Ever wonder why the backup in Detroit looks more like a Lions quarterback than a Red Wings goaltender? More than one person has asked after spotting the Wings puck stoppers holding a clipboard on the bench, an image more commonly associated with NFL quarterbacks, so InGoal Magazine was happy to dig up the answer.
It turns out they are charting faceoffs, a request head coach Mike Babcock started making of his backup goalies back in junior. He continued it with the Anaheim Ducks before bringing it to Detroit, though it’s worth noting none of the Team Canada backups were spotted holding a clipboard during Babcock’s gold-medal run at the 2010 Olympics.
Still, Babcock believes it does a lot more than just ensure his backup goaltender is focused each game because he might be relying on similar information from his playing partner the next night.
“When the goalie is in net and it’s a shutout situation or a one-goal game down the stretch, the goalie in the net wants the right guys on the ice in key situations in the faceoff circle when he’s in there, so why wouldn’t he do that job well when he’s not and help our team win,” Babcock once told InGoal Magazine.
“I’m just a big believer. There’s people up there that get paid to do it, but my goalie gets paid too and if all you ask him to do on his off night is chart faceoffs that shouldn’t be a problem. To me puck possession is the key to wining and if you’ve got it more than you don’t have it you’re better off, and faceoffs are huge.”
Veteran Chris Osgood has gotten used to it, and isn’t worried about how he looks with a clipboard. He is more concerned with how he might look if it prevents him from seeing an errant puck headed his way on the bench: think black and blue with a smattering of stitches and the potential for a lot of missing or jagged teeth.
“I almost got absolutely killed in Calgary – the puck missed my head by about two inches because I was doing it,” Osgood said. “Some nights it’s a pain because you’ve got to pay attention to pucks flying on the bench.”
The idea appeared to catch on with Joel Quenneville, who tried it temporarily with the Colorado Avalanche after working with Babcock at a World Championships. But he doesn’t use it in Chicago.
“It comes in handy for a critical faceoff late in the period,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got that information right there. You’ve got somebody upstairs doing it, but there are a lot of other things they can be doing upstairs. I think it’s good for the goalie, it keeps them in the game and they can still watch everything.”
Which all sounds good from a hockey standpoint, just so long as the backup remembers to look up once play starts – either that or start wearing his mask while he’s on the bench.
“No mask yet,” said Osgood, who shares his results with a coach every seven minutes. “But I’ve changed my technique. I put it down after I do one, put my gloves back on.”