Ask a Pro with Veteran AHL Goaltender David LeNeveu
(The following article originally appeared in the InGoal Magazine newsletter last week. To sign up for the FREE weekly edition, get your chance to ask NHL goalies a question, and see articles like this one before anyone else, simply enter your email address in the form on the right side of this page.)
David LeNeveu of Fernie, British Columbia was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NHL entry draft by the Phoenix Coyotes out of Cornell University, where as a Sophomore he recorded nine shutouts to break Ken Dryden’s old record of six, led Cornell to the Frozen Four and was nominated for the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top player.
Since leaving Cornell, LeNeveu has played in 17 NHL games for Phoenix and Columbus, has nine years of AHL experience, and even took a year to play in Europe, where he helped Salzburg EC, where NHL veteran Alex Auld recently signed, win an Austrian Championship. Last season LeNeveu enjoyed one of his best years as a pro, playing in 34 games for the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League, posting a 2.24 goals against average and a 0.918 save percentage.
InGoal met LeNeveu while he was working and training at Gold in the Net Hockey School in Parksville, BC. We joined him on-ice in Parksville, where he was training daily with coach Perry Elderbroom, who is the President of Gold in the Net Hockey Schools.
We will present one of the drills LeNeveu was working on that day in a future edition of InGoal Magazine. Until then, we hope that you enjoy this ask a pro interview with David, who was very generous in sharing his time with us.
InGoal Facebook fan Stephen Lucey asked, “Do you have any drills that you like to do with the goalie coach that works with your team. I coach youth hockey goalies and try to include drills that are easy to explain to them, Some are 7 or 8 yrs old and sometimes it is not easy getting them to follow easy drills…”
David LeNeveu: “Yea, there’s lots of drills I like to do with my goalie coach both in-season and out of season. Right now, out of season, working with Perry we do a lot of very tough reads like you saw out there today (InGoal was on the ice with David and will post more on this drill in a future edition). The nets we were using as screens and we had guys back-door and guys always in positions to shoot – and that’s just increasing our ability to read the play and read the puck because at the pro level that’s the hardest thing.
“In-season the stuff we work on are more pass-outs from below the goal line in tight. Just a simple pass to a guy sitting off to one side or in the slot, making that save and eating up the rebound. Stuff in tight. So once again its short movements, reading the puck, game-like situations more in season.
“As for youth hockey goalies, it depends what you want to work on. A lot of times the in-tight stuff is good for that age group too – you just set up a puck behind the goal line, a guy off to the short side post or bottom of the circle and it’s just a pass out to that guy, the goalie moves out to where that puck is being released from, a shot, stop the puck and repeat. As the drill goes along and the goalie gets good at it you can play out the rebound and make sure he’s covering it. It’s a simple drill that’s done from the youth level all the way up to the pro level and there’s different things you’re looking for goalies to do at each level.”
InGoal: “Your warm-up today, is that your regular warm-up in and out of season?”
David LeNeveu: “No, not necessarily. When we’re in season not all the time can you get out early and get a proper warm-up. It depends if you’re at home or on the road, if we have ice at home or on the road we’re at a practice rink somewhere. It all depends if the goalie coach is in town or he’s not in town but I do most of my warming up off the ice and when I’m on the ice I’m ready to go.”
InGoal: “What do you do off-ice?”
David LeNeveu: “Well for me I have a bunch of very specific stuff. I had hip surgery eight years ago and it’s still something I have to deal with every day. For me it’s coming in and balancing out my body. Meaning everyone’s body has a different physique to it and because of the position of goal where your hips turn in and your knees turn in and your shoulders turn one way – it’s about trying to realign that stuff and it’s about activating your core muscles from there and having an active type of warm-up.”
InGoal & InGoal Facebook Fan Richard St. Onge asked, “What’s the relationship like with a professional goalie coach? What’s that like and why do you keep coming back to Perry?”
David LeNeveu: “Well, Perry and I have had a working relationship since I was eight-years old, maybe it was six, I don’t know, but it’s been a long time so that’s working on a lot of years, maybe 24 years, or 20 years at least. So I like what Perry’s done. He understands the game to the level of a pro goaltender. He understands what we’re going through. Mentally he knows all the ins and outs of the game, trying to read the puck, read the player, what can I do better and bring myself to be accountable for every single goal.
“He’s very mentally knowledgeable about the goaltending game. I call him after every game and explain a goal or a situation and he’ll ask, where were your feet, or where were your gloves and get right down to the very minute details. Most of the time a goal goes in because its something the goalie did, it’s not something that – there’s very few times Perry said, ‘Yea, that’s a good goal.’ But you know its that level of accountability that professionals have to have and that what you want a goalie coach to hold you to that type of standard.
“Now with goaltending coaches with a team they’re at a very high level also. There’s always something technical to work on, there’s always something to improve, whether it’s getting you glove out a little higher, standing a littler higher, it doesn’t matter. There’s always something you’re working on and always something you can improve on every season, it doesn’t matter.”
InGoal Facebook Fan Gregory Phelan asked, “How does he stay focused always fighting for a top-four spot?”
David LeNeveu: “Well that the thing, there’s a tonne of distractions out there. You can’t worry about who’s coming in – now that I’m getting older there’s always young guys coming in and there’s always a chance the team goes out and finds an older guy or more experienced guy or a guy with more games. The only thing you can control is what you can control. You can’t control what the coach does, you can’t control what the GM does, you can’t control what the fans say.
