The mantra of the hockey goal scorer is simple: they don’t ask how, they ask how many. Whether it’s a Steven Stamkos rocket, a Wayne Simmonds rebound, or a Patrick Kane stickhandling party, they all count.
Sidney Crosby doesn't have hockey’s hardest shot by any stretch - we’ll give him league average, if a scosh better - but since he first took to NHL ice in 2005, only Alex Ovechkin scored more goals (Crosby’s two-goal performance to open the season pushed him ahead of Jarome Iginla, who has 275 over that same span).
For the vast majority of his career, Crosby scored goals with his brain. He’s a lurker, a thinker, he relies on hockey sense to find pucks to tap home. But as a player with true passion for the game, he works on his deficiencies, and now has his shot to where he’s started scoring more on clean looks.
For that, he can thank the progression of his lightning release.
In hockey, “release” is the time in which you go from handling the puck to the time it’s off your blade (which is why when someone says “release” in regards to a one-timer they’re talking gibberish). Most players have to get set, feel that puck on the mid-heel of their blade, and maybe give it a little pull before getting it off. Crosby is willing to trade a few MPH to get the puck to the goalie before he’s expecting the shot, which is why it looks like Crosby often “gets lucky.”
Look at his first goal last night.
Gibson “should have had that,” right? But this is the trend.
Shooters offer clues to goaltenders that it’s trigger pullin’ time. The top shoulder drops a few inches, the backs of the hands roll down, and the upper body adopts a slight lean. With that, the stick flexes. Those signals are like the green light that comes on at the batting cages before the ball spits out with that satisfying *shoop* sound. That’s when goalies get set.
Crosby, better than anyone else, has cut that out of his shot presentation entirely.
It’s almost a chip shot.
He uses a separation between the puck and his blade, meaning he “hits” the puck, more than he whips it. Part of the reason for this? He uses a near-straight blade, which also affords him hockey’s best backhand. There’s almost no way, or at least no reason for him to roll the puck heel-to-toe on his shots, given there’s no hook to help him out.
When you combine these things with his uncanny vision, you've got goaltenders thinking about a few things at once, and suddenly the puck's on top of them. It probably doesn't hurt that he could knock the diamond off a wedding ring from a zone away, either.
So while he may not have that pure fastball, he doesn’t need one. You can be great without the smoke.