Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In celebration of the truly terrible goal

Jonathan Bernier had an interesting night last week. On Thursday, his Toronto Maple Leafs were hosting the Arizona Coyotes, and they weren’t playing especially well. Through two periods they’d been badly outplayed, surrendering 32 shots on goal. But Bernier had been flawless and was almost single-handedly responsible for his team clinging to a 1-0 lead as the third period began.

And then, this happened …

This isn’t the first time Bernier has been caught napping, and it might not even be the worst goal he’s ever given up. And if they’re being honest, most goalies have been there. Hockey is a funny game, and sometimes even the best goaltender has a momentary lapse, or a brain cramp, or just plain bad luck.

And so today we’re going to take some time to celebrate the terrible goal. And by celebrate, of course, I mean rate, using an arbitrary scale I made up just now. We’re going to look at 10 of the worst goals from hockey history and rate them based on the following criteria:

Ugliness: Pretty self-explanatory. How bad did it look? And more importantly, how hard did you laugh?

Importance: When it comes to bad goals, the “when” can be every bit as important as the “how.” A bad goal in the second period of a meaningless game isn’t the same as one that happens in overtime or a Game 7.

Notoriety: For whatever reason, some awful goals are largely forgiven, while others stick to a goalie forever, like a bad rash.

We’ll rate the goals in each category before assigning a final overall score, which won’t be an actual average, because this is a nonscientific exercise and I’m basically pulling these numbers out of the air.

By the way, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list — I’m sure fans of every NHL team can remember a few stinkers that don’t appear below. I’ve also limited the list to goals that are available on YouTube,1 since having access to the visual evidence is most of the fun here.

Vesa Toskala’s 197-footer

Ugliness: 8.8/10. It would be just about impossible to give up a goal from any farther away than this masterpiece. You could argue that it’s a tougher play than it looks like — note the way announcer Joe Bowen’s voice betrays a rising sense of panic as the puck starts bouncing and the last hop really is a crazy one when you see it from the behind-the-net angle. But in real time, this was unbelievably bad, and that’s how everyone remembers it.

Importance: 2.6/10. This was from an Islanders-Leafs regular-season game in March that the Leafs still ended up winning. It didn’t really matter.

Notoriety: 9.9/10. This has become the gold standard for awful goals, so much so that “Toskala” was trending across Canada immediately after Bernier’s gaffe Thursday. Toskala was awful in Toronto, and while you could argue that this goal isn’t even his worst — at least he didn’t direct it into his own net it’s the one that will always come to mind when his name is mentioned.

Overall: 8.3/10. Like we said, this one has become the gold standard. But should it be? Let’s run through some other candidates.

Sebastien Caron Goes Full Toskala

Ugliness: 8.7/10. This is basically a carbon copy of Toskala’s effort (although if you want to get technical, this one actually came first). That bounce at the end is brutal — you can almost imagine Caron’s slow-motion “Noooo” as he slides helplessly in the wrong direction.

Importance: 2.3/10. This is a March game between the two worst teams in the conference. I’m pretty sure I’ve scored more important goals in NHL ’94.

Notoriety: 4.2/10. Maybe it’s just me, but I had no recollection of this happening until I started researching this post. Sorry to blow your cover, Sebastien.

Overall: 6.3/10. A fun side note: Caron was also on the ice for another awful goal that season; he was in the Penguins’ net when Maxime Talbot scored this monstrosity against Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki. It was the first goal of Talbot’s career.

Tim Thomas Whiffs

Ugliness: 8.9/10. This is pretty comical — there’s no bad bounce, no equipment problem, no fluke distraction. Thomas just tries to sweep the puck, whiffs completely, and watches it trickle in through his legs.

Importance: 5.3/10. This was another regular-season game in March, and it didn’t mean much to the last-place Bruins. But the Devils were in a battle for the top spot in a tight Atlantic, and this win ended up making the difference between them finishing first and third.

Notoriety: 4.5/10. Thomas would do this every now and then — this 80-foot overtime winner against the Caps results in one of the great Losing Goalie Sprints of all time. But on the list of things Tim Thomas is notorious for, I’m not sure this goal cracks the top 10.

Overall: 6.8/10. Apparently, NHL goalies on bad teams have a real problem staying focused during games in March. Doesn’t anyone give up terrible goals on opening night anymore? Oh, wait …

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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