An assist is as good as a goal. Anyone who grew up playing hockey, or was surrounded by the game, has likely heard that phrased uttered ad nauseum throughout his or her life, but it's often the truth.
For as much credit and attention we like to give the big time goal scorers who dangle their way to the finish, there is almost always a lovely pass that got them there.
You've likely seen lists of the prettiest goals, nastiest fights and most unreal saves, but how many times have you seen a collaboration of the filthiest dishes and setups hockey has ever seen?
Well, if you've been craving creamy sauce, a no-look-behind-the-back pass, or maybe just a well-timed drop pass, look no further. This list has everything to assist you in your search for the greatest hockey has to offer.
As a disclaimer, let me say that the lack of video from the glory days has made this list include mostly passes from the year 2000 and later, and exclusively passes from the late '80s and on. So, to all of you out there looking to find Bobby Orr and players of that ilk on this list, I sincerely apologize, but technology will not allow to showcase those players in this slideshow. Also, in order to not dilute the list, I limited it to the 42 best passes I could find.
That being said, sit back and enjoy this comprehensive review of the greatest sauce in hockey history.
When you have a guy like Alex Ovechkin on your team, there are so many ways to get him the puck.
Here, Nicklas Backstrom delivers a beautiful redirect pass that lands right on Ovi's tape. The rest is history.
Big moments make a good play great.
David Krejci sticks his nose in between two defenders to tap the puck with one hand right to Rich Peverley, who puts the finishing touches on this brilliant play.
One little pass changes the momentum of a game.
Brandon Dubinsky had plenty of chances to panic with the puck or take a shot on goal. Instead, he dangled around the defender and delivered an excellent pass to Ryan Callahan for an overtime winner.
The Maple Leafs got a twofer here, as Mikhail Grabovski delivered a dazzling behind-the-back pass to Clarke MacArthur, only to have MacArthur put a slap pass right on Grabovski's stick for the finish.
One of my favorite assists on this list, Pavel Datsyuk has no business finding a hole to fit this puck through. Regardless, he delivers an absolutely perfect backhand pass to Valtteri Filpulla, who wastes no time burying the puck.
We haven't seen the last of Datsyuk on this list.
The Peter Forsberg to Joe Sakic connection was one of the most dangerous duos in the history of hockey.
In this play, the Avs have their backs against the wall, facing elimination in overtime against the Sharks when the Forsberg-Sakic connection strikes big time.
Joe Thornton has long been one of the best assistmen in the NHL, and Patrick Marleau has long been the beneficiary of Thornton's excellent playmaking skills.
Have fun figuring out how exactly Jumbo Joe knew where Marleau would be on this one.
Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano are two of the greatest players to dawn the USA hockey sweater. So, it should come as no surprise that the two made one hell of a connection for this great country for years in international play.
For those wondering why the Flyers traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the above video may offer a glimpse at what's to come for the next great Flyers.
Giroux and JVR have as much, if not more, chemistry than Richards and Carter and will fill the stat sheet for years to come.
Perhaps best know for his ability to pile up goals in the NHL, Sergei Fedorov was not too shabby when dishing the puck either, especially to his fellow countrymen.
This might just be the best between-the-legs pass I've ever seen.
One of the greatest puck-handling goalies in the history of the game, Martin Brodeur looks more like a defenseman on the play above.
This wasn't just a lucky clear attempt from the Devils netminder. He saw Clarkson and delivered an absolute strike to him for an easy breakaway goal.
The picture is a bit fuzzy, but you don't need high definition to see that the Red Wings did something incredible on this play.
Of course, Mike Knuble was the one trailing the play to clean up the trash on this one.
OK, I know this is supposed to be an NHL list but, c'mon, this pass was too good to not give it some love.
I mean, these kids are at least playing division one; granted it's at the club level, but division one nonetheless.
Another beautiful connection the hockey world was graced with was that shared by Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.
This play was more about the moves of Jagr to create space, but it was a lovely assist nonetheless.
This is just two players doing what they do best. Forsberg with an unbelievable dish, and Knuble flat out picking up the garbage.
This is easily one of the most beautiful saucer passes the league has ever laid eyes on. Of course, when it comes to Peter Forsberg, plays like this shouldn't surprise anyone.
Henrik Sedin makes his first appearance on this list, and I assure you this will not be his last.
This is such a ridiculous play by the twins. Henrik fires it all the way down the ice, and it banks perfectly off of the end boards and onto Daniel's stick. That's just stupid.
Speaking of stupid, who passes the damn puck on a breakaway? Only Henrik Sedin, of course.
