With the halfway mark of the 2014-15 NHL season behind us, it’s time to reflect on the best moments of the first 41 games. While there are plenty of bone-crushing hits, scintillating saves, and filthy goals to peruse in the first half of the campaign, this list will focus on plays that ended with the goal light providing goaltenders a healthy neck tan.
It’s been an eventful season thus far as there seems to be jaw dropping plays hitting the highlight reels on a weekly basis. Many goals were regrettably left out of this list to accentuate the cream of the crop. It was a tough task, one that left this writer to debate internally what goals should make the list for an exorbitant amount of time. But here we are, and I hope I’ve done these plays justice through the rankings and commentary.
This is why we watch the game, for those moments that epitomize the elite talent and vision contesting in the top hockey league in the world. It lifts us from the couch cushion and commands us to shout in approval, reveling in the display of skill and elation. It happens year after year, but the excitement never dissipates. Each goal is unique from the others, carving its own mix of creativity and skill into the highlight reels.
So without further ado, sit back, lift your feet up, maybe crack open your favourite beverage, and enjoy this list of the 10 best goals of the 2014-15 NHL season.
10. Brooks Laich roofs one on Ryan Miller
What a way to end a 10-game scoreless streak. Brooks Laich emphatically ended his drought by perfectly absorbing a pass from Eric Fehr, who played a pivotal role in the play by driving through the slot before finding the open man. Laich didn’t hesitate as he smoothly directed the puck between his own legs right to the blade of his stick. With a split second to react as Ryan Miller looked on between the pipes, Laich flipped the puck over the goaltender’s glove hand to beat him “roof daddy.” Who needs Alexander Ovechkin when you have goal scoring machine Laich on the roster?
9. Nino Niederreiter powers around Ondrej Pavelec
Ondrej Pavelec tried his best to stop the puck, but Nino Niederreiter wasn’t having it. After receiving a pass in the high slot, Niederreiter fooled defenseman Jacob Trouba with a backhand-to-forehand deke before skating around a sprawled Pavelec, who tripped him in the process. But stumbling down didn’t deter Niederreiter, who backhanded the puck across the goal line while hanging in mid-air. It was a prototypical power forward play, accentuated by a skilled finish to beat the goaltender. Niederreiter is on pace to double his career goal output with the Minnesota Wild this season, so it’s fair he’s enjoying life post-New York Islanders.
8. Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec’s passing play
While the majority of the goals on this list are individual efforts, this play between Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec epitomized chemistry and elite skill. Oh yeah, and minor detail here, it was a shorthanded goal. Plekanec got it going with a chip around a pinching New York Rangers defenseman before streaking up the ice. He then fed Pacioretty a pass, who returned the puck as Plekanec crossed the blue line. Instead of firing a shot at goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Plekanec used Pacioretty as a springboard to receive the puck once more, beating the helpless Swede. It was a thing of beauty.
7. Vladimir Tarasenko dismantles the New Jersey Devils
While hardly his most impressive goal of the season—and we’re only at the halfway point— Vladimir Tarasenko dazzled with another highlight reel play. After being denied by a goal the post, Tarasenko circled back, collected the puck, and unleashed a flurry of dangles that left the New Jersey Devils flat-footed. He maneuvered between two players while simultaneously fooling a defenseman into move in the wrong direction, opening up a lane for him to skate in and fire the puck past a sprawled Cory Schneider. If adds another highlight reel goal or two to his resume, the nickname “Terrorsenko” will be well-deserved.
6. Gustav Nyquist skates circles around the Ottawa Senators
Gustav Nyquist embarrassed nearly every Ottawa Senators player on the ice. He displayed incredible patience as he circled around the opposition in the offensive zone, eluding takeaway attempts as he bided his time for a high percentage play. Well, his patience paid off as he shook defenseman Jared Cowen with a deke before firing a shot past a screened Craig Anderson. While it may not be deemed goal of the year, it was an incredible display of puck-possession and vision—and unflattering defensive play by the Senators. That he lit the lamp in overtime only makes the goal more impressive.
5. P.K. Subban patiently lights the lamp
It may have been an awful display of defensive play by the Colorado Avalanche, but give P.K. Subban full marks for taking advantage and topping it off with a dirty goal. The magic started with Subban picking up a loose puck in the offensive zone and coolly skating behind the net, causing defenseman Tyson Barrie to lose his footing and slide toward the end boards. Rather than going for a wraparound, Subban skated a respectable distance from goaltender Calvin Pickard before bringing the puck to his forehand. This brought Subban into a face-to-face battle with Pickard, who he beat with a pump fake deke before sliding the puck around his left pad.
4. Bobby Ryan dangles through the Los Angeles Kings
Bobby Ryan still inhabits Brayden McNabb’s night terrors. After receiving a stretch pass from defenseman Eric Gryba, Ryan entered the offensive zone with McNabb in his crosshairs. Unfortunately for the defenseman, Ryan toe-dragged his way around before finding himself in front of goaltender Jonathan Quick as the last line of defense. He then deked Quick with a backhand-to-forehand-to-backhand move, depositing the puck into the yawning cage. It was an incredible display of skill and patience to dance through the Los Angeles Kings and leave his mark on the game. Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come for the talented sniper.
3. Seth Griffith’s between the legs goal
Who? Seth Griffith had been an under the radar player, drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, who put up solid numbers in Junior and at the pro level in the AHL, scoring 50 points in 69 games for the Providence Bruins. He established the nameplate on his jersey when he scored a jaw-dropping goal against the New Jersey Devils this season. The 22-year-old blocked a shot in the defensive end before utilizing his speed to collect the puck in the neutral zone and blast through two Devils players who struggled to contain his speed and strength. As he approached goaltender Cory Schneider, he turned his back and swatted the puck between his legs without looking to light the lamp.
2. Tyler Ennis’ falling backhand goal
Carey Price is an elite goaltender, but there was no stopping this one. Tyler Ennis received a pass in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the offensive zone, streaking down the right wing. He shrewdly took advantage of Alexei Emelin’s lack of mobility, skating around the defender and launching himself in the air over a jumble of sticks. As he landed awkwardly, he scooped up the puck with his backhand and unloaded a no-look shot past Price, who looked on in disbelief. This one is a contender for goal of the year for the superhuman display of athleticism and skill.
1. Vladimir Tarasenko dances through the New York Rangers
Cam Talbot never had a chance. Vladimir Tarasenko was a man on a mission as he danced through the New York Rangers as if they were literal pylons. It started with a zone entry after dangling past a flailing Rangers defenseman before cutting through Dylan McIIrath and Rick Nash. That left him one-on-one with his next victim, Talbot, who had his jock straps cannoned into the MSG rafters as Tarasenko channeled his inner Peter Forsberg and beat him with a one-handed tuck around the helpless goaltender. It’s fair to assume Talbot and a few Rangers players are still visiting the team psychologist.