November, to put it mildly, was a challenge for the Calgary Flames. On-ice struggles and off-ice scandals plagued the team, overshadowing what could easily have been the defining moment of the Flames’ season. On Halloween night, Matthew Tkachuk cemented an epic comeback against the Nashville Predators with a between-the-legs, from-one-knee, buzzer-beating showstopper.
I mean this goal doesn’t even make sense pic.twitter.com/vhUBGoz15T
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 1, 2019
Immediately hailed as a goal-of-the-year candidate, Tkachuk’s goal lingered on social media for days afterwards but was ultimately swallowed by coverage on the team’s six-game losing streak. This past weekend marked the one-month anniversary of Tkachuk’s gorgeous tally, so it seemed as fitting a time as any for a closer look and a single, sizzling hot take:
On Oct. 31, Matthew Tkachuk scored the greatest goal in NHL history.
The move, the execution and the context combined into one stunning goal, the intricate likes of which hockey’s never seen. Factor by factor, let’s examine why this bingo deserves a verse in hockey scripture for years to come.
The between-the-legs goal is an absolutely revered play in hockey culture. Rankings of all-time shootout goals still consistently place Marek Malik’s introduction of the move in 2005 at the very top, plus this decade saw similar breakaway snipes by Tomas Hertl in 2013 and William Karlsson in 2018, both lauded as the respective highlights of their year.
Successfully twisting your stick between your legs and chipping the puck over the goalie’s shoulder is an automatic formula for a beautiful, memorable goal. Matthew Tkachuk, however, innovated the formula entirely.
First off, he launches his shot from the hashmarks. From a gargantuan 20 feet away, Tkachuk implemented a move that has never been further than a stick-length outside the crease. Whether a player corrals the puck at the side of the net or crosses the crease on a breakaway, every between-the-legs goal in NHL history had been sealed in tight – until Tkachuk’s.
Secondly, Tkachuk’s shot was effectively a one-timer. He pounced on a sliding puck without a second’s control or hesitation, an instantaneous see-and-shoot reaction. To combine a between-the-legs finish with a one-timer, however is nearly unparalleled. The single exception is Kris Versteeg’s 2011 marker, but even then, he was a step away from the crease. Tkachuk, by contrast, unleashed a distant between-the-legs laser without any calculation, in the most original and inimitable fashion that this type of goal has ever been scored.
If the unmatched shooting method wasn’t dazzling enough, every accent of the goal’s trajectory, from release to twine, enhanced it.
Not only was his shot a makeshift one-timer, Tkachuk actually dropped to his knee as he fired. The one-knee-one-timer, popularized by power play specialists like Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, is the likely the shot’s sexiest iteration. Perhaps it’s the added thrust of the player, perhaps it’s the holy undertones of falling to one’s knee, ask any winger and he’ll tell you that one-knee one-timers are particularly satisfying.
The puck itself then sliced through the air with serious velocity for a between-the-legs shot. No flipping, no fluttering, the puck darts from stick to net like a bullet from a barrel. It was crisp, clean and lightning-quick, which multiplies a goal’s beauty tenfold.
And then he roofed it. Simple as that. The puck kissed top corner, precision incarnate, landing in the most coveted destination of the net. Wiring a puck top corner elevates any goal from good to great, but when dissecting Tkachuk’s snipe, it was just one extra flourish to what was already a masterpiece.
Beyond the sheer skillful aspect of the goal, however, it only deserves discussion as one of hockey history’s finest because of it sealed a wild comeback courtesy of the team’s hottest stick.
Down 4-1 with only 20 minutes remaining in the game, the Flames surged back against the Predators with three goals to tie the game 4-4. If erasing that deficit wasn’t impressive enough, Colton Sissons’ goal in the last two minutes forced them to even the score yet again, as Tkachuk himself smacked home a rebound with only 40 seconds left.
A promising story, spearheaded by Tkachuk, was already simmering. Naturally, then, it was his contribution that would ultimately boil it over. The timing of the goal made it spectacular though, as he scored with 1.5 seconds left in overtime. Yes, 1.5 seconds. Not only did he shoot between-the-legs from the hashmarks, not only did it ring top shelf, he secured an incredible comeback with no time to spare.
And the sheer audacity of it all. For a 21-year-old to try that move in the dying seconds in the National Hockey League. It was so brash, so fearless, so quintessentially Matthew Tkachuk. I dare you to find a goal so emblematic of its scorer, much less a goal of this magnitude.
It was unbelievable. It was unprecedented. It was just plain clutch.
Tkachuk married every aspect of the standard great goal into one, and it was something biblical. No similar goal had ever been scored; no similar goal ever will.
It was perfection to the last detail, and hopefully it’s something that not only Flames fans will recall in bleak times like this November, but that generations of hockey fans will remember as a compelling case for the greatest goal ever scored.