NHL Power Rankings: The 18 Top Goals of the Playoffs
Now that the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs have come to an end, it's time to look back upon all the great moments that have taken place over the last two months.
Since the first round began in April, hockey fans around the world were treated to one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. A major factor in what made these playoffs so thrilling is the number of magnificent goals that were scored, especially in clutch situations.
Four series were decided by overtime-winning goals, and seven were determined in a Game 7. As hockey fans, we can't ask for much more in terms of excitement.
With that in mind, here's a look back at the best 18 goals of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
18. Jonathan Toews: Game 7 Western Conference Quarterfinals
With the Chicago Blackhawks trailing the Vancouver Canucks by a goal late in Game 7 of their quarterfinal series, the 'Hawks were in need of a hero.
To make matters worse, Chicago had just taken a penalty, putting the Canucks' vaunted power-play unit on the ice with about three minutes left in regulation.
However, Chicago found their hero with less than two minutes left, as Jonathan Toews streaked down the right wing with the puck, maneuvering his way into the Canucks' zone. From there, Toews made an inside-outside move, catching Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis and Alexandre Burrows off guard.
The two Canucks tried to contain Toews by knocking him to the ice, but not before the slick Blackhawks captain could thread a pass across to an open Marian Hossa. Hossa misses the shot, putting it directly into Roberto Luongo, but Toews spots the rebound and from his knees knocks home the game-tying goal with 1:56 on the clock.
Though Chicago would go on to lose in overtime, Toews demonstrated skill, creativity and sheer determination on the play, and proved once again that he's a game-breaker in clutch situations.
17. Pavel Datsyuk: Game 7 Western Conference Semifinals
Though he only played in two playoff rounds in 2011, Pavel Datsyuk dazzled fans on a nightly basis with some of the nicest goals and assists of the year.
His first goal on this list was also the last any Red Wing scored in 2011, as they fell in Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinals.
With the Wings trailing by two with just over six minutes to play in the third, Datsyuk skated up the right wing and approached the Sharks' blue line with a full head of steam.
Just before entering the San Jose zone, Datsyuk pulls a head fake on Devin Setoguchi, opening a lane for himself for which to operate.
Now facing three Sharks with no passing options available, Datsyuk appears to have run out of space, but he eyes an opportunity to shoot. With the type of precision one expects from a surgeon, Datsyuk deftly brings the puck to his backhand at the hash marks, and rifles a shot over Antti Niemi's right shoulder into the top corner.
The play leaves the commentators speechless, and Datsyuk gave Detroit fans one more reason to believe in their team.
16. Alexander Semin: Game 1 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Through the first 52 minutes of Game 1 of the Washington Capitals' first-round matchup against the New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist had managed to keep the Caps off the board, and his team up by one.
However, the tides turned when Alexander Ovechkin tied the game on a garbage goal with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Then, in overtime, Alexander Semin provided the heroics. Semin, often criticized for disappearing in big-game situations, had come into the game without a goal in his last 14 postseason games, but that quickly changed late in the first overtime period.
Jason Arnott caught and controlled a weak clearing attempt by New York's Marc Staal, and spotted the talented Semin in the high slot with no Rangers in sight.
Arnott fed Semin perfectly, and the young Russian wired a one-timer over the shoulder of a stunned Lundqvist, ending the game in dramatic fashion.
15. Joe Pavelski: Game 1 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Though he's just 26 years of age and a veteran of just five seasons, Joe Pavelski has already made a name for himself as a clutch playoff performer.
In the 2010 playoffs, Pavelski potted nine goals and 17 points in 15 postseason contests to lead the San Jose Sharks in scoring as they reached the Western Conference finals.
This year, Pavelski helped the Sharks once again reach the conference finals, and continued to pot important goals at key times, as seen in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
With the opening game of the "Battle of California" all tied up at two in the first overtime period, Pavelski found himself with a golden opportunity to seal the game's outcome. With the Sharks on a rush, Pavelski was the third man high, and Kyle Wellwood delivered a tape-to-tape pass to Pavelski in the high slot.
From there, Pavelski picked his target, and unleashed his deceptively quick snapshot on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick never flinched, and Pavelski's shot found the inside crossbar, sending the HP Pavillion into a frenzy.
14. Alexandre Burrows: Game 2 Stanley Cup Finals
By the time Game 2 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals had finally ended, the Boston Bruins had developed an obvious hatred for Alexandre Burrows.
After reportedly biting Patrice Bergeron in Game 1, Burrows went from villain to hero in a hockey game's time, as he tallied two goals and an assist as the Canucks topped the Bruins 3-2.
With the game tied at two at the end of regulation, Burrows and Vancouver entered overtime with hopes of ending the game quickly. However, they never expected things to end this quickly.
Just seconds after the opening faceoff, Burrows finds himself in on a bad-angle breakaway on Tim Thomas, with Zdeno Chara hot on his tail.
Instinctively, Burrows decides to fake a slap shot and try the wraparound on Thomas, which caught both Thomas and Chara off guard. Unprepared for the fake, Thomas slid out of his crease, leaving the net gaping as Burrows tried to gain control of the puck.
Equally unprepared was Chara, who couldn't keep up with Burrows' speed, and allowed Burrows to bury the overtime-winning goal with relative ease.
While it wasn't the prettiest goal of the playoffs, it was a dramatic goal that ended one of the most exciting games of the entire postseason.
13. Mike Fisher: Game 1 Western Conference Quarterfinals
When Nashville traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Mike Fisher, they knew they were acquiring a center with a proven track record in the postseason.
In his first playoff game in a Predator jersey, Fisher did not disappoint. Fisher tallied two highlight-reel goals, as Nashville topped the Ducks 4-1 in Game 1.
Both goals were of the top-corner variety, but the first one was particularly pretty because of how badly Fisher fooled the Ducks' Dan Ellis.
With linemate Sergei Kostitsyn crashing the net by the far post, Fisher hesitated on the two-on-one for a split second, freezing Ellis. With Ellis unsure of Fisher's next move, the Peterborough, Ontario native wired a high shot into the top right corner, giving Nashville a three-goal lead.
Fisher would prove to be a difference-maker in the opening round against Anaheim, justifying the high price the Predators paid for him near the 2011 trade deadline.
12. Martin St. Louis: Game 4 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Martin St. Louis was one of the big reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to surprise many and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2004.
While much of the talk surrounding St. Louis for the last year has been about his chemistry with budding star Steven Stamkos, many forget that it was alongside Vincent Lecavalier that St. Louis originally blossomed into a superstar.
The chemistry between the two was on display in Game 4 of their quarterfinal series against the Penguins, as Lecavalier sent a soft flip pass over the Pittsburgh defense intended for St. Louis.
St. Louis read the play perfectly, and used his blazing speed to out-hustle the two rearguards and win the race to the puck. Once he corralled the loose puck, St. Louis showed his soft touch with the puck as he fought off Ben Lovejoy before beating Marc Andre Fleury with a perfectly placed shot to the far side of the cage.
It was a simply beautiful play that showed not only St. Louis' superior skill level, but also his uncanny on-ice intelligence.
11. Thomas Vanek: Game 6 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Though Buffalo lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, their highest-paid skater and top offensive threat Thomas Vanek did all he could for his team.
Vanek scored five goals in seven games, including this power-play beauty in Game 6 on the Flyers' Michael Leighton.
With the Sabres on the man advantage, Vanek takes a pass from Tyler Myers to the left of the Flyers net. Vanek, all in one motion, manages to maneuver the puck back between his legs, and slip it in between Leighton's pads, to stake Buffalo to a two-goal lead.
10. Claude Giroux: Game 2 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Over the course of the last two seasons, Claude Giroux has established himself as one of the most talented young forwards in the game.
Playing on a team known for its mean streak and physicality, Giroux brings a unique blend of feistiness and skill, and may be the Flyers' biggest game-breaker, at least offensively.
That elite level of skill that Giroux possesses was on display during Game 2 of Philadelphia's opening-round series against the Buffalo Sabres.
With the game still scoreless midway through the first period of play, Giroux took control. As he glided over the Sabres blue line with a head of steam, the diminutive Giroux was faced with three Sabres standing between him and Ryan Miller.
