Lundqvist Save Shows Importance Of Full Recovery
A puck beats a goaltender over the shoulder.
Fans, teammates, and sometimes even coaches call the goalie out for going down into the butterfly, but the goalie knows that going down wasn’t the reason they were scored on.
Sometimes they’re right.
If a goalie gets beaten over the shoulder on a clean shot, the odds are pretty good that it wasn’t tracked very well off the blade of the stick.
Most of the time, they’re wrong.
There’s usually a reason that a goalie is down in the butterfly. If it takes a perfect shot to beat the goalie over the shoulder, then playing the percentages didn’t work this time, and all you can do is tip your cap.
Other times, a play could have just developed quickly, and the goalie didn’t have time to get up and make a full recovery.
It doesn’t happen very often, but it can be avoided a lot of the time.
The era of “drop-and-block” goalies is coming to an end, but some goaltenders can still get stuck in the habit of coming across in the butterfly on a pass and completely freezing up.
Occasionally, players are unable to one-time the pass. As soon as that happens, the goalie must recover to their feet.
Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers demonstrated this perfectly in game four of their second round series against Washington.
Lundqvist tracks the puck and starts to push across in the butterfly. He quickly realizes that Burakovsky has to reach to receive the pass, and takes that opportunity to recover to his feet.
Recovering to his feet ensures that he does not overslide, which would open up too much space on the glove side, and it allows him to come completely set.
Now that Lundqvist is completely square to the shooter, he has him at his mercy. He’s even in good position if a pass went back the other way.
Let’s take a look at a few frames of the save:
In the first frame, Lundqvist is in good position to read the play. The pass comes from the corner, and he is set on the post, waiting for the play to unfold in front of him. Burakovsky is left dangerously alone in front, and he picks up on that.
In the second frame, Lundqvist begins his butterfly slide. He knows that Burakovsky is there, and the threat of a one-timer is imminent. He needs to get across as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The third frame is where the magic happens. Lundqvist sees Burakovsky reach to receive the pass. He is not in a position to release a shot, and Lundqvist makes a split second decision to recover to his feet.
He knows the advantage of being able to use his edges in a one-on-one situation, so he goes for it. It’s that kind of play that sets an elite goaltender apart from the rest.
In the fourth frame we see Lundqvist, with perfect body position, track the puck to the glove side and shift into it. He gets a piece of the shot with his arm, and it ricochets harmlessly wide.
If Lundqvist continued to slide, he risked opening up the glove side too much. Burakovsky, a skilled shooter, knew that and tried to go back the other way.
If he stayed in the butterfly, his momentum would have continued to take him to the right. It would have been extremely difficult to shift his body into the shot to his left, against the grain.
If Burakovsky decided to walk in or pass it back the other way, Lundqvist was ready and able to at least attempt a save. That could not have been said if he was sitting in the butterfly, waiting for a shot.
When a goalie has time on a play that is in front of the net, a full recovery is always ideal.
A player taking an extra second to settle the puck down before shooting is all it takes, and it is the goalie’s responsibility to recognize that there is time to recover.
The risk of being caught in transition is there, but it’s less of a risk than pushing across and just sitting there in the butterfly. It’s important to practice situations like this, so that goalies can break bad habits and become more aggressive with the tactic.
Lundqvist demonstrated it perfectly. It’s a save that probably isn’t made if he stayed in the butterfly, especially because he plays so deep in his crease.