Above the Glass
by Samantha on 03/31/11 at 12:51 PM ET
I was attempting to cover the first home games of the WHL playoffs this weekend when I realized it was time that I learn some basics about the types of shots the Portland Winterhawks were laying down during a 7-2 victory over the Everett Silvertips in game two. I’m still trying to figure out how you know a player just made a wrist shot when his wrist is either inside his glove or under his jersey and hence you can’t see it, why you can’t top shelf a shot when you go five-hole and how players can tell when Shea Weber is about to wind up on a slapshot so they can get the heck out of the way. But I have figured out something else much more interesting: a player’s signature move can tell you a whole lot about what kind of person he is.
Sure, a truly skilled hockey player is good at way more than one kind of shot or one kind of goal and can make plays and punch a guy now and again while they’re at it. But every player has the move or the play or the punch that makes them special, and it says a great deal about who they are.
Pavel Datsyuk: Proprietor of the “Datsyukian Deke,” which may explain why he has won the Lady Byng so many times. Why crack heads into the boards when you can dangle defenders en route to the net? Deking also requires a little bit of charm…you have to fool the other player just enough to think he’s got you and then poof! Off you go with the puck to the net. By most accounts, Datsyuk is an affable, friendly guy who’s also pretty handy with punchlines. The Red Wings put the A on his sweater for his natural leadership and is widely respected by his teammates for his work ethic. I’m still figuring things out, but it seems to me that he has all the necessities of deking: smarts, charm, a little mystery, and hard work/practice.
Jordan Eberle: The rookie who seems older than his years is known for being the clutch player who led Team Canada to a gold and silver medals in two consecutive World Junior tournaments. According to his roommate Taylor Hall his most annoying habit is that he gets up early in the morning to call his girlfriend. When asked to describe himself in one word, he said “neat” and his favorite pregame snack is ice cream. His first NHL goal was scored in the highest of style: it was his NHL debut, it was shorthanded and he went on to rack up an assist. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough the game was a “battle of Alberta” with rivals the Calgary Flames and the Oilers shut out the Flames 4-0. It was perfect, just like Eberle. Ok, so he’s not perfect, but he’s pretty close and that’s good enough for me.
Evgeni Malkin: Who can forget the no-look backhanded hat trick during the Penguins series with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2009 playoffs? It was so crafty Dan Bylsma told the press “it’s called the Geno for a reason.” It was smart, charming, a little sneaky and totally strategic. According to his teammates, Malkin is quite the cardsharp, his learning curve with English belies the fact that he is in fact very smart and let’s face it, the boy is a charmer, what with his crooked grin, his broken English, crafty one-liners in press conferences and all. Coincidence? I think not.
Nino Niederreiter: The New York Islanders prospect is best known for business-like, laser-perfect sniper shots at key moments in big games. He broke out at the 2010 World Juniors while playing for Switzerland and never looked back. That’s exactly what he’s like in person: a total professional who knows exactly what he wants and is totally focused on his dream of playing in the NHL. But he doesn’t forget how to have fun and be a teenager now and again: he loves Mountain Dew, owns his own bowling shoes and is rarely without a chocolate snack from the home country. When I told him that he should try lights out disco bowling once he gets to New York, he told me “I don’t know, I might be a little busy with hockey.” Of all the players on the Portland Winterhawks roster, Nino is exactly what he shoots.
Joe Morrow: He moves through traffic with such speed and agility, I sometimes forget the 2011 draft prospect is a defenseman. When I first met Joe, he was out with an injury and sitting on a bench at Winterhawks’ practice. He was totally focused on what was happening on the ice, dead quiet and seemed to almost be in a trance. Frankly, I was a little afraid the first time I asked if I could interview him because I was bit intimidated by his silence and focus. What I got was one of the most polite, quiet, charming and shy players on the team. His signature move: seemingly impossible slap shots from the point that cut through traffic just the way he does. According to hockey playbooks, slapshots require focus, precision, good vision for what Joe calls “where the goalie isn’t” and patience. All of which describe my favorite D to a T.
Parting shots: Think about it. If you’ve ever played hockey or are still playing currently, what does your signature move say about you? If I ever learn how to stand up on two skates without needing to be removed from the ice by paramedics, I think my signature move would be a slapshot from the point. I like to take just a bit of time to make decisions, I like to do things that seem impossible and I’d prefer to let it rip instead of twiddling about with all that fancy playmaking behind the net. I definitely am what I would shoot if I could.
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About Above the Glass
Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.
I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.
Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass