Last night, the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers battled it out in an entertaining matchup that came down to a shootout. The Panthers, up 1-0 in the shootout, needed a second to put the game away and secure their 2 points. 21-year old Aleksander Barkov, one of the more underrated top-line centers in the league, put the puck on a rope and pulled off an unbelievable move to fool Henrik Lundqvist and win the game for the South Florida Kitties.
Check out the move below:
Unreal, right? There was so much in that move from beginning to end. The final fake, dangle, and one-handed push of the puck over the goal line is a patented Peter Forsberg move, one he used to gives the Swedes a 1994 Olympic gold metal against Canada. We’ll get more into that momentarily, but let’s break this goal down move by move.
Lefty Going Right
You’ll notice that Barkov is a natural lefty. He carries the puck in on his left side. Because of that, his strong side is going to be the left. It’s more comfortable for him to carry the puck in more toward the left side of the ice. When a natural lefty plays on the right side, the right wing position for example, it's known as playing the off-wing.
Playing the off-wing is essentially what Barkov does. As you see in this shootout move, he moves in more toward the right circle of the offensive zone as he carries the puck in. It adds a level of unpredictability to his next move. You might assume he’d carry in from the left and maybe deke left and cross the puck over to the right, or fake right to try and expose the left side of the goal, and then shoot from the left.
More often than not, less adept shootout artists will pull a move like that and goaltenders aren’t often fooled. Barkov takes this predictability right out of play from the beginning. Smart.
Off the Skate
As Barkov comes in on the right, he first does a slight fake shot. And I mean slight, you really have to look to see a bit of a shoulder move as he brings his stick back. Instead of the shot, he bounces the puck off of the outside of his left skate.
Now, skilled shootout men can do some nifty things with the puck while not breaking stride on the way to the net. One of these moves is bouncing the puck off their skate, providing a little flash for the audience while also giving the puck a lesser seen movement that the goaltender has to now focus on.
A lot of times, you’ll see a player bounce the puck off the outside of his skate and, as the puck moves back toward his stick, he’ll take a one-timed wrist shot, hoping to catch a starry-eyed goaltender off his line.
What Barkov does is much more difficult, and even flashier than a normal off-the-skate deke.
As I said above, often the bounce of the puck off the skate will lead to a one-timed shot. What Barkov does here is very clever. As he bounces the puck off of his skate, the puck heads back toward his stick. Instead of taking a wrist shot or even faking a wrist shot, he winds up and feigns a hard slap shot, basically taking a half swing with his stick well above the puck.
When you slow it down, you can see that his stick not really anywhere near the puck during this fake shot. However, because of the quickness of the move and how close Barkov is to the goal at this point, even the best goaltenders would expect a shot here.
But it doesn’t come. And what comes next is a move trademarked by a legend.
Now we’ve reached the part of the goal that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.
After the fake shot, Barkov lands his stick right behind the puck, taking control once again. A great series of short dekes puts the puck back on his left side. Being literally inches from the crease, a shot from the left must be coming. Or so Henrik Lundqvist thinks. He slides to his right, Barkov’s left, and lunges his stick forward, hoping to poke away the puck and end the centerman’s chance at a game-winner.
Barkov’s amazing stick-handling skills prevent this from happening, as he moves into the goal-scoring move made famous by Sweden’s Patrick Forsberg. Check out his gold-metal winning shootout goal in the 1994 Olympics below. It’s a four-minute video but don’t worry, his goal happens in the first 45 seconds.
You see how Forsberg comes in from the right, even as a lefty? Look familiar?
So eventually, Barkov slides the puck back to his right, and with only his right hand, his weak hand, on his stick, he pushes the puck past Lundqvist and, after what Panthers fans must have thought was an eternity, over the goal line.
If you look closely, Barkov actually doesn’t get a clean stick on the puck during this final push. It looks like he misses the puck, but the momentum and trajectory carries it over nevertheless. I expect he wanted a little cleaner hit there at the end so that the puck doesn’t just crawl over the line, but, hey, maybe that was all part of his plan.
Whatever the case, this was an unbelievably intricate and difficult shootout goal. Probably a contender for shootout goal of the year.