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.
Anyone who’s viewed Evgeni Malkin‘s dominance of the NHL with any sense of regularity over the past decade and a half is well aware of the damage he can do with the spinorama.
First off, the move accounts for one of the marquee sequences of No. 71’s career, the Pittsburgh Penguins pivot having lit up the Carolina Hurricanes with a legendary no-look, backhand whirlwind during the Eastern Conference Final back in 2009, clinching a hat trick and serving as the pinnacle of Malkin’s Conn Smythe Trophy-winning effort that year.
But the slick-handed Russian has broken it out a number of times since, the combination of his lengthy reach and his all-world ability to deceive defenders rendering it a nightmare option for those on the other side of the puck. That being the case, we asked stickhandling specialist Pavel Barber to break down how exactly No. 71 does it for the latest edition of Inside the Highlight Reel.
Throughout the hockey world’s hiatus, we’ve called on Barber to share his on-ice expertise for young players using this downtime to fine-tune their skill-sets. 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.
So far, Barber’s dissected Mitch Marner’s backhand toe drag, Sidney Crosby’s one-handed magic, Connor McDavid’s use of the art of deception, Elias Pettersson’s mastery of ‘The Forsberg’, David Pastrnak’s trophy-clinching creativity and Alex Ovechkin’s go-to dangle.
This week, Barber breaks down another of Malkin’s marquee spinoramas, this one coming against the Oilers a few years back:
Assessing the sequence, Barber notes that the key to this move’s success in this instance lies firstly in the defence being caught scrambling, and second, in the lone blueliner back biting on Malkin’s initial sell.
“This spinorama play all starts with a great defensive stick-lift, which puts the other defender on his heels as Malkin approaches,” Barber says.
“On spinoramas it is so important to come at an angle on the offensive approach, so that you can get the defenceman’s stick and weight on the opposite side as you spin off. Malkin sells the forehand well here by coming at an angle and looking off to the forehand side, while keeping the puck on his forehand — this way, the defender has to respect a potential forehand-side net-drive.”
A look at what Oilers defender Mark Fayne sees right before the big-bodied Penguins centre spins makes clear the Herculean task the former has in trying to contain the latter, who’s long been one of the most dangerous one-on-one talents in the game:
On one hand, it seems a lose-lose gamble — we’ve seen Malkin flip the puck into the middle of the ice and cut to the net on the forehand plenty of times, and there are more than a few dangerous backhand spinoramas on his resumé, too. Cut one way, and all signs point to Malkin having the awareness to simply exploit the other option.
As Barber points out, Malkin ensures he’s able to continue through the sequence unbothered by pulling into the spin just as Fayne bites on the forehand option and turns to his right.
“Malkin times his move as the defender pivots to keep his gap, and by turning his back on the spin he protects the puck throughout the move,” the stickhandling coach explains. “He also keeps his speed throughout the spin by ensuring he doesn’t stop too hard, but instead sprays snow for the purpose of decelerating and changing direction while maintaining most of his speed.”
Watch the full sequence below, and you see how Malkin’s timing sinks Fayne — by the time the defender’s realized his error and turned back to try to shut the centreman down, Malkin’s already got his body between Fayne and the puck.
And by the time Fayne’s stick can get anywhere close to disrupting Malkin’s, the puck’s already en route to the net.
There’s one last aspect of the mechanics of the move that allows Malkin to actually finish it off with a goal, according to Barber, as opposed to getting a half-hearted attempt on the cage. It all lies in No. 71’s awareness of the distance between himself and the puck as he whips through the motion of the spin.
“He keeps the puck off the body on the backhand after the spin so that he’s able to release at any time, without having to stickhandle the puck to reposition it,” Barber points out, “which ultimately catches the goalie off guard.”
For a more detailed breakdown of how the Penguins centreman burned the Oilers, and how to master the move yourself, we asked Barber to demonstrate the sequence step-by-step, and offer up one drill to build up the skills to pull it off.