“You can’t control anything but what you do and as soon as you try to, as soon as you think about what could happen or what’s going to happen, you’re done, you’re gone, your focus is lost and what you think is the worst that could happen, that’s what’s going to happen because you’ve totally lost your game. You just worry about what you can do in practice, what you do in the game and that’s it. As soon as you start thinking outside that box, it’s all done.”
InGoal Facebook Fan Jesse Spiro asked, “Does he regret leaving Cornell early? (InGoal: and can you tell us about your experience at Cornell).”
David LeNeveu: “Absolutely not.
“Cornell was great. I really struggled at that time with making that decision. I didn’t want to go. I loved the team we had there, we were a very good team the coaching staff was awesome. Obviously we were very successful, I was having a great time at the school, the academics side was such a huge plus at the time as well. But the bottom line when it came down to it was I was ready to move on to the next level. I had done almost all that I could at that level and my development would have stagnated had I stayed another year. Not only that, but with the new CBA rules coming in there was a monetary side to things as well and I was advised by a number of people, ‘your time has come for you to move on,’ and I resisted for while but at the end of the day I know that I made the right decision coming out when I did.
“I had a very successful first year pro as well. We weren’t as a good as a team as we could have been but personally I thought I had a very successful first year and after going through that I lknow that I made the right decision. I knew that I was ready for that level after that season was over and I’m glad I made the decision I did.”
InGoal: “And you had one of your best seasons ever least year as well, didn’t you?”
David LeNeveu: “Yeah, last year was a tremendous season. We had a great team, a great coaching staff. The Oilers organization did everything in their power to help us along to do the best we could. Myself and my partner Yann Danis, we worked very well together and I think our partnership and the way we worked together made things that much better both for ourselves and for the team. It was a very successful year – we fell a bit short of where we wanted to be – but at the end of the day we’re pleased with the year we have.”
InGoal: “And the NHL situation now makes it tough to know where you’ll be this year I suppose?”
David LeNeveu: “Yeah, guys have mostly re-signed with teams they’ve already been with and guys looking to go elsewhere the market has stagnated. It has to do with the [Roberto] Luongo situation and the [Jonathan] Bernier situation and the CBA itself. There’s a lot of guys still sitting there waiting.”
InGoal Facebook Fan Aaron Goldstein asked, “How do you keep yourself sharp and constantly ready while in a backup position?”
David LeNeveu: “Well, it comes down to practice really. You have to treat a lot of your practices like games. Now it’s not realistic to take every practice like a game, but you have to take points in those practices and ramp yourself up to a game level and it’s the same thing when youre not playing in a game. When you’re on the bench and stting in the stands in your gear you have to be in the game enough that you’re ready. So you can’t just be sitting there looking up to the scoreboard and not paying attention. Personally I like to pay attention and talk – tell our players guy on, or guy off and just staying in the game – you have to find a way to always be ready.”
InGoal: “What do you think of the Detroit system where goalies track face-offs?”
David LeNeveu: “I’m personally not a big fan of doing that because while obviously you’re paying attention and watching the game, but for me you’re doing something totally unrelated to what I’d be doing in that game. Because for me if I’m playing in a game I’m always yelling at my defensemen, ‘hey, guy back door, or watch this guy, or I’m identifying the threats out there’ and I can do that on the bench I can still be that guy identifying – this guys coming wide, make sure you’re backchecking, watching your shoulder when the forwards coming back. I would prefer – that’s my preference level to stay in the game as opposed to just charting numbers.”
InGoal Facebook Fan David MacDonald asked, “Dave, what’s your 2-on-1 strategy?”
David LeNeveu: “A lot depends on what you’re defensemen’s doing. It’s a very loaded question because there are so many things that can happen on a 2-on-1. A 2-on-1 can happen where the shooter is out further away from you and the back door guy is right on your back door – and in that case you have to give up more net because you can’t let that pass beat you to the back door. If they are side by side and they are coming in at the same time then once again you’re still adjusting your depth so you can enable yourself to get to that back door pass.
“That being said, your first priority is always the shot. You always have to be in position to stop that shot. At the same time you can’t be so far out that you’ll never get to that back door pass. Because the shooter’s reading off you. If he sees you’ve left too much net, he’s going to shoot – and he’ll score, at that level. If you’re too far out he’ll see that to and it’s an easy pass to an open net.
“Then once again you get into what the defenseman is doing. If the defenseman rushes the shooter, you can play a little bit deeper becase the shooters not going to have time to make a shot and you know the pass is coming across. If the defensemean is taking away the pass option, well now I can come out more and challenge the shooter more because if he does make a pass there is interference run by your defenseman.
“You really have to read each individual situation . But the primary point is put yourself in the best position to stop that shot while still being able to beat that pass across. “
InGoal, “Our readers’ always want to know – do you have any modifications to your gear?”
David LeNeveu: “For the glove – I’m going to try the laces in the pocket because it’s supposed to be more supple so it might keep more pucks in there, so I’m going to try that. I have a practice glove that’s bulked in the palm because my hand for the year just gets bruised and that’s no fun. “
“Blocker – I have a lot of inside padding – finger padding on the inside just because of all the pucks that ride up the stick and catch you on the inside.”
InGoal: “How do you do your skates?”
David LeNeveu: “3/8, pretty typical, it’s an older Bauer model. I’ve tried all the newer models and all the Graf stuff but I keep coming back to – I have a Bauer 7000 or something like that.”