Top 10 NHL plays of 2021

National Hockey League / Getty

You could consider 2021 as the year that was slightly better than 2020 but not by much.

At least we got to see a complete, albeit shortened NHL season happily conclude (if you're the Tampa Bay Lightning), and we're currently in the midst of a restored 82-game campaign.

This year was full of challenges, but NHL players provided us with some mind-blowing moments regardless of the situation.

Let's countdown the 10 best plays of the calendar year.

10. Very rude, Kaprizov 🤑

April 23, 2021

Kirill Kaprizov took home the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he showed exactly why he was worthy of the honor during this play against the Los Angeles Kings. The Minnesota Wild phenom showed off his skating, hands, scoring touch, and ability to dust defensemen (poor Michael Anderson) in the span of a few seconds.

9. Matthews would kill it in the batter's box

April 28, 2021

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews is known for scoring jaw-dropping goals using his patented wrist shot. However, the 2021 Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner decided to do things a little differently against the Montreal Canadiens for his 35th tally of the season. He flaunted his unreal hand-eye coordination by knocking a bouncing puck away from Nick Suzuki before shoveling it into the net.

8. Coleman crushes Habs' dreams with late heroics 🦸‍♂️

June 30, 2021

Head into the third period tied 1-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final? Not a chance. Clutch Lightning forwards Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman showed off their killer instincts in the dying seconds of the middle frame. On what turned out to be the game-winning goal, Coleman, who is no stranger to sacrificing his body, did his best Superman dive to finish off the nice pass from Goodrow. This is how you win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

7. The definition of 'Flower Power' 🌼

Feb. 11, 2021

Marc-Andre Fleury's left arm has a mind of its own, and it was all he needed to absolutely stone Anaheim Ducks forward Isac Lundestrom at the goal line. It seemed like a slam-dunk two-on-one play for the Ducks, but the veteran netminder reached behind him to sweep the puck out of harm's way. With saves like that, Fleury captured the 2021 Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie.

6. Marchand drags the Islanders for all they're worth 😳

June 7, 2021

Need a big goal? Bank on Brad Marchand to deliver. The winger had the equalizer on his stick halfway through Game 5 of the Boston Bruins' second-round playoff matchup versus the New York Islanders, and he took on one of the league's top defensemen to do it. Marchand challenged Ryan Pulock and made it look easy, dragging the puck around the blue-liner en route to the net. Then, he got goaltender Semyon Varlamov to bite the other way. Bonus points for the stylish celly, too.

5. Laine doesn't need help 🤷

April 12, 2021

Patrik Laine must love long, romantic drives along the coast, given that he gracefully went end-to-end for this nasty goal against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Columbus Blue Jackets sniper ran into a little bit of trouble in Chicago's zone, but not to worry. He just danced around defensemen Calvin de Haan and Riley Stillman like it was nothing and then got an open look at the net. Also, it was unassisted.

4. Price says no to Spezza with his stick 🙅

May 24, 2021

Everyone knows Carey Price was a force for the Canadiens during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. But few plays accentuate that fact better than this save on Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza in the first round. Whether you call it desperation or veteran intuition, it's something to behold. Spezza was staring into a yawning cage until Price showed off his athleticism and stretched out to deflect the puck out of play with his stick.

3. Barzal sends the Sabres to the Shadow Realm 😵

March 6, 2021

There are essentially three things that happen in this Mathew Barzal goal against the Buffalo Sabres that warrant it being on this list's podium. First, he bumps 6-foot-4, 221-pound Rasmus Ristolainen off the puck like he's a ragdoll. Then, Barzal slows down just a touch in front of the net to trip up goalie Carter Hutton. Finally, and this really puts it over the top, he guides the puck between his legs and flips it into the net. Hang this one in a museum.

2. McDavid takes the Rangers for a little walk 🐕

Nov. 5, 2021

Get ready to see a whole lot more of this Connor McDavid goal before this season is done. The Edmonton Oilers captain forced overtime with this late equalizer against the New York Rangers, and what an equalizer it was. He turned nothing into something, skating through four Rangers players like they were pylons. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev couldn't do much on the play either, except think about how much he's going to have to watch this goal over the next few months. Hockey fans everywhere should thank McDavid for giving us this gift so early into the 2021-22 campaign.

1. There are no words to describe this one 😶

Dec. 7, 2021

To quote the great Teemu Selanne's response to this play, "Wow." This goal even stunned Trevor Zegras, and he's the one who made it happen. The Ducks rookie was behind the net when he lifted the puck like he was trying to pull off the "Michigan" but then flipped it over in an alley-oop pass to teammate Sonny Milano. Not to be outdone, Milano batted the puck out of midair and into the back of the net. To make the moment sweeter, the stunner stood as the game-winner against the Sabres. This goal will have an infinite shelf life on any highlight reel.

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