Tomas Tatar anticipated the defense, took a few risks, and scored a beautiful goal worthy of the 7th spot on our list of the 10 best goals of the 2013-14 NHL season.
Hockey is a game of calculated moves and anticipatory actions. Any edge one can gain over his opponent can make a world's difference, and when a defenseman shows his hand to a skilled forward, it's a bona fide recipe to getting embarrassed.
Tomas Tatar knows a thing or two about dancing with the puck on his stick, and when Brenden Dillon cued Tatar into what his next step would be during a meeting between the Stars and Red Wings in early January, Tatar choreographed a pretty nifty sequence.
David M. Wilson, Defending Big D: There really is no way to properly summarize the feelings of a Dallas Stars fan after that goal.
J.J., Winging It In Motown: This was the first game for the Wings since the Winter Classic. They were coming off of a 5-7-2 December and had lost the shootout in Michigan Stadium. The last time they had scored five goals and the last time they had won a game by a margin greater than two was November. Pavel Datsyuk was injured again, as were Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, and Stephen Weiss. The Wings needed a dominant game and were facing a hot team. I hate saying they "needed" a win, but a big victory always feels good, especially when they're a bit more rare than you're used to.
The 7th-best goal of 2013-14
How it unfolded
As this sequence began, Tyler Seguin had the puck along the wall and attempted to peel out into the slot. With one of his teammates below the goal line, even a turnover in this situation shouldn't be catastrophic, as Dallas had players back.
When Seguin bounced toward the slot, he was hooked(?) by Niklas Kronwall. The puck trickled off his stick and toward Tatar.
J.J., Winging It In Motown: The Stars got a few opportunities until Kronwall lifted Seguin's stick off the half-wall and Seguin attempted to draw a hooking call instead of recovering the puck. Fortunately, Tatar was there to pick up the loose puck and head up ice in what was essentially a 1-on-3 rush up ice.
David M. Wilson, Defending Big D: Come on Seguin, do a better job of protecting the puck along the boards there! Ah, he turned it over. Oh well, Tatar's got no support, he's just going to dump it in. Anyone else want a beer?
As Seguin finally began to recover, he actually wasn't that far behind Tatar. And both Dillon and Cameron Gaunce were both back and in position to stop a counter, standing in Tatar's way.
David M. Wilson, Defending Big D: Wait, Tatar's carrying it through the neutral zone? Huh. Well, Segs is backchecking and covering the pass, Dillon's shutting down Tatar, and Gaunce is closing in as well. Good thing our young, cobbled together defense doesn't have any holes in it.
Right as Tatar skated the puck toward the center dot, he completely changed the dynamic of this play.
While he was originally carrying the puck out wide to create some separation between himself and teammate Justin Abdelkader, he realized he had beaten Gaunce down the ice, and changed his angle, attempting to shoot the gap straight through the center.
At this point, Dillon was already lining Tatar up for a huge hit, while Seguin was attempting to wall off Abelkader.
J.J., Winging It In Motown: Brendan Dillon was the farthest back and had support from a guy on either side; this made Dillon think it would be a good idea to catch Tatar with a hip-check crossing the blue line. This is the kind of play that leads to a possession change 90% of the time, a brutal hit 9% of the time, and what Tatar did the rest of the time.
Dillon made a pretty big err in judgement. As he closed the gap on Tatar, he played the man instead of the puck. Had Dillon attempted to make a play on the puck with his stick, which was in great position to do so, and he probably at least would have impeded Tatar's progress.
Unfortunately for Dillion (and Gaunce), Tatar anticipated the hit and called an audible at the last second. Instead of continuing full speed ahead, Tatar hit the defenseman with a little Texas Two Step, and killed two birds in the process.
J.J., Winging It In Motown: As Dillon crouches, Tatar okey-dokes him and steps around as he Dillon takes out his defensive partner and leaves Tatar alone.
David M. Wilson, Defending Big D: There's Tatar gaining the zone and, wait, no Dillon, a hip check would be ill-advised at this poi... Oh God, did Tatar just skip?! And is that Dillon cartwheeling past him? But where did Gaunce g... oh.
And all of a sudden, Dallas was in a world of trouble. With Dillon and Gaunce out of the picture, a flat-footed Seguin (who was busy keeping Abdelkader in check) was the only Stars skater in the same area code.
Seguin has an incredibly quick first step, and because Tatar almost came to a full stop, Seguin was able to make up a ton of ground. But Tatar went to his backhand, and used his frame to protect the puck, while his drive toward the right post caused Kari Lehtonen to glide across his crease.
Lehtonen made his move across, and Tatar responded with a cheeky backhand flip under the goalie's arm. Tatar turned a Detroit offensive zone turnover into a 150+ foot display of skill, creativity, and above all, a goal.
David M. Wilson, Defending Big D: Well at least Kari's cut down the angle on him, and Seguin was back-checking hard so there's no way he's going to, wait, why are the Wings celebrating? Did that actually go in?
Winged Octopus, Winging It In Motown: I live by myself, and I'm not a yell-at-the-tv type, so watching a Wings game at home is usually not a noisy experience for me. The night of the Tatar goal my sister was in town and staying with me. As the night wore on she called it a night and went to my spare room, so of course I stayed up and watched the Wings game. Suddenly the laws of physics malfunctioned, the Tatar goal happened, and I entirely lost my mind. I have no idea what things I yelled, but I absolutely yelled things.
She came running in completely convinced the apartment was on fire just in time to see the replay of said witchcraft. She doesn't care about hockey even half as much as I do, but she yelled too, then asked me to rewind it so we could see it again, to which I happily obliged, and then we rewound it one more time so we could laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole incident. So there you have it - for me personally, the Tatar goal was so utterly insane that it resulted in unexpected sibling bonding time.
J.J., Winging It In Motown: The guts to pull the move and the skill to complete it was otherworldly. We already knew we had something special in Tatar, but that goal probably made the rest of the world aware too.