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A subjective analysis of the five most exciting plays in hockey

By Wilson Moore, SportsEngine, 07/11/20, 10:00AM MDT

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Hub exclusive: Breakaway chances, redirected shots, and power-play opportunities — oh my!

There are so many small, subtle aspects of a hockey game — things a viewer might not notice, even if it leads to a big moment — that it feels weird to distill it down to just a handful of exciting plays.

The following list doesn’t get obscure. You won’t find anything never seen before on it, or even only seen once, but these plays are fairly specific. This list is completely subjective, an opinion of the five most exciting plays you can see in a hockey game.

Video clips are provided for each pick below, providing an example of each exciting hockey play chosen. After reading the selections, be sure to vote for your favorite in the poll at the bottom of the page.

5. Pulled goalie

What this choice has going for it is that it almost always comes during an exciting part of the game. The losing team is already all-in offensively, eschewing from playing defense and assuming the risk of giving up another goal in favor of bombarding the net with as many shots as possible. The pulled goalie is one final push. Nothing else has worked up to this point and it’s time to ramp up the lack of caring about a negative outcome to its extreme.

4. Two-man advantage on power play

An avalanche of shots is about to come crashing down on the goalie and there’s only so much any one player can do at this point. The team with the disadvantage has its remaining defensemen hang back, trying to stop the puck, while the squad at full strength passes the puck around at will, almost teasingly, before unloading a laser toward the net. Maybe they’ll score, maybe a defenseman will sacrifice his body to block the shot attempt, or perhaps the goalie will make a save. Regardless, something dramatic is about to happen.

3. Short-handed goal

A short-handed goal almost always results from something going awry. Few penalty-killing units score with four players on the ice because everything went according to plan. There’s usually something a little off, a progression resulting in a tally which wasn’t supposed to happen. It often happens quickly, too. Something goes wrong for the team on the power play, perhaps there’s a bad bounce or a sloppy turnover that’s made, and now the short-handed team controls the puck, moving across the ice for the strike. It’s rarely supposed to look like that.

2. Redirection scoring

There’s an enjoyable combination of randomness and skill when it comes to scoring a goal off a deflection. On one hand, it takes serious hand-eye coordination to deflect the puck in just the right way. On the other, a coach can have a detailed, sophisticated offensive system in place, spend hours implementing it in practice, with everything designed to get off the perfect shot at the right time. Or a forward can just poke their stick out in the perfect place at the right time and that will get the job done too.

1. The breakaway

Breakaway opportunities are like taking a penalty shot after guzzling six cups of coffee. It’s a simple scenario, as a puck-wielding skater dashes across the ice to take on the goalie. It’s a turbocharged moment that comes with urgency. The skater has maybe two seconds to make a move and the goalie has even less time to react. It starts unexpectedly, ends quickly, and injects a sudden and immediate sense of urgency into a situation.


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