Reactions: Barkov's Insane Goal the Result of Research and Repetitionby Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com
SUNRISE, Fla. - The play caught fire on social media within seconds, but Aleksander Barkov has spent endless hours putting in the work at the rink and on the internet, staying disciplined and perfecting his craft.
On Thursday, the Florida Panthers superstar unveiled his latest masterpiece, flying down the ice with a defenseman draped over his back before pulling the puck between his legs and flipping it over Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price late in the second period of an eventual 6-3 win at BB&T Center.
Video: MTL@FLA: Barkov goes between the legs for second goal
"Of course I'm happy with the way I scored," said Barkov, who led the Panthers with four points and registered his second-career hat trick in the win. "I've always dreamed about a score like that, and it happened last night. Now I'm going to try and create something new."
The second-overall pick in 2013, Barkov has been pumping out highlight-reel goals from the moment he entered the league as teenager. His ability to make the world's best goaltenders look rather foolish has sent social media into frequent frenzies, especially on his shootout attempts, where he is 22 for 43 in his career.
But where do these moves come from?
Barkov said the process starts when he puts in the time to scour the internet. He searches sites like YouTube on an almost daily basis looking for fun and interesting new things to try. From former NHL superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Peter Forsberg to viral stickhandling sensations like Pavel Barber, he's found a wealth of teachers.
"When you first see those type of moves on YouTube or the internet or whatever, you go on the ice by yourself or with your friends and try to do those," said Barkov. "Once they start working there, you try them in practice. Well, now it worked in game, so of course I'm happy."
Still, Barkov said he's found a few moves that even he won't touch.
"Some of them, you can't even think about them on the ice," Barkov said, flashing a big smile. "Some of them you can copy them and do them on the ice. Some of them you have to work on. It's a good part of hockey. Those types of plays, they just make everybody happy."
For his latest move, Barkov estimates that he must have attempted and failed the between-the-legs shot at least 17 or so times or so throughout career. Trial and error is a key part of the process.
When trying to work out the kinks, Barkov studied video clips of similar goals scored by Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson last season, Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg in 2016 and former New York Rangers defenseman Marek Malik in 2005.
"A lot of guys have done it," Barkov said. "I'm not the first one."
Despite that unwavering modesty, Barkov does separate himself from the rest of the pack due to the circumstances surrounding his wild goal. While Karlsson and Malik both skated in on net all alone, and Forsberg was left unattended near the slot, Barkov's goal came under duress, with a defender frantically trying to shove him off the puck. Approaching the crease, Barkov said he only had a split-second to think
"It just happened in the last second," Barkov said. "I knew that I wouldn't go back to forehand on this side, but I didn't know I was going to go between the legs. It just happened I the last second. It's probably the same for everybody. You get in situations like that, and the game is so fast right now, everything has to happen so quick. That's how you need to react."
Barkov's goal was so impressive that it also managed to reach beyond the world of hockey, making the rounds on nearly every major sports website and channel before being awarded with what has become the holy grail of sport's recognition - the No. 1 overall spot on SportsCenter's top-10 plays of the night.
"It's nice to get mentioned and recognized, but of course it's all about winning," Barkov said.
This isn't the first time Barkov's sent our jaws to the floor, nor will it be the last. He's left us speechless time and again with his moves in the shootout, but it's almost as if his greatness is expected there. In the skills competition, we're already on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what players pull out from their back of tricks. But for a 23-year-old to pull a move like this off in game, it's something new.
"When he walked in today it was a big celebration," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "The guys were pretty happy for him because of the hat trick and because he had the goal of the night. There was coverage everywhere for him. It was nice to see."
Here's what Barkov's teammates and Twitter at large had to say about his unforgettable goal…
Vincent Trocheck: "It was ridiculous. I don't know anyone in the world who's trying that mid-game with pressure on like that. Obviously, everybody knows how talented he is. I've seen him try that a couple times in games. Just the fact that he tries is ridiculous, let alone putting it in the net with a guy on his back against one of the best goalies in the world. He's phenomenal. I've never met anybody with that much skill - period."
Mike Hoffman: "Pretty incredible. Those of us in the building and on the bench had to look up at the jumbotron to make sure we saw exactly what happened. It's hard to believe he can pull of a play like that in a game, let alone with a guy trailing him right on his back. It was a tremendous goal, a huge goal. He's a special player that can make those types of things happen."
Mark Pysyk: "It started out with him batting [the puck] out of the air and getting some speed around the guy. He kind of had a half-break, so I don't think anyone saw it coming. For him to do it at full speed with a guy on his back, it's pretty unreal."
Aaron Ekblad: "It's unbelievable. To be able to do that at full speed with a bouncing puck on ice that's been skated on all period, it's really tough to do for anyone. The fact that Barky could pull it off with a defender on his back, it's pretty amazing. He's a special player. Honestly, seeing Barky do it isn't that surprising. Maybe some fans and stuff would be surprised, but we see that stuff from him all the time."
Jayce Hawryluk: "Obviously it was a super special goal. It's one that I'll definitely never forget. I had a front-row seat for it. There's not really much to say about it. There are not many words to describe an effort like that and move like that against one of the best goalies in the league. It's definitely some entertainment for the crowd and for us. It's fun to watch."
Mike Matheson: "I think every single person just looked at each other with their mouths wide open. It was like… what!? We see him do some pretty crazy stuff, but that was a different level to be able to do that with a guy on his back and in the middle of the game. It was very impressive."
James Reimer: "He's one of the best players in the league. He's so creative and just thinks the game at another level. Guys do it in practice, or try to do it in practice, but he's one of those guys that can do it in games. It takes a special player to do that. It was pretty impressive."
Troy Brouwer: "That was insane. We were laughing on the bench, not even celebrating. It was something that you don't get to see very often. The fact that he did it with a guy right on him against one of the best goalies to play the game, it always adds an extra special thing."
Samuel Montembeault: "It was awesome. I couldn't believe it when I first saw it. Like I said yesterday, when Yands came in the room after the second he said wouldn't even do that in ball hockey to his nephew, and this guy does it on one of the best goalies in the world. It was spectacular to see."
Henrik Borgstrom: "It's pretty surreal. He tries stuff like that. I feel like he's tried a couple of times in games since I've been here and didn't score, but now he did. It was a pretty amazing goal, for sure."
What did you think of Barkov's goal? Tell us on Twitter @FlaPanthers and @JamesonCoop!