With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. We’ve been counting down the top 20 games of the season and will recap multiple other categories over the coming weeks. Today we look back on the best goals of the season.
#5 (tie) – Oshie Dangles Through Bruins Defense – December 11, 2019
Our countdown starts with a tie for the fifth spot between T.J. Oshie’s marvelous dance through the Bruins in December and Tom Wilson’s wicked backhand sauce across the crease to cap off Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick against the Devils in January.
Let’s start with Oshie’s goal, which highlights his ability to make defenders look silly.
It started with a great breakout by the Caps leading to a risky pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov through three defenders right to the tape of Oshie. Most players don’t think to make that pass, but not only does Kuzy think it, he executes it to perfection.
Take an extra moment to appreciate how Oshie uses the pass and his body to lead the puck away from Charlie McAvoy and essentially render him useless. Oshie then guides the puck to his right, turning Connor Clifton inside out. Despite just a foot or so of space, Oshie sees the pocket between the two defenders and pushes the puck past the out-of-position Clifton to set up a 1-on-1 with Jaroslav Halak.
Feeling the pressure from McAvoy’s backcheck (and the hook across his arms), Oshie does the only thing he can do, take the puck to his backhand. Halak must have been happy to see Oshie take away many of his options only to watch as the Caps right-winger roofed the puck over his shoulder. The individual brilliance from Oshie probably should have pushed this up our list, but it’s a tough competition.
#5 (tie) – Wilson Backhand Sauce Completes Ovechkin Hat Trick vs Devils – January 16, 2020
After Ovechkin’s two tallies in the first period buoyed the Caps to an early lead, we fast forward to the third period for our 2nd #5 of the countdown. It starts at center ice as Ovechkin tips a John Carlson pass into the zone past Will Butcher. As Butcher misses the bouncing puck, it allows Wilson to race into the zone and win the footrace to the loose puck in the corner. As Wilson circles behind the net, he spots an on-rushing Ovechkin at the back post and whips a backhand pass right through the legs of Damon Severson on the near post and right onto the blade of Ovi for the tap-in hat trick. The pass highlights the maturation of Wilson from 4th-line grinder to Top Line Tom and earned Ovechkin his 31st goal of the season.
#4 – Vrana Finishes Tic-Tac-Toe Forecheck against Canadiens - January 27, 2020
V makes it 3! pic.twitter.com/tFev52PQYL— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) January 28, 2020
This goal is less about the finish and more about the set up by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Shea Weber, one of the best defensemen in the league, goes back to retrieve the puck in the corner of the Caps’ offensive zone. He is pressured by Kuznetsov on the forecheck – yes, you read that right – and turns over the puck. Both players over skate it and Kuznetsov falls after a push as he tries to readjust for the puck. Even on his backside, however, he gets the puck and passes it to Oshie who drops it off for Vrana in the slot.
#3 – Ovechkin’s Diving Backhand Off the Islanders - January 18, 2020
Exactly the opposite of the Vrana goal above, this one is all about one man: Alex Ovechkin. A vintage rush up the left wing. A curl-and-drag through a defenseman. A diving shot that ricochets off a defenseman in front to cap it. A fitting goal for Ovechkin to move him past Mario Lemieux on the all-time goals list and catapult himself into the Top 10 scorers in NHL history. The only slight knock on this one is that it goes off a defenseman in front, but as The Great One said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. This was a perfect example of Ovechkin willing a goal into existence and set the stage for one of, if not the best comebacks of the season.
#2 – Ovechkin Splits Four Panthers for Finish – November 27, 2019
what a gr8 move pic.twitter.com/dg4BM9S68T— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 28, 2019
Can Ovechkin still be an elite goal-scorer at 34 years old? If you found yourself asking that question, this goal gives you the answer: Yes. Yes, he can.
Kuznetsov picked up a neutral zone turnover and took it into the offensive zone where a wall of three Florida defenders awaited him. Trying to beat three defenders would be silly, so he dropped it off to Ovechkin who, thanks to the backcheck, found himself with the puck in the middle of four Panthers. That would have been the end of the play for almost anyone, but not for Ovechkin. He fought off the back pressure from the two trailing Florida players, deked past Mark Pysyk into the slot and fired a shot through the 5-hole of Sergei Bobrovsky.
#1 – Vrana Channels Inner Datsyuk in Shootout vs Bruins – November 16, 2019
OK, so we cheated. This one isn’t technically a goal as it came in a shootout, but it was just so darn pretty it belongs in the top spot.
Vrana skated the puck slowly in on Halak, but as he neared the net poised for the wrist shot, he suddenly pulled off the toe drag move that Pavel Datsyuk made famous. Instead of shooting it, Vrana suddenly dragged it to his right keeping it on his forehand. Halak was down in anticipation of the shot as Vrana deftly tucked the puck into what was suddenly an empty net.
Datsyuk couldn’t have done it any better himself.
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