Love the panicked look on the defender's face. NOT THE BACKHAND!

Yesterday Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote a column on a very special thing in the NHL: Sidney Crosby’s backhand. (Thanks to Ryan Lambert for sharing it in his ”What We Learned” column.)

You may remember that he scored twice in his first game back, with both goals coming on backhand shots.

We like the backhand over here at the Shelf, if for no other reason than being able to use it is an enviable thing. It’s a sign of a good hockey player.

Crosby actually got stopped on another backhand in that game that awed me with it’s velocity. For me to get any meat on a backhander, I need nobody near me, tons of time, and to get lucky and hope one of my 2-out-of-10 decent ones comes off right. His is almost a snapshot. I’ll let Mr. Yohe explain it better.

Most players require an extra second to fire a backhand shot, as the motion simply isn’t natural. But for Crosby, no such time is necessary.

Without the help of a backswing, Crosby can elevate his backhand shot with  authority.

“He basically takes a slapper with his backhand,” [Brent] Johnson said. “But he doesn’t pull it back and drag it like with most backhands. He just fires  it.”

The goalies on the Pens both rave about his backhand in the column, basically saying that not only does it come off considerably more accurate than most, but he also has that extra zip behind it.

Part of the reason for this: his curve.

Crosby uses one of the straightest sticks in hockey. While the tactic might reduce some velocity from his wrist shot, it adds to the power of his backhand shot.

“I’ve used a stick with more of a curve before,” Crosby said. “But you start to lose more on the backhand, and (it’s harder to) receive passes.”

It’s not just the blade he has to thank for that extra snap on his shot, it’s also his lower-body strength.

Crosby, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, isn’t physically imposing on  the surface. However, his lower-body strength is the stuff of legend, and those  powerful legs are the foundation of his backhand power.

When Crosby torques his body toward the backhand side, a shot with rare velocity frequently follows.

“That’s the thing about his backhand,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “He can just shoot it so much harder than anyone else. That’s what I always notice.”

The great backhand makes life tough on defenders, who often make the conscious decision to angle forwards to their (generally) less useful backhand side. Most of us are like basketball players than can only dribble with one hand, meaning you can really only drive the lane one way. It’s a huge advantage to have more options than that.

Crosby explains his frequent use of the shot by just saying “it’s a comfort level, I guess,” but we know better than that. He’s knows it’s good, and he knows it’s dangerous.

Keep your eyes peeled for it in the future. It’s pretty fun to watch.