Ilya Kovalchuk has amazingly skilled hands. With those skilled hands, come the ability to make shots that only a handful of players would even consider taking. Friday’s game-winning goal was no different.
With time expiring on an overtime period that never should have been and a minute after a power play that should have ended the game came up empty itself, Kovalchuk found himself standing alone, although maybe that was because he was standing a mere foot above the goal line extended. No matter to Marek Zidlicky, who threaded the pass through the high slot and directly to a wide-open Kovalchuk. Most players would walk the puck out in front of the net, trying to go high on the opposite side — one of Kovy’s favorite shots. Instead, with Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth just slightly out of position, Kovy sling-shot the puck past Neuvirth and into the open net, setting off a delirious reaction inside The Rock.
“You need your best players to make plays,” coach Pete DeBoer said after the game.
Even Kovy’s own goalie was amazed at the goal, marveling at how difficult that can be for a goalie to stop.
“It’s hard and as a goalie, you’re almost so far out you want to make sure he doesn’t bank it off of you, not shoot it right in like he did. It’s impressive,” Brodeur said.
It saved the Devils from having to risk an extra point in a shootout that likely wouldn’t have even been an option if not for three bench minors in the third period, one of which came from an unhappy DeBoer’s unappreciated use of the English language.
But that shot — that ridiculous shot from that ridiculous angle. The coach could not have felt comfortable with his player taking aim from such a difficult spot on the ice, right?
“Depends who’s got it on his stick. If it’s on Kovy’s stick, the angle’s fine,” the coach said with a laugh.
Why is Kovalchuk’s stick so special?
“A lot of the Russian players do have a certain curve that when they shoot the puck, the puck kinda goes up on edge,” Brodeur noted. “I guarantee if you look on slow motion replay, that puck when in this way (motioning with his hands a puck on edge) instead of this way (motioning again with the puck laying flat).”
I didn’t see any slow-motion replay, so I’ll have to take Brodeur’s word for it. But I know one thing — as long as the Devils put the puck on Kovy’s stick, they’ve got a player that can do things with it that 99 percent of the league can’t — the way his fellow countryman, Alex Ovechkin, used to be able to do before his sudden disappearance. But that’s another story for another day. For now, enjoy the replay of one of my favorite goals of the year.