The Year in Hockey 2012 is hours away from ending. Soon we will turn the page to 2013 and continue to hope that our favorite NHL teams will return to the ice as some point in the new year.
In the meantime, we finish recollecting on 2012 by displaying the top goals of the year. It's always tough to pare down so many goals from so many different levels of hockey from around the world to the ten best. But hey, lists are supposed to spark debate, right?
Our criteria for these goals was simple: individual efforts. There were plenty of collaborative efforts in 2012 like Jason Spezza dangling the Winnipeg Jets and Pavel Datsyuk doing Pavel Datsyuk things and helping set up Gustav Nyquist's first NHL goal with a spin-o-rama. Also part of the criteria: no shootout goals. There were plenty of lovely ones like Mike Ratchuk, whose new nickname is probably Dirty McFilthymitts after this beauty, or any number of Patrick Kane's attempts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but there were too many goals during the run of play that were contenders.
So after the jump, the 10 best hockey goals of 2012. Enjoy.
Here ... we ... go ...
10. Jyri Junnila goes airborne, hits top-shelf
A late entry into the contender pile, Jyri Junnila makes the cut for not only the move around the defenseman, but also the wherewithal to remain focus on his task and lift the puck top shelf while airborne.
9. Nik Zherdev's silky smooth forehand-to-backhand transition
During his time in the NHL, Nik Zherdev was labeled an "enigma" because that's what some North American journalists call Russian players whom they find to be "lazy". Now playing with Atlant in the KHL, Zherdev has settled into being a 40ish-point player and still shows occasional moments of superior skill, like this silky smooth between-the-legs deke.
8. Mike Ribeiro scores a goal that was 'six shades of sexy'
This goal is fantastic for two reasons: Ribeiro's behind-the-back stick control, which helped open up room for him to score the OT winner (special thanks to the Calgary Flames) and Daryl Reaugh's description of the goal, which included the phrases "six shades of sexy", "There's the manipulation up top; here comes the stimulation — KABANG" and "Round the house … pull it in … pull its pants down and SPANK it home".
7. Pavel Datsyuk is Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk did a lot of cool Pavel Datsyuk things (the norm) in 2012. He continued to be our favorite interview subject and kept providing us with great hockey highlights. The one that made this list comes from his tenure with the KHL's CSKA Moscow in November when he diced through his opponents in Amur is very Datsyuk-like fashion.
6. Austin Azurdia plays hero while taking defensemen to dangle school
With the game tied 3-3, Langley Rivermen forward Austin Azurdia accepted a pass at center ice with five seconds left. Despite the clock ticking away, Azurdia hurried into the Prince George Spruce Kings zone and dangled around a defenseman and before sniping home the game winner with 0.3 seconds to go.
5. Dylan McLaughlin's between-the-legs goal was just ridiculous
Many of these goals that are just the kind that make your eyes pop out of your head are the result of not just extraordinary skill (and sometimes luck), but also massive balls to even attempt it. Such was the case for Dylan McLaughlin of the USHL's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in October. With no angle just below the faceoff dot to Green Bay Gamblers goaltender Richard Sabol's left, McLaughlin went between-the-legs from distance and somehow scored. You may not stop shaking your head in disbelief each time you see how far out he was shooting from.
4. Evgeni Malkin embarrasses the Tampa Bay Lightning
The "Year of Malkin" sauntered on in February when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning met for a Saturday matinee. The Penguins were in the middle of an 8-1 rout with Malkin finishing things with a hat trick and an assist. Malkin's second goal of the game came early in the third period when he did his best impression of Mario Lemieux's famous effort during the 1991 Stanley Cup Final.
3. Evgeny Timkin goes between the legs after a beauty spin-o-rama
Evgeny Timkin is a 21-year old forward for the KHL's Vityaz Chekhov, the team you've likely heard of only because you were watching a brawl of some type. Turns out they also score goals, and pretty ones at that. This one by Timkin came shorthanded and was one of those goals that makes you wonder if he really did have the puck on a string; you know, like the one Vladimir Tarasenko had at the league's All-Star Game in January.
2. Tyler Clarke spins his way to a goal
Tyler Clarke plays Junior C hockey in the Great Lakes Junior league in Ontario. Coming on goal on 1-on-2 Clarke had one of those moments where time slows down and each and every one of your movements is able to be precise and perfect. Blowing past one defenseman and then pulling off a spinning deke against the other before pulling a semi-Forsberg to score.
1. Alex Mason is an absolute wizard
During a Minnesota State High School League game in February, Alex Mason was killing a penalty when he forced a turnover and came in on a breakaway. Up 4-1, he decided to have some fun and took the puck on his blade faked the goalie and lacrosse-style shot it into the top half of the net. A truly remarkable goal.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy