The Art of the Backhand Shot
To quote a recent Bayside single, that perfectly placed backhand shot by Pavel Datsyuk in game seven was "sick, sick, sick".
Henrik Zetterberg's backhander wasn't too shabby, either.
Analysts talk so much about how the backhand shot is the toughest shot to read. They are also the hardest shots to execute, especially right after a deke to the backhand. It's all about the roll of the wrists. To further get an understanding about the art of the backhand, I turned to hockey experts.
Matt of Down Goes Spezza, played hockey with the likes of James van Riemsdyk as a young teen.
"The reverse curve of the stick blade creates a knuckle puck situation," he said. Matt explain how the shot becomes unpredictable. The backhander, he told me, is the toughest shot to learn because he frankly said he never had a good one, even after years of practice. It takes a lot of time to learn.
I also talked with Justin Goldman, the founder of The Goalie Guild, an independent scouting and consulting service for goaltenders. His group has a partnership with the Colorado Avalanche and the National Hockey League as a whole. The guy knows his stuff, to say the least. I asked him why the backhand is such a tough shot to read.
"A goalie's vision is partially focused on reading and analyzing shot and release patterns. There's no discernable pattern with backhands," he said. "The way the puck comes off a backhander makes it tougher to read in regards to velocity, aerial angle and actual release point."
Goldman put a lot of emphasis on just how artistic the backhand shot has to be. "It's situational and depends on the play. Backhanders aren't that lethal if they are not elevated."
Though sometimes the backhand shot comes down to pure luck. He offered a very, very interesting perspective that makes a whole lot of sense.
"Not all players are confident on their backhand. If they don't know where the shot is going, it's even tougher for a goaltender to read. Some goalies might square up to the shooter's body instead of the puck, or caught in between."
I can say for myself, I have a pretty terrible backhand shot. Could I beat an NHL goaltender with my vastly unpredictable backhand shot? Unlikely; I'm no star hockey player. I'll leave it to the guys who know what they are doing. To put that into perspective though, the two winged-wheel magicians made their shots look not only easy, but effortless as well. Poor Antti Niemi.
Can you fault the guy?