Laurent Brossoit is learning how to handle the spotlight by spending more time in it.
The 19-year-old Calgary Flames’ prospect has gotten a lot of practice of late.
After backstopping the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL Championship as playoff MVP last spring, Brossoit was part of a disappointing Memorial Cup run that ended early and with a .871 save percentage. That was followed by six goals during his only appearance in the summer’s Canada-Russia challenge, and a lot more question – many of them pointed – heading into this season.
They didn’t stop during a sluggish start in Edmonton that included a .887 save percentage through eight games, and despite turning things around with a 5-1 run and .931 success rate since, were back heading into this week’s Subway Series.
Brossoit handled the onslaught as well as he did the Russians, calmly and openly answering questions about his recent struggles before and after an impressive 1-0 shootout win Wednesday. And while things didn’t go as well in Thursday’s rematch – a loss from which he was pulled midway through after three goals – it was clear to most goaltending wasn’t the problem. Even if it had been, Brossoit, who re-established himself as a favorite to make Team Canada at the World Juniors, would have learned from it.
“I definitely went through emotions and feelings I had never gone through before in a game and was a little bit nervous in the first, and the way I battled back, now I know what to do in the future,” Brossoit said after a 1-0 win that started with the first shot squeezing between his glove and pad before hitting the post, but ended with 30 saves – many spectacular – and three more in the shootout. “The biggest thing to me is to simplify my game. I was thinking too much about all the technical and little things and at the end of the day I just said to myself that I am just going to watch the puck and everything else will follow.”
Brossoit repeated the importance of “watching the puck” as part of almost every answer after the big win on national television, and it was clear from an extended conversation after other media peeled away that it went well beyond the usual “keep your eye on the ball” cliché. Tracking is a big part of his work with Edmonton goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz.
As for simplifying the rest of his game, Brossoit told InGoal it was a matter of avoiding paralysis by analysis, especially during a game.
“I feel when I am struggling it’s when I am thinking about things like where are my hands, how is my stance, am I too hunched over, am I to upright, am I too far out with my depth,” he said. “And all that stuff does come into play, but at the end of the day you have to work on those things in practice and my huge strides have come when I just focus on watching the puck and what Schwartz and I call tracking. If you track the puck, your head follows, your body follows and you’ll end up being in position and being quicker.”
As for all the other technical stuff, Brossoit said he’s made a lot of adjustments in his game over the past two seasons, especially when it comes to techniques and tactics around his posts.
“There was a lot of plays like wide-side drives on sharp angles and those situations where I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know whether to go knee up, or if should paddle down, all those little things that you can think about during a game,” he said. “Now it’s just watch the puck and it will come naturally because we worked on so many things.”
All those repetitions in practice have led to more innate reactions in games – and when things do go wrong within a game, the refocus is on the puck, not evaluating those executions on the spot. Those corrections come later, a valuable lesson.
“Now it just comes natural and I can just focus on watching the puck,” he said.
Which means fishing it out from behind him a lot less often.
All images by InGoal Magazine photographer Clint Trahan, all rights reserved.