Even before I sat down to begin chipping away at this list, a task that started with a few painless hours spent watching highlight reels YouTube and jotting quick notes about every brilliant goal that I came across, I already had an automatic top-10 contender in mind: Marian Hossa’s batted-out-of-mid-air goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit there’s some bias. Hossa was a personal favorite, the do-everything-right winger whose knack for incredible offensive displays was matched only by his remarkable two-way play. So, naturally, when thinking of the 10 best goals of the past decade, Hossa keeping his eye on – and ultimately catching – a deflected Patrick Sharp pass only to toss it towards the ice and smash it clean past Lightning netminder Antero Niittymaki was among the first to come to mind. Was it going to top this list? Definitely not. But it seemed to me it was the perfect candidate for middle-placement on the list. The catch and drop paired with incredible hand-eye coordination was truly special, and that he got so much on it added to my feeling it was sure to land on this list.
And then I checked the date. Hossa’s mid-air one-timer was scored on Dec. 13, 2009. It missed the past-decade cutoff by two and a half weeks.
That’s the bad news. The good news – aside from the fact that I’ve now found a way to shoehorn mention of Hossa’s goal into this list – is that with the way the NHL has been trending over the past decade, there’s no shortage of dazzling tallies over the past decade from which to choose. Players are getting faster, more skilled in their puckhandling and more brazen with what they’ll attempt. And that makes for plenty of fodder for this (subjective) list of the decade’s best goals.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best goals of the past 10 years:
10. Patrick Kane dizzies defenders before brilliant backhand – March 16, 2013
By no means is Kane the only player to score a spin-o-rama during the past decade, but there are a couple things about the goal that put it ahead of the rest. First, there’s the obvious nostalgic aspect and connection to Kane’s mentor and former Blackhawk Denis Savard, who was not the creator of the spin-o-rama but certainly helped popularize the dipsy-doodle. Second, check the distance Kane scores this goal from. Add to it that he picked the top corner and this is one magical tally.
9. Claude Giroux makes backhand magic as he hits the deck – Dec. 19, 2013
Giroux had no business finding the net on this one. Alas, in the dying minutes of a tied game against the Blue Jackets, with Columbus defenseman David Savard draped all over him, Giroux managed to corral the puck as it rebounded off the end boards, shift to his backhand and rifle a no-look backhander over Curtis McElhinney’s shoulder. The cherry on top here is that Giroux’s goal was the game winner. Excellent all around.
8. Vladimir Tarasenko slices and dices Rangers – Nov. 3, 2014
In putting together this list, I decided to limit the instances of each type of goal in order to promote variety. Otherwise, it could have been 10 between-the-legs goals or one-handed tallies. That said, it felt necessary to include a two one-handers. That’s because this goal by Tarasenko against the New York Rangers saw him skate through three of the four opposing players on the ice before tucking one around netminder Cam Talbot. When Tarasenko is on his game, he's nearly unstoppable.
7. Hail Mary to one-hander for the Senators – April 17, 2017
The relationship between Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson has taken a turn in recent years, but for one spectacular moments during the 2017 post-season, the two then-Senators made magic by teaming up for one of the finest goals of the decade. Karlsson, spotting Hoffman flying down ice, lifted a pinpoint-accurate saucer pass that soared across two entire zones and right onto Hoffman’s tape, and the Ottawa winger pulled off a spectacular one-handed goal at full flight. That it came in the post-season makes it that much sweeter.
6. Sidney Crosby showcases incredible hand-eye coordination – March 21, 2018
Spoiler alert: there is only one player who appears on this list twice. It’s Sidney Crosby. And that’s because it would be heresy to not include this display of two-touch hand-eye brilliance from the Penguins captain. After a pass by Jake Guentzel was deflected and ended up airborne, the puck ends up right in front of Crosby. He bunts it to himself before batting it by Carey Price. Madness.
5. Connor McDavid puts silky hands on display – Feb. 2, 2016
There have been few disappointments in recent seasons quite like Connor McDavid’s rookie-season injury. It robbed the NHL of what surely would have been a Calder campaign for the ages. And no single highlight made that as clear as McDavid’s display of offensive genius against the Blue Jackets, which just so happened to be his first game back in action after he had been sidelined for three months. By the time the next decade is through, chances are we’ll have enough highlight-reel material to publish a list of “Best McDavid Moments.”
4. Sonny Milano doesn’t crack under pressure – Oct. 16, 2019
There were several between-the-legs goals from which to choose, including Tomas Hertl’s tally against the New York Rangers and Aleksander Barkov’s memorable marker against the Montreal Canadiens. So, why does Milano get the nod? Two reasons. First, he embarrasses Roope Hintz by slipping the puck through his feet. Second, with Hintz and Esa Lindell all over him, Milano has the gall to go between the legs from the hash marks against the brick wall known as Ben Bishop. Also, if it was good enough to give John Tortorella a mid-game chuckle, you know it’s special.
3. Sidney Crosby dangles through the Oilers – Oct. 23, 2018
You knew this one would be on this list, right? It had to be. This is one of those quintessential Crosby highlights that reminds us all that, oh yeah, right, he’s the best player of his generation. That he did this with McDavid only a few feet away, too, adds to the excellence. When two of the game’s greatest players are on the ice, you expect to see something breathtaking. In this instance, it was Crosby who delivered.
2. Andrei Svechnikov does it again – Dec. 17, 2019
When Svechnikov scored using the lacrosse move in late October, he became the first NHLer to successfully score in that style. So, if it worked once, why not try it again? And try it again he did. What puts his lacrosse-move marker against the Winnipeg Jets ahead of the one against the Calgary Flames is that Svechnikov didn’t hesitate for a second. This is all one fluid motion. Plus, it’s one thing to do it once. It’s another to repeat the feat.
1. Pavel Datsyuk sneaks by onetwothree four Predators – Feb. 19, 2013
There’s a moment when Datsyuk is winding his way into the Nashville zone that it looks as though he’s run out of real estate. He’s skating headlong into three Predators defenders, and not long after he makes the decision to do so, all three players reach in to try to knock the puck off of Datsyuk’s stick. But this is Pavel Datsyuk we’re talking about, and, wizard that he is, he splits the defenders and gets body position to fire a shot on goal. Does the shot bulge twine? Reader, it does not. But it trickles in and Datsyuk’s exuberant celebration tells you all you need to know. He truly is the ‘Magic Man’.
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