It's been a week for memorable goals in the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid scored a third-period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday that was so good, Wayne Gretzky was lifted out of his seat and couldn't stop gushing about it. McDavid completely fooled Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly and then deked Toronto goalie Michael Hutchinson at the top of the crease.
On Thursday, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne fired the puck the length of the ice into an empty net for the final goal in a 5-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the first goal of Rinne's career and the eighth by a goalie shooting it directly into the net. So which scoring play was more impressive? Three NHL.com writers took up the debate:
Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Rinne's goal was more impressive because it takes serious guts by a goalie to even shoot for an empty net in a close game. If a goalie's missed shot results in an icing and the opposing team pulls off a late comeback, that loss would be pinned squarely on the goalie. Goalie goals are so rare that they don't even count in most fantasy leagues. Rinne is having a down season based on his NHL career standards but made a play that could totally springboard the Nashville Predators, who were in their second game under new coach John Hynes. McDavid scores highlight-reel goals where he makes forwards and/or defensemen look silly on a regular basis, so the first goalie goal since 2013 wins this debate.
Video: NSH@CHI: Rinne launches home first NHL goal
Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor
I get how rare goalie goals are and it's a big deal when one happens. But the things McDavid did on that goal are almost beyond words. Because as many times as you watch it, what is the most impressive part? The way he explodes past an all-star caliber defenseman? Or at top speed, the hands in tight that allowed him to pull the puck back and lift it under the crossbar as he was skating past the goal? NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika mentioned on the NHL @The Rink podcast this week that he was looking to compare it to plays from other sports, and the Allen Iverson crossover on Michael Jordan in the NBA popped to mind. McDavid seemingly does something highlight-worthy every shift, but that goal against the Maple Leafs was something special even for him.
Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
I never thought I would be breaking a goal-scoring argument between McDavid and Rinne. McDavid and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals? Sure. McDavid and the goalie for the Predators? Not in a million years. Hence, Rinne's goal wins this argument for being in the same conversation with the latest McDavid masterpiece. It is close to impossible to score as a goalie. It has been done 15 times in the history of the NHL and seven of those were own-goals credited to the goalie who was the last opposing player to touch the puck before it went in. McDavid, who has 152 goals in in 333 NHL regular-season games can score eight goals in a good week.
Video: EDM@TOR: McDavid converts jaw-dropping goal
The rarity of a goalie goal makes it special for sure. But it also has that bit of a fluky quality to it, no? Not to diminish the skill it takes to shoot a puck 200 feet while wearing goalie equipment, but he shot it into an empty net. The McDavid goal was an artistic masterpiece, sublime skill done at track-star speed. That goal really needs to be watched in slow motion, broken down frame by frame, to fully understand how he did what he did. A goalie goal is like a triple play in baseball or a half-court shot in basketball -- mostly memorable only because it happened. The McDavid goal is one we're going to see again and again and again on highlight videos.
Valid point by Kimelman about the skill needed to achieve one feat compared to the other; that aspect of it is not even close. The McDavid goal was electric, and just to be clear, my claim that McDavid makes amazing plays like this all the time does not mean I don't appreciate every single one of them. I also should add that Rinne's shot attempt and goal at 19:38 of the third period in a two-goal game left very little chance for the Blackhawks to rally. That said, a 37-year-old goalie scoring a goal for the first time in his 650th NHL game is pretty amazing. The debate is which goal was more impressive, and the fact that none of the other elite active goalies around the NHL have done this once in their careers breaks the tie for me.
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Fluky? Seriously, Adam? Rinne launched the puck from behind his own goal line (did you see the nifty skate-to-stick move to get the puck in shooting position?) and then elevated it over all of the Blackhawks, reaching the far blue line, and then had the puck strike the net almost dead center. I'm not sure that one-third of the goalies in the NHL right now could do that in practice, with nobody else on the ice and nothing on the line, never mind on the road, during game action, with players bearing down on them. Plus, on style points, it is no worse than third among the eight goals scored directly into the goal by goalies in League history. Jose Theodore's backhander is first by the way, but that is a roundtable for another day.