Much of North America has March Madness fever as the NCAA basketball tournament kicked off this week. One of the highlights of the tournament that draws viewers in is late game shooting heroics and memorable buzzer beaters.
The NHL has some pretty good shooters, too. While there may not be buzzer beaters, sometimes the stakes are just as high on a late-game shot or possession. So in honor of March Madness here are our picks for the NHL’s most clutch shooters.
Patrick Kane, love him or hate him. He’s ice cold in clutch situations. He has three Stanley Cup rings and a championship-clinching overtime winner to his name. And Kane can beat you in so many ways. He’s quick as can be, he has the best hands in the NHL, and his shot is underrated on the forehand and backhand. It’s a testament to how good he is that I can picture him scoring a winner in so many different ways, be it a top-corner wrist shot, a one-timer or a breakaway deke. He’s the deadly combination of extremely skilled, extremely experienced and extremely poised in clutch situations with the puck on his stick. And, yes, he relishes being the villain who breaks another team’s heart. (Matt Larkin)
How can you not go with Sidney Crosby? The Golde
n Goal from the Vancouver Olympics should be evidence enough, but Sid has won everything at the pro level, including gold at the most recent World Championship. He’s a clutch guy who wants the pressure and his deadly backhand is the perfect weapon for a must-n
eed goal. (Ryan Kennedy)
A big goal can come from anyone, but if you have to rely on one player, why wouldn’t you look to Ovechkin, who is quite possibly the greatest pure goal scorer the game has ever seen? Of course you’d love to have his last-second attempt at winning a contest come from his patented one-timer position in the left wing circle. But even if he’s flying down the wing and trying to make something happen on the rush, there are few players who can be counted on to score when it matters most more than Ovechkin. The numbers back that up, too.
Ovechkin still has time to add to his regular season game winners total, but as of Friday he has averaged 8.7 game-winning goals per season and is 20th in league history. By the time his career is through, it’s not hard to fathom him passing Phil Esposito for second all-time in game-winning goals. Jaromir Jagr’s still not done scoring, so we’ll wait to see where his game-winning goal total ends. Right now he sits at 133. Ovechkin has made a habit of closing out games over the course of his 10-year career, too. Only Jagr has more overtime winners, 19, than Ovechkin’s 17 since the league started keeping track of them.