It is undeniable that it is tougher to score a goal in today's NHL than it ever has been. Goalies are bigger and better as are defensemen. Space is limited and pucks just don't find the net as often as they used to. So players have to get creative if they are going to light the lamp. This is an awesome byproduct of bigger goalies if you ask me.
It seems like every week there is another jaw-dropping display that results in a goal, almost too many to count. Almost. There can only be 10 top goals of 2013 in hockey and there is no shortage of choices.
There are a couple of considerations that must be taken into account when you're talking about the goals of the year in the NHL. Sometimes it's about the moves made before the goal, sometimes it's purely the finish. Then in rare cases, you'll get the moves, the finish and the goal coming at the right time, the top goal trifecta of sorts.
But the real criterion for a goal of the year candidate? It's simple: You'll know it when you see it. So without further ado, here's our list of the best goals of the year. (Note: this is just the NHL.)
10. Crosby dices Isles
A couple of weeks ago the Penguins were at the Islanders, a team that has for some reason given them fits in recent years. Down a pair of goals, the Penguins were able to come back and force the game into overtime.
That fact only makes what Sidney Crosby a little more impressive. Yes, there was one less skater out there for the Islanders but scoring a game-winning goal in overtime like this is just that much sweeter. From the hard backcheck to the weaving through the Islanders defense and the deft finish, it was a thing of beauty.
9. Benn's best
Even though the Wings seemed to be doing their best pylon impressions, Benn's ability to waltz right through the defense is impressive. Then, as he's falling down, he's able to get just enough on the shot attempt to score. It should have been saved in all likelihood but let's be glad it wasn't because a play like that deserved to be lauded.
Basically, if Darryl Reaugh describes the goal as "serpentine" and "labyrinthian," you know it was special.
8. Malkin does his Mario
Watch old clips from the Penguins (or just remember them) and you'll see Mario Lemieux skate his way through and past opposing defenders all the time with apparent ease before a finish for one of his many goals. There are reasons why his nickname was Super.
Part of the new age of Penguins stars, Evgeni Malkin did a little to remind us all of Mario's greatness on the ice with a fantastic score against the Lightning last season. The awareness that Malkin showed on the play to realize the backchecking opponent was closing in was remarkable, allowing Malkin to make a cut back across the grain at just the right time to split the defense. From there poor Anders Lindback didn't stand much of a chance.
7. Shawn Matthias' shorty
Children are taught all the time that if you work hard you will be rewarded. Shawn Matthias put this lesson on display last season in a game in Boston.
The Panthers' grinder was on the ice doing what he often does, kill penalties. At that point the puck was free headed toward the Bruins net and Matthias simply outworked Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton for the puck, diving to knock the puck loose. Impressively, from there he hopped right back up and beat Tuukka Rask from in short range with a nice move to the backhand. The 2013 season was a career-best one for Matthias even if it was short. This is a perfect reason why.
6. Kane goes for a spin
The 2013 season began with the Blackhawks on an untouchable tear. They won 21 of their first 24 games and recorded a point in the three games the lost. Chicago was playing out of this world as the Stars found out.
With the game well in hand in the third period with the Blackhawks up 7-1, Patrick Kane gave the fans that remained in the building a special treat for staying. Moving up the right wing, Kane executed a perfect Savardian spin-o-rama but it didn't end there. Coming right out of the spin, Kane flung the puck on net with a wicked backhander and the next thing you knew it was 8-1.
Amazingly, it was almost just another day at work for Kane the way he reacted after the goal. Yes, the score was well out of hand so the celebration is going to be muted but Kane just pulled off a great move, something he's capable of doing at any time, and he barely cracked a smile. Kane took great strides in 2013 to become an even better player.
5. Perry down on bended knee
The poor Islanders are making this list for all the wrong reasons. A few weeks ago it was Corey Perry's turn to dance right their defensive zone.
But it's not like Perry made it through the zone unmolested. While trying to cut into the high slot, Perry was clipped by an Islander, causing him to fall onto his belly while on the way to a prime scoring chance. Not to be deterred, Perry managed to keep possession of the puck then from his knees had the ability to not only get a shot on net but get it elevated. From there he had a bit of fortune as the puck squeezed through the defenders and into the net to beat the second period buzzer.
4. Fehr's fairly good winner
Pretty much all of the ingredients are here for Washington's Eric Fehr: The Capitals came storming back to force overtime, Fehr was able to squeak through the defense as if he were squirming through a vice and then was able to finish over the glove of Tuukka Rask and to the far post from his knees to win the game. All that was missing was Fehr juggling chainsaws.
Fehr isn't a guy who scores a ton of goals for Washington, that role is reserved, but there few goals in 2013 had as much skill on display as Fehr's game-winner.
3. Giroux's gifted backhand
Speaking of wicked backhanders, oh my wow, Claude Giroux. This one is just unbelievable.
Earlier this month the Flyers found themselves in a hole at home to the Blue Jackets. Down a couple of goals with not a lot of time left, the Flyers took off and pulled even with Columbus in the game. With less than two minutes to go and the game still tied, Giroux pulled this rabbit out of his hat.
A Flyers shot from the point took what looked like a pretty harmless rebound out toward the boards, well below the faceoff dot. Making it seem even more harmless was the fact that Giroux was marked on the far side, marked enough to be checked to the ground. No biggie, Giroux just flips a backhand shot on net while falling to the ice. Oh, and it's top shelf over Curtis McElhinney's glove. Simply amazing, an incredible way to cap off a comeback.
2. Dat man
Pavel Datsyuk is pretty good at this hockey thing. OK, really good. You might be able to make a top 10 of Datsyuk's career that would rival any individual year's top 10 but near the top of both lists would be this gem from Datsyuk in February.
With the Red Wings in Nashville and down a goal with less than seven minutes to play, Datsyuk was being his usual responsible self in the defensive zone. He picked up the loose puck by the boards near the faceoff circle and then went the length of the rink, fighting through every Predator along the way and finished with a crazy goal.
Basically, if your goal was good enough to be immortalized in NHL 94 form, it was pretty special. It deserved to be equated to a video game.
1. Hertl's goal heard 'round the sports world
The Sharks were making minced meat of the Rangers in the opening week of this season in San Jose. The game was a blowout and already rookie Tomas Hertl had three goals in the game, just the third of his NHL career. It was the fourth that took a great story and made it amazing.
After a terrific pass through the neutral zone landed right on Hertl's streaking stick, he found himself all alone behind the defense at full speed. All that stood between him and a fourth score was goalie Martin Biron. Going across the goal, Hertl was running out of room to beat Biron so he did what he could to switch the angle and dropped the puck between his legs then flicked it up against the grain and to the top of the net. Incredible.
The goal ended up being almost transcendent. Not only did it give Hertl a signature moment for his Calder Trophy case (which is in danger now after his recent knee surgery), but it made headlines all across the sports spectrum for mostly all the right reasons. There was some blowback toward the goal with some charges of showboating but almost everybody was simply left to marvel at the incredible level of skill Hertl displayed.