Expecting him to pass, the Sabres gave Giroux a couple of feet of space in the high slot, and the talented Quebec native took advantage. Giroux eluded one Buffalo checker by using his reach, and then as he was approached by a second Sabre, Giroux deftly slid the puck under his opponent's stick, before wiring a shot by Miller.
It was the kind of one-man effort we've grown accustomed to expecting out of Giroux, but this type of goal never seems to get old.
9. Alexandre Burrows: Game 4 Western Conference Finals
Part of the reason that Alexandre Burrows has quickly blossomed into a first-line winger in the NHL is because he has the luxury of playing with two of the best forwards on the planet in Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
In the Western Conference finals, the Vancouver Canucks' first line was simply unstoppable, as the Sedin twins and Burrows consistently flexed their offensive muscles, terrorizing Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi along the way.
In Game 4, the line's undeniable chemistry was on display; Burrows and the Sedin twins teamed up for one of the prettiest goals of the postseason.
After taking a breakout pass from brother Daniel, Henrik Sedin streaked up the right wing on a two-on-one with Burrows.
Henrik faked the shot, freezing Niemi, then swiftly took the puck to his backhand and slid the puck over to Burrows at the top of the crease. With Niemi out of position, Burrows had the entire net to shoot at, and the two left the Sharks defense looking downright ridiculous.
8. Alexander Ovechkin: Game 5 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Entering Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals needed to find a way to close out the New York Rangers, rather than wait until a Game 7 like they did in 2009.
Late in the first period, with the Capitals already up by a goal, Ovechkin made a strong statement by scoring a highlight-reel goal to give Washington a commanding two-goal lead.
The play started off a quick head-man pass by defenseman Scott Hannan, who spotted Ovechkin breaking up the right wing.
Ovechkin, catching the pass in stride, cut wide on All-Star Marc Staal, and used his speed to gain a step on the Rangers defenseman.
Once he had put some daylight between himself and Staal, Ovechkin made a move to his backhand and flipped the puck over a flailing Henrik Lundqvist, sending the Verizon Center into a frenzy.
It was the type of goal that Caps fans missed from Ovechkin all season, and served as the knockout punch in the series.
7. Todd Bertuzzi: Game 4 Western Conference Semifinals
As a two-time NHL All-Star, Todd Bertuzzi has demonstrated over the years that he's one of the most skilled power forwards of the last 10 years.
Though his numbers have been down since the Steve Moore incident in 2004, Bertuzzi still shows glimpses of the offensive talent and instincts that led him to pot 97 points in 2002-03.
An example of this could be seen in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks, with the game knotted in a scoreless tie.
Bertuzzi, known for his soft touch with the puck, flew over the Sharks blue line, and after surveying his options in the offensive zone, decided to make a bold move.
With Dany Heatley closing in, taking time and space away from Bertuzzi, the big power forward opts to try a spin-o-rama, freezing the defense for a split second.
By buying himself that fraction of a second, Bertuzzi allowed himself enough time to fire a backhand on net, which of course went into the top corner of the net, near side. Whether the placement of the shot was intentional or not, it was one of the most creative postseason goals in recent memory.
6. Darren Helm: Game 2 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Pavel Datsyuk is widely considered the most creative player with the puck in the NHL, largely because he never ceases to amaze us with the remarkably imaginative moves he executes in one-on-one situations.
His imagination was working in full force in Game 2 of the Detroit Red Wings' first-round matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes, though he was generally dominant throughout the entire series.
Nearing the end of the opening frame with his Wings up by two, Datsyuk out-skated two Coyotes to a loose puck to the right of the Phoenix net. With little space between him and Ilya Bryzgalov, Datsyuk opted to try a between-the-legs shot, and managed to get the puck towards the net.
After Bryzgalov stopped the initial shot, Darren Helm picked up the rebound and calmly knocked it home for a 3-0 Detroit lead. Datsyuk's shot caught the Coyotes' netminder off guard, and generated a rebound in a prime scoring area, which lead to a goal.
It's that type of anticipation that has made Datsyuk not only one of the best defensive forwards in the league, but also one of the most dangerous offensively. He seems to notice opportunities to create scoring chances that no one else does, which is why he's a regular on highlight reels across North America.
