Finnish sauce and sweet Swedish finish, say that three times fast. That is how the San Jose Sharks found a way to extend their perfect road-trip and overall winning streak to 4-0 on Thursday night. The best player for the Sharks was no doubt goaltender Martin Jones as this tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers was far from pretty.
After regulation ended 0-0, the game turned to three-on-three overtime and ended with a beauty of a goal. Swedish winger Melker Karlsson delivered a one-time chip shot top shelf off the back bar for the game-winning goal. The one-time shot came off a gorgeous set up by Finnish winger Joonas Donskoi. As you can see below in the GIF, it was a perfectly timed saucer pass over the desperate diving defenseman right onto Karlsson’s tape.
Melker Karlsson with the only goal as the Sharks win 1-0 in OT pic.twitter.com/hOHrEtzBXs
— steph (@myregularface) November 20, 2015
Analyzing the Sauce
All NHL players can make a “saucer” pass where they lift the puck up into the air and it lands flat back down onto the ice. That said, putting the perfect height and power behind the sauce pass on a consistent basis at the NHL level is something only the highest skilled players are able to accomplish. Joe Thornton for example, one of the best, if not the best passers of this generation is one of the few players in this regard. The general technique is similar to the spin of a frisbee where the puck is slowly rolled off the blade rather than powered towards the intended target.
That flat spinning motion like a frisbee is the basic formula. On longer length sauce passes through the neutral zone, the power behind the pass isn’t as important because it will surely land before reaching the target. However, the shorter passes like the one Donskoi makes are incredibly more difficult because the player has to get the puck up in the air and back down over a much shorter distance. Essentially the margin for error is far smaller. Defenseman often “leave their feet” in these situations because making these in-tight sauce passes are extremely difficult. Donksoi is already 23-years old but he’s still an NHL rookie and to be able to have the poise, confidence and skill to make this pass instead of shooting the puck is incredibly impressive.
Having both Donskoi and Karlsson healthy has been a big difference maker for the Sharks this season. Each of these two have brought detailed two-way play and without them the team has struggled. Prior to Melker returning from injury, the Sharks were just a .500 team at 7-7. With him so far they have gone 4-1. Furthermore when Donskoi missed time earlier this season, the Sharks went 2-3 without him. With him they have gone 9-5. These guys won’t light up the scoreboard over 82 games like Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture but they provide strong play at both ends, helping create offense and limiting the opportunities for the opposition at the other end.