Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Highlights Of The Year... So Far

I was all set to post these highlights tonight when there were two late additions of absolute robbery in the Dallas-Phoenix game. Honestly, Dallas and Pittsburgh might be the two teams that have hit the highlight reel the most after some of their spectacular plays this season. I expected more from some other teams, but Dallas' top line has literally put on a show for the fans thus far. And there are still games to be played! I'm actually glad I didn't post this last week because here are HBIC's chosen Plays of the Year... thus far.

We'll start in November when the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins met in a game that appeared to be a mismatch when looking at the two teams. Colorado is a young team battling their way through the competitive Western Conference while the Penguins are a team full of stars that is a perennial Stanley Cup favorite. But Matt Duchene decided he wanted to show off his immense skill early in the game.

What great hands! Brooks Orpik had no chance on that move. With that highlight already making sports highlight show anchors drool across the continent, Evgnei Malkin was planning a little razzle-dazzle of his own.
That was as good a move around two players as I've ever seen. Malkin is so big and strong it evoked memories of Lemieux with his soft hands and immense wingspan. As Darren Pang would say, "Holy jumpin'!"

So we started off with two highlights from the same game, and we'll jump ahead to January. There have been lots of highlights from Mike Ribeiro in the. Given time and space, he normally pulls off an outstanding goal. We look at January 4 where Mike Ribeiro danced around the Predators for a fantastic goal.
Roman Josi is still looking for Ribeiro. Ribeiro slipped right past Josi like he wasn't even there before victimizing Pekka Rinne for a beauty highlight.

The very next night had a highlight from a guy who started this season in the NHL, but ended up playing for his country at the World Junior Championships. Ottawa Senators' prospect Mika Zibanejad ended a 31-year gold medal drought for Sweden when he exploded down the wing and beat Russian Andrei Makarov in overtime.
That, kids, is why speed kills in hockey. Zibanejad with the golden goal as Sweden rules the World Junior Championship for at least one year.

I may have missed this one, but I'm adding it to the contenders today. March 4 saw the Dallas Stars visit the Calgary Flames, and the top line for the Stars orgnaization was at it again. This time Loui Eriksson showed off some skill and creativity as he makes Alex Tanguay look like a pylon before beating Miikka Kiprusoff with a backhander.
It wasn't as fancy as Malkin's goal or Ribeiro's goal, but the fact that Tanguay got beaten clean like he wasn't even there is why this goal is an impressive highlight. Rarely do established NHL stars allow opponents to dance around them like Tanguay did.

The very next night (yes, it happened that way) saw another highlight reel goal scored, but this goal was notched by a guy who is rarely known for his scoring touch. Chris Thorburn, plugger for the Winnipeg Jets, shows that speed and hands are an explosive combination against the Sabres' Robyn Regehr and Ryan Miller.

While Thorburn admitted that he didn't actually get the toe-drag in, the fact that he turned on the afterburners past Regehr, picked up his own rebound, and then tucked in a backhand at top speed is a great move for a guy who is often sent onto the ice to stop goals such as these.

We make a stop in Buffalo as the Sabres were hosting the Canadiens on March 12. The Canadiens have had a disappointing season without doubt, but getting defenceman Andrei Markov back was supposed to be a big help as they closed out the season. Buffalo's Tyler Ennis didn't think so as he made the normally-reliable Markov disappear with a move before beating Peter Budaj.
Tyler Ennis is highly underrated in my view, and his hands on this play show why the Sabres have faith in him as a scoring threat. While he's still coming into his own, Ennis has all the makings of a superstar.

From great goals, we jump to the other side of the coin now and allow the masked men to take over. While there are a number of great saves that are made every night by goaltenders across the world, the ones that literally take sure goals away are those that I rank higher than all others.

The first highlight to roll out is from February 21 when the Flyers were visiting the Winnipeg Jets. The Flyers are a very good offensive team, and they certainly can hold their own in the offensive zone with any team in the league. When they get a team running around, as the Jets were, goals are usually the result. Jakub Voracek thought he had a gift... until Ondrej Pavelec stole the open net away from Voracek.
That's an outstanding effort in not giving up on the puck or the play. Pavelec has been the difference on many nights for the Jets this season, and he's certainly due for a pay increase when his contract is up.

We move to tonight's highlights that came from the same game as the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars squared off in a crucial Pacific Division and Western Conference match-up. I have to say that I've seen goaltenders get caught going the wrong way, but Mike Smith made an impressive save off Loui Eriksson to steal a goal away from the Stars.
Smith's outstanding save was going to be the end of this highlight package, but I didn't want to post this as I was watching the end of this very game. And wouldn't you know it, but the game went into overtime where Stars' goaltender Kari Lehtonen also showed off some incredible larceny.
Stack the pads! Lehtonen takes a game-winner away from Oliver Ekman-Larsson like it was no big deal! That is an outstanding save as well, and Lehtonen has really been impressive with Dallas this season.

So there are HBIC's choices for top goals and saves thus far. We still have a few weeks to play, meaning we could see more goals and saves added to this list. Which are favorites? Have I missed any that should be on there? Your comments will be read and considered!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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