Oh, the pass wasn't too shabby either. It's like he had some sort of special connection with the guy he passed it to...
While we're on the subject of the Sedin twins, let's take a look at quite possibly the filthiest pass of Henrik's career.
You may have to watch the video to see just how magical the tip pass from Henrik to Daniel really was. He wasn't even looking and had his back turned to Daniel, but that didn't stop the puck from landing right on his twin brother's stick.
Some players force the opposition to be on high alert at all times in the defensive zone. Alex Kovalev is one of those players.
Unfortunately, the Coyotes did not get the memo about being on high alert and let Kovalev zip a pass into the narrowest of gaps to one of the best finishers in all of hockey, Daniel Alfredsson.
That's right, folks. Knuble bangs home another unorthodox pass, something he has done time and time again throughout his NHL career.
This time, Michal Handzus helped out Knuble's cause.
After a brief intermission from this list, the Sedins are back with a vengeance.
Anyone who doesn't think Burrows is a huge beneficiary of playing with these two ought to take a look at this clip from this past postseason.
Sometimes goalies make lucky passes. This was not one of those times.
Brodeur was under pressure on this play but stood tall and sauced a strike down ice to Billy Guerin.
On a team that was known for its defense, Patrik Elias was one of the bright offensive stars who could pile it up for the New Jersey Devils.
This was just one of his many beautiful passes during a tremendous career.
One of the most enjoyable tandems to watch take the ice every night was Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya. The two complemented each other so perfectly and each had such a tremendous and unique skill set.
Kariya is the focus of the above play, but that's not necessarily indicative of this pair's success.
There are outstanding passes, and then there are simply jaw-dropping assists.
Sure, the pass may not have been anything special, but Crosby stalled and waited for this play to open up all while eluding defenders before sliding the puck out front for an easy goal.
Once again, it's not the pass that makes this assist a thing of beauty. Crosby once again undresses defenders on his way to the net and is able to unload the puck at the last possible minute for the scoring chance.
After showcasing the great individual efforts of Sidney Crosby that resulted in assists, let's take a look at possibly the finest pass of the superstar's career.
When you're as good as Crosby is, you don't need to look.
Who says all Ovechkin does is score? Here, we get to see Ovi's unreal speed to the outside, which he uses to create space and dish it to, guess who, Mike Knuble.
Plays like this one are what makes Alexander Ovechkin so dangerous.
All those years of playing with one another on Team Finland clearly paid dividends for Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
Koivu doesn't need his eyes to know where his fellow countryman will be on the ice.
You'll need to take a few looks at this video to see how the puck ended up on Mike Richards's stick. Once you figure it out, you'll see why it's on this list.
This begins the Pavel Dastyuk section of the list, which is predictably quite lengthy.
Nobody is better at undressing a defense than Datsyuk.
Pavel Datsyuk is such a great playmaker that he doesn't even need his stick to deliver a perfect pass.
Henrik Zetterberg is a nice guy. After all of the times Pavel Datsyuk has set him up for beautiful goals, the Swede realizes that the least he could do is dish some dirty sauce between his legs for an easy Datsyuk goal. Dirty.
Go ahead, watch it again. No matter how many times you watch the clip, it's tough to figure out exactly how Datsyuk managed to work his way through the entire Calgary squad. It was a buzzer beater, no less.
The funny thing about Pavel Datsyuk is that if you fail to follow him around the zone, he'll put the puck in the back of the net. However, if you follow him around the zone he's going to find the open man and make you pay.
The Sharks had some trouble with it here.
Sergei Samsonov has a knack for the amazing play, but this time all he does is finish Tuomo Ruutu's awesome individual effort.
Anybody else notice the abundance of Finnish players on this list?
Sure, this pass isn't spectacular, but it is insanely clutch. Lemieux gives the puck a subtle redirect right to the stick of Paul Kariya. Kariya isn't going to miss from there, that's for sure.
C'mon, is this not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? I mean, arguably the two best players in the history of the National Hockey League combine to make everything seem so damn easy. But hey, that's what they do.
Wayne Gretzky always knew what was about to happen on the ice. The Great One always knew where his teammates and opponents would be on the ice and, as a result, made things look incredibly easy on the ice.
What looks like a broken play, turns into a breakaway with Jari Kurri getting behind a confused defense.
That's Wayne Gretzky for you.
With all of the incredible plays and players on this list, Christian Ruutu's pass right here is the most amazing in my book.
It really has everything. No look, spin, behind the back, and completely embarrassed defenders. Talk about one for the ages.