5. Tyler Seguin: Game 2 Eastern Conference Finals
Playing in just his second playoff game of his career, Tyler Seguin looked like a seasoned veteran in Game 2 of the conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the Lightning up by a goal in the second period, Seguin put on a clinic on his first shift of the middle frame.
After taking a pass from Michael Ryder at center ice, Seguin turned on the jets, blowing by two Lightning defensemen. The 19-year-old then showed the type of offensive poise that made him the second selection in the 2011 NHL draft, as he turned Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson inside out with a quick deke to the backhand.
Once he had Roloson sprawled out and in desperation mode, Seguin calmly roofed the puck, bringing the Bruin faithful to their feet. The magic continued for Seguin in the second, as he set an NHL rookie record with four points before the horn sounded to signal the end of the period.
4. Brad Marchand: Game 3 Stanley Cup Finals
The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals was at times one of the most lopsided series of the postseason, especially when the Boston Bruins were playing the role of host.
This was the case in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, as the Bruins had clearly rattled the confidence of Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo.
By the time Brad Marchand found himself on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period of Game 3, Boston had already staked themselves to a 2-0 lead. From there, Marchand would provide insurance in the form of a breathtaking goal that deflated the confidence of Luongo and the entire Canucks team.
After banking the puck off the boards around Vancouver's Alexander Edler, Marchand out-hustled Ryan Kesler, and sprung himself on a breakaway against Luongo.
Calmly, Marchand faked the shot and patiently waited until Luongo dropped to his knees to guard against the deke. As soon as Luongo left space for Marchand to shoot at, he ripped it off the inside crossbar to put the game out of reach, in the middle of the second period.
3. Pavel Datsyuk: Game 2 Western Conference Quarterfinals
For the second straight year, the Phoenix Coyotes were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by a superior Detroit Red Wings squad.
One of the big reasons that Detroit was able to knock Phoenix off so easily this time around, as they eliminated them in just four games, was the play of Pavel Datsyuk.
From the outset of the series, Datsyuk was simply unstoppable, and it seemed like the Coyotes never had a chance.
In Game 2, Datsyuk pulled one of his trademark moves before snapping home one of the most unique goals of the 2011 playoffs. With Detroit on the power play, and Phoenix penalty-killing by playing a box formation, Datsyuk took a pass from Nicklas Lidstrom near the left point, and used a quick toe-drag to freeze the Coyote penalty-killer.
With a split second to get the shot off, Datsyuk wired a snapshot passed Ilya Bryzgalov, making the Coyotes look bad in the process.
2. Ryan Kesler: Game 4 Western Conference Semifinals
During the Vancouver Canucks' Western Conference semifinals series against the Nashville Predators, Ryan Kesler quickly made a strong case for himself to be considered a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Kesler was dominant throughout the entire series, and he scored a bunch of important goals for the Canucks, including this show-stopping tally in Game 4.
With the Canucks tied with Nashville at two midway through the third period, Kesler crosses the Nashville blue line and cuts between Shane O'Brien and Norris nominee Shea Weber, and while off-balance, wires a shot to the far post.
The shot beats Pekka Rinne and deflates Nashville, as Kesler put on one of the most dominant displays of the postseason.
1. Bobby Ryan: Game 5 Western Conference Quarterfinals
In what was simply the most amazing goal of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Bobby Ryan showed the hockey world why he's considered one of the most talented young forwards in the game.
As David Legwand readied to make a cross-ice pass to Shea Weber at Anaheim's blue line, Ryan anticipated the play and picked off Legwand's pass.
Streaking up the ice, Legwand briefly caught up to Ryan by the Nashville blue line, but Ryan once again made him look silly by slipping the puck between Legwand's legs, causing Legwand to lose his stick.
With Legwand desperate, Ryan once again puts the puck around Legwand, creating a one-on-one with Pekka Rinne. As Weber catches up to the play he makes a last-ditch effort to stop Ryan, but Ryan moves to his backhand and undresses Rinne before putting the puck into the upper half of the net.
It was one of the most dazzling displays of stick-handling in recent memory, and was the prettiest goal of the 2011 postseason.
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