and under the crossbar on one of the tightest angles imaginable, all in a split second.

We always marvel at quick-release shots, the kind that leave a stick so fast they're behind the goalie before he has a chance to react. On May 1st Evgeny Kuznetsov showed why we should also marvel at the opposite kind of goal, the kind created by patience: Collecting a pass down low from Marcus Johansson, he shifted the puck about on his stick blade while calmly waiting for Marc-Andre Fleury to be so committed to the bottom half of the cage that he couldn't guard the top half -- and once Fleury was so committed, Kuznetsov coolly deposited the puck over him and he never stood a chance.

Fleury was also victimized by patience on this beauty by Andre Burakovsky, who stole the puck near his own blueline and then charged through the neutral zone into the offensive end... then eluded Chad Ruhwedel... then held his fire just long enough to freeze Fleury before burying a shot high glove side.

Corey Perry's double overtime winner versus Edmonton featured classic dipsy doodle stickwork through the slot capped off with, yes, just the right amount of patience (fyi, the slow motion reply starts at the 1:08 mark).

It's rare to see someone snipe the far top corner as good as Jakob Silfverberg did to open the scoring in the Western Conference Final.

It's equally rare (if not rarer) to see someone thread the needle as good as Hampus Lindholm did on this zipping wrister later in that same game to force OT.

Though they don't display mind-bending creativity, there is always something awe-inspiring about one-timer rockets that, like I mentioned above, a goalie has no chance to react to. There were several worthy candidates from that category this year, but due to their "no mind-bending creativity" nature I opted to include only one on this list. The one I chose is this blast by Vladimir Tarasenko, because it happened late in the third period against Nashville and won the game. Please notice how he played the puck without a hiccup after it deflected off a teammate's skate (fyi, the highlight is in the second video in the article to which I linked.)

Bobby Ryan's overtime breakaway blast to win Game One of the Eastern Conference Final featured the precise set of skill and specificity that makes hockey fun.

Colton Sissons's conference-winning bagger in Game Six against Anaheim was an almost perfect example of a teamwork goal. After bringing the pick into the offensive zone, Sissons was knocked off of it and back towards the middle -- but with teammate Calle Jarnkrok jumping up to take possession of the suddenly loose puck, he sidled over to the low part of the left circle, where Jarnkrok saw him and fed him with a perfect cross-ice pass that he banged home for what proved to be the winner.

Nashville delivered another almost perfect example of a teamwork goal on this one in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final, when an upending Mike Fisher managed to scoop the puck forward to Viktor Arvidsson, who in turn snapped it past Matt Murray with a wicked wrister.

Pontus Aberg's quick-but-patient, crease-crossing lamp-lighter to open the scoring in Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final was masterful.

Backhanders off the high, inside, far edge of the post don't come any better than this one by Bryan Rust.

And wraparounds don't come any better than this one by Frderick Gaudreau.

Redirect goals don't get the respect they deserve. It takes incredible awareness, quickness, and skill to tap a fast-moving puck as it rifles by you, changing its trajectory so suddenly that a goalie has no chance to do anything about it. Check out Evgeni Malkin's shifty one against Ottawa that tied up Game One of the ECF.

And finally, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin showed how to make an opponent pay for "playing prevent," as the former slipped a pass back to the latter and the latter netted it up into the far corner.

Gotta love this game!

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