The Toronto Maple Leafs may be out of the playoffs again, but top goaltending prospect Ben Scrivens is still playing hockey through mid-May with the AHL affiliate Marlies, leading the crosstown farm club through two rounds and to the Calder Cup Semi Finals.
Scrivens leads the AHL with a 1.61 goals-against average and .944 save percentage after eliminating the Abbotsford Heat in five games Wednesday night, and continues to build on a an up-and-down season that saw him struggle with his focus at times in the AHL, but also play his first games at the NHL level, compiling a 4-5-2 record and .903 save percentage with the Maple Leafs.
The thoughtful Alberta native and Cornell University Grad, has been a part of InGoal’s Ask a Pro program before, joining James Reimer and fellow puck-stopping prospect Jussi Rynnas in a two-part session that included thoughts on Toronto’s goaltending development, and how he got started with Leafs’ goaltending guru Francois Allaire in Switzerland. Scrivens took some time out from his playoff run this week to talk to InGoal about everything from his unusual stance and glove positioning, to mental tips, and his season so far, including the important role of his ongoing playoff experiences in the American League:
“I feel more confident right now at this exact moment, Scrivens said. “We’ve got a really good team so that helps any goaltender out, but in terms of my development this is huge. You always want to play meaningful games late in the season and into the summer. Toronto has been pretty adamant about getting their guys playing if they are not in the playoffs. Guys are always in the World Championships if they are not here playing meaningful hockey, and as a goalie it’s no different. You want to test your mettle in pressure situations, and that’s what the playoffs are.”
~ InGoal reader John Milhouse asks: Do you continue to work on technique in the playoffs, or is it more mental at this point?
Scrivens: “No, it’s mental, it’s consistency, it’s a whole bunch of different stuff, but at this point part of Frankie’s system is you put in the work during the year. We work hard in practices, we do 45-minute goalie session and then we stay on the ice for an hour-and-a-half practice, so it’s a long day some days. But the benefit of going through all that pain during the season is now you get into playoffs and you are not trying to re-invent everything, you aren’t trying to solve issues that have just come up. By this point in the season you should be confident with your game and if there’s a tweak here or there, fine, but it’s not re-inventing anything.
“Frankie is with us on the ice in Toronto and [Jean-Ian Filiatrault], our other goalie coach travels with us. He works with the guys in Reading, the fifth guy, and also Garret Sparks in Guelph, so like last year when I as up and Reims was up, Jean-Ian was with us because there was no one in the coast. So right now Jean-Ian comes on the road with us and Frankie is in Toronto with us, so we always have a goaltending coach with us. The amount of input they both have is still huge.
“We talk every single day, we go over every game, goals – this is good, this is bad, keep doing this or that – the only things that changes is we’re not doing long goalie sessions where we work on this play or that play. We’ve done all that work already, so now it’s more about maintaining that and your energy levels and confidence, and just making sure you are ready. Because you never know, in the regular season we can spend 45 minutes on a goalie session and then an hour and a half on the ice. You can spend two and a half hours in your gear and you know the most you are going to play the next day is 65 minutes, right? Even if it goes into a shootout it’s not going any longer. I know now how much I can push myself and when I’m like ‘okay I need to take a few less reps here to make sure I have the energy to get through tonight.’ Because you can end up playing 120 minutes in the playoffs, you never know how long you are going to go. You can’t overexert yourself in practice because you don’t know how long the game might go.”
~ InGoal Facebook fan Edward Sinclair asks: How does he stay mentally focused?
Scrivens: “I had a hiccup this year in late January and February where I was just making mental mistakes and it wasn’t any one thing, it was a culmination of errors, where there is no ‘oh, I did this wrong and I’ll just change that.’ It was finding out all I have to do in order to stay sharp for a full 60 minutes and going through that definitely helped me out at this point now because I am able to gauge myself. I have kind of a checklist now, where instead of what am I doing wrong, it’s just make sure I am doing this now or that now, and they are all connected to each other and when one slips they all slip. So I have to make sure they are all at a high level.”
~ InGoal follow up: Is that what you’re doing during breaks in the game when you come out to the top of hash marks facing the opposing net, and put your head down? It looks like you might be talking to yourself there.
Scrivens: “Yeah, just kind of talking to myself and going through that mental checklist, but it’s a lot of killing time too. One of the things I found this year was when your mind starts to wander, and that talk within your head is kind of getting to ‘oh, what did I have for dinner or I wonder what so and so … ’ humans are notoriously terrible multitaskers so if you try to think about this and do that, everything goes downhill. So one of the things [Marlies head coach] Dallas [Eakins] suggested to me was talking to myself. You can’t think about anything else when you are talking to yourself because you can only really do one thing at once. So just by reciting different stuff, like the checklist out loud, it keeps you focused.”
~ What kinds of things are on your checklist
“Things like ‘top of the crease,’ or ‘watch the puck,’ just simple things, nothing earth shattering. It just keeps you focused with positive reinforcement, and again there is a parallel to golf: Before you line up to take your shot, it’s ‘keep your head down, back straight, follow through with your elbow.’ It’s nothing that I’m sure hundreds of goalies don’t do anyway.”
~ InGoal Facebook Fan Steve Pace asks” You have a very unusual glove positioning; how did that develop and why? And Marvin Pinero has a similar question: Why is your catcher so high up? What benefits do you get from it than having a normal stance?
Scrivens: “My thinking behind it – and I am huge into logic and reason in terms of how I do things – so if you have your glove sideways [with the thumb pointed straight up or even more open] where does the puck come from? The puck comes up from the ice, so the angle it comes at is up so I want to face as much of the glove as possible perpendicular to that path. And then the other thing I was going with, is what’s harder to do – because mostly every goalie is dropping while they are making saves – so what’s harder to do, lift a limb back up against the momentum of your body, or start with the arm up top and keep it there? So you have gravity and momentum working with you more. Again so much of it is trial and error, and everybody has their own way of doing things. But I found that works for me. I like to stay up top because that’s where guys shoot the most if they’ve got time and space. They are looking upstairs, so try and take that away visually and then if they shoot it up there you are not moving anything, it’s not as much of a reaction save to try and windmill it every time. And then anything down I am already going down, and I’ve got gravity and momentum going down and that helps me get it down and close everything up fast still.”
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