Mario Monday - It's All In The Wrist
There are too many subtleties in the game of hockey that wrongfully go unnoticed.
The game is so fluid, so poetic, that you can lose sight of the small things. Simple chips up the wall, clearing attempts, and hand-eye magic tricks get lost in some of the most memorable moments of the game.
For Mario Lemieux, his ability to just overpower opponents rightfully gains most of the attention when reviewing highlight tapes of some of his greatest goals.
But Lemieux had more than just power. His game wasn’t defined on his bullish skating or ability to beat a goaltender with two defensemen draped on his back.
Mario Lemieux was a surgeon.
And like any good surgeon, his hands are where he made his living.
Lemieux combined hands of silk with the patience of a non-smoker to absolutely freeze goaltenders with just the slightest of movements.
One of these movements in Lemieux’s bag of tricks was a simple as opening the blade of his stick up for one fleeting moment whilst on a breakaway.
It was a maneuver that had a very pedestrian appearance to it. But it was one that dropped goaltenders to the ice all across the NHL landscape. It was simple, but perhaps one of the deadliest moves in the arsenal of a guy that could make you look dumb in 100 different ways.
Again, a surgeon-like performance from Lemieux.
As always, Mike Lange captures this goal in a way only he could.
“Lemieux waited about a day and a half. He had a corned beef sandwich and a steak dinner and still beat him.”
Let’s take a closer look at what Lemieux does to beat the goaltender here. This entire sequence starts with a simple opening of the blade that forces the goaltender into thinking a shot is coming. It’s a fleeting moment, perhaps the most important in a sequence of moves that allow Lemieux to just deposit this puck into a virtual empty net.
Lemieux has frozen the goaltender.
And all he had to do was just relax the grip on his stick and open his wrist up.
That is a seemingly innocuous moment in this sequence that means the most. It’s what makes Mario so magnificent.
And this wasn’t some isolated incident. Lemieux made an absolute killing with this move.
And how about on the biggest stage ever, in traffic, with little to no space to operate?
That’s right, Mario’s trademark goal featured the patented wrist flip.
A closer look:
Now watch the blade open.
Now to backhand.
Just another case of the best there ever was doing that made goaltenders react as if he’d grown an extra set of arms and had two pucks on his stick.