Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon is on pace to set career-highs in goals and points, and his outstanding goal Tuesday night will be the offensive highlight of his season.
Jared Spurgeon might not be a household name outside of Minnesota, but come Wednesday morning, hockey fans everywhere are going to be talking about the diminutive defenseman’s awesome hand-eye coordination.
A number of players have scored some batted beauties this campaign — Sidney Crosby’s behind-the-net, off-the-back tally stands out — but none have done it quite in the fashion of Spurgeon, who didn’t simply swing at an airborne puck. Rather, Spurgeon purposely tossed the puck out to his stick in order to take a swing for the open net.
Spurgeon’s moment of brilliance came late in the first period of the Wild’s Tuesday meeting with the New Jersey Devils with Minnesota operating on the power play. As the puck was worked along the right wing wall to Mikko Koivu, Spurgeon saw a chance to slide down the left wing and potentially set himself up for a tap-in should the puck come backdoor. In a sense, that’s exactly what happened, but in rather astounding fashion.
As Koivu’s shot came in from the wing, it was tipped by Nino Niederreiter on goal and turned aside by Devils goaltender Corey Schneider. However, in making the stop, Schneider pushed the puck right in Spurgeon’s direction. Using some quick thinking, Spurgeon batted the puck with his glove down to his stick, got his left mitt back on his stick and swatted the puck past Schneider:
That’s one of the more impressive feats of hand-eye this season, and that it comes from a blueliner who’s known less for his puck handling ability and more for leaning into blasts from the back end makes it that much better.
As far as point-getting rearguards go, Spurgeon is one of the more underrated in the league and he seemingly continues to improve with each passing season. He became an NHL regular in 2010-11 and has worked his way from seventh defenseman to top-minute guy across the past several seasons. His point total has followed, too, especially over the past four years.
In 2013-14, Spurgeon set a new career mark with five goals and 26 points, followed that up by posting nine goals and 25 points, flirted with the 30-point plateau with a solid 11-goal, 29-point year and is on pace to again set a new career best, as he already has six goals and 21 points in 39 games. None of this is to mention he’s skating nearly 24 minutes per night on a Wild team that sits atop the Western Conference.
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