Each week, stickhandling specialist Pavel Barber and Sonny Sachdeva will go Inside the Highlight Reel to break down one of the silkiest moves from the NHL’s best, dissecting it to explain why it’s so dangerous and demonstrating how to master it yourself.
It’s been nearly two months since the NHL paused its 2019-20 season. And in those accumulating days and weeks, the hockey world has shifted from game nights at the rink to stickhandling drills in the basement, shooting on half-busted nets in the driveway, and any other means of fine-tuning skill-sets while we await the end of these quarantimes.
That being the case, we called on stickhandling specialist Pavel Barber to share his expertise. The YouTube phenom-turned-skills coach has made his name dissecting the finer points of offensive wizardry — while amassing half a million followers online, the Toronto native has trained NHLers like Jonathan Toews and Jake Virtanen, and recently linked up with Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks to coach some local Vancouverites.
Each week, Barber and I will break down one highlight-reel move from one of the game’s best, giving aspiring danglers what they need to master these game-breaking moves themselves.
This week? We’ve got that ridiculous one-handed, top-shelf, backhand flick shot Sidney Crosby unleashed on the Buffalo Sabres a little while back.
Crosby breaking out his backhand to jaw-dropping effect is nothing new — No. 87’s is the stuff of legend at this point, drawing praise from teammates and opponents alike for much of his career.
Bringing in the added wrinkles of going end-to-end, splitting the D, and whipping the puck top shelf off his backhand — with only one hand on his stick — was a new development.
In fact, that one-handed aspect — and what exactly Crosby’s other hand is doing — is at the core of what makes this particular technique so effective, according to Barber.
“Crosby is well known for his backhand shot but this one-handed backhand shot is ridiculous, especially considering how far out he is,” Barber says, “and how he’s blocking the defender on his side with the free hand throughout the shot.”
Viewing the goal from the netminder’s perspective, as below, offers a better look at the impact of Crosby’s free hand — the Penguins captain first swats away the prying stick of Ryan O’Reilly to allow himself entry into Buffalo’s zone, and again uses the free hand to ward off a potential poke check from Zach Bogosian as he gets closer to the cage.
The danger of the shot lies mostly in its unpredictability, the fact that it originates from a position few would ever be expected to shoot from at all, let alone top shelf. That it also leaves one hand free to deal with meddling defenders’ sticks is a key added bonus.
In terms of the actual shot itself, the one-handed flick that wired the puck up over Robin Lehner’s glove, it all comes down to mastering the mechanics of the move, Barber says, even if it seemed more like a display of No. 87’s absurd strength.
“The one-hander is often thought of as a move where you need a lot of forearm strength, but it is actually far more about technique than strength,” Barber says. “Crosby has the puck near the heel and as he pushes it forwards he times when he flicks the wrist, which allows him to get under the puck.
“But the most important leverage point on this shot is the top hand elbow.”
The view below illustrates what Barber’s referring to, as you see Crosby pull his elbow up high before moving through the motion of the shot.
“Watch as he keeps that elbow at around 90 degrees, and as he releases it he extends the arm. We don’t have much strength with one hand so making sure you release it at the exact point you need to is so important to get some power and elevation on this shot.”
A few other foundational aspects of Crosby’s overall style of play aided his ability to pull this one off though, as Barber points out.
“It also helps that he’s incredibly low and has some speed coming into the play. Also worth noting that straighter blades allow you to release the puck higher up which is why guys like Datsyuk, Kane and Crosby opt to have straighter curve patterns with their lethal backhanders.”
For those honing their skills at home and looking to add Crosby’s one-handed backhand beauty to their arsenal, we asked Barber to demonstrate the mechanics of the move, how to ensure you can pull it off with maximum effectiveness, and one drill that’ll help build the skills to do it.