Plus: VH, or one-pad down technique, in NHL spotlight after several big goals against it; Sergei Bobrovsky gives way to gracious Brian Boucher; Jonathan Quick ends 9 year drought for LA; and more in the April 18 update.

 

Lundqvist loves to play at MSG- and it sure helps when you're the game's first star

Sometimes high shot totals aren’t the best way to decide how difficult a game has been for a goalie.

Case in point: in what was pretty much a must-win game yesterday, Henrick Lundqvist made 23 stops en route to the game’s First Star and a resurrection for his New York Rangers, who come back to life with a 3-2 win after two road losses to Washington.

In the post game interview Lundqvist, visually relieved, mentioned how coming home for a playoff game in New York is always a source of motivation.

“It’s so fun to come back to New York and play playoff hockey,” he said, ”Especially after what happened last year (when the Rangers missed the playoffs), to feel the excitement and the atmosphere – that’s why we work hard all year.”

This comment after two games in which Capitals sort-of playoff neophyte Michal Neuvirth (he had one game of playoff experience in the NHL but two straight AHL championship runs) outplayed the veteran Lundqvist, with a shutout and a .980 save percentage going into the Game 3 loss.

InGoal recently talked to injured Rangers’ backup Martin Biron about his subtle style changes and how to incorporate goalie coach Benoit Allaire’s mantra about playing from the goal line out into his game.  Lundqvist is perhaps one of the best examples of this technique, as shown the following two highlights from Game 3:

In the first we see a cross ice pass and that calls on Lundqvist to dynamically T-push across to stop a one-timer by Jason Arnott. Notice how he comes across deep, properly prioritizing angle over depth, and on his skates rather than in a butterfly slide. Then at the last split second adjusts his depth by moving out after he is square to the shot.

The second highlight is a 2-on-2 with a shot from the top of the circle by Alexander Semin, where Lundqvist stays deep in the goal even though the shot distance and narrow positioning of the option player could have allowed him to step out farther. His great patience on the skates (few goalies make more saves up these days) rather than dropping into a straight butterfly on every shot, allows Lundqvist to sacrifice depth without necessarily giving up the corners.

Sergei Bobrovsky: wide and low not always the way to go

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after getting caught deep and down in Game 3. (InGoal file photo)

In a recent feature on Sergei Bobrovsky we talked about the Russian rookie’s ultra wide and low stance, which potentially could be an attraction to shooters who feel that the 6-foot-2 goalie appears smaller than he really is. While he certainly cannot be blamed entirely for the Flyers’ poor start in Game 2, he was pulled after giving up 3 goals on 7 shots. Here is the last of those, one where going down early, combined with that low, hunched-over stance and backwards flow against the rush that leaves him deep in his crease, exacts a high price:

Veteran backup Brian Boucher came in to shut the Sabres down in what was a wild game of fights, hits and net-crashing, which obviously opens up a can of worms as to whom coach Peter Laviolette will call on for Game 3.

It was a question he seemed a bit annoyed by in a later interview, given the official “any goalie can play” policy they have been preaching all along. Boucher, however, showed a measure of veteran diplomacy and class by supporting his coach in a tough call:

“He’s trying to juggle (Bobrovsky’s) psyche, how he’s feeling, and at the same time he’s trying to win playoff series so we can move on and try to win a Stanley Cup,” said Boucher. “I’m sure it’s a high-pressure situation for Lavi… He’s been pretty good at pushing all the right buttons since he’s been here. We’ll see what happens.”

(UPDATE: Boucher was named the Game 3 starter after Monday’s skate, with Michael Leighton, who spent most of the season in the AHL, likely dressing as the backup and Bobrovsky a healthy scratch).

Emery, Luongo, the VH technique and back-door plays

While Ray Emery’s play in the Ducks’ 4-3 loss was by no means the outstanding cause for the loss, the third goal (video below) could serve as a pretext for re-opening the debate on the VH (Vertical-Horizontal) or one knee-down position, which has been previously discussed here at InGoal and vociferously criticized by Goalies World Magazine, among others.

One school of thought suggests reserving the move only for plays that are lower than the bottom of the circle and tight on the net. The logic is that once in this somewhat awkward position, readjusting is not always easy if the play shifts. Take a look at the goal, where the puck is passed by Shea Weber from against the boards, through the blue ice, to the backdoor option (David Legwand) who scores. It could be argued that the VH position makes it harder to defend against this type of play because the goalie is in a locked position with his back to the back-door shooter.

And for those, like Vancouver goalie coach Rollie Melanson, who teach goalies to wrap their post side arm for stability, it locks up the stick as well, making it harder to intercept cross-ice passes through the crease (Luongo got burned on it in Game 2 against the Blackhawks):

 

Capitals Neuvirth caught in another VH gaffe

The VH technique was also criticized (though in somewhat comical fashion by announcers who mislabeled and clearly mis-understood it) after Neuvirth got caught using it by a perfect, water-bottle buckling, sharp-angle power play shot by the Rangers in Game 3 on Sunday:

 

It was quickly derided as poor use of the technique – sharp enough angle but too far out – and that may be true. But at what point does poor execution of VH, rather than poor selection of when to use it also come into play?

Neuvirth holds his glove up, but outside the post where it protects nothing, rather than over this shoulder in the net space the puck goes in. He also gets caught cheating off the post, which begs the question: Would it have gone in anyway if he’d been squared up to the shooter in a traditional butterfly, especially if he cheated to the middle again?

Quick quenches a nine-year drought in Los Angeles

For those trivia buffs amongst the readership, consider the following: the last Kings goalie to shut out the opposition in the playoffs was Felix Potvin, way back in 2002. Suffice to say it has taken a long time between zeroes.

After a nail-biter 3-2 OT loss in Game 1 in which Jonathan Quick made 42 stops and almost stole a game in which his team was largely dominated, the Kings’ netminder posted the shutout to even the series and garnered the second star. Having talked about Lundqvist and his goal line out style above, watch the following replay to see exactly the opposite: Jonathan Quick with an aggressive positioning that frequently takes him beyond the top of the blue ice and necessitates strong communication with his defensemen to clear loose pucks and rebounds:

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9 Responses to InGoal Update: Lundqvist reaches deep and pulls out a star

  1. Jesse says:

    This article demonstrates why I read InGoal, and why others should too! Great analysis and insight into the fascinating world of goaltending.
    -Greetings from Finland-

  2. Ron Leba says:

    Playoff hockey in NYC is a monstrous sound….like Warriors to the battlefield…it can be deafening as I was their firsthand two years ago. Regardless of what Caps coach says, MSG is Rockin’ when the Rangers are in town!

  3. alfredo says:

    give me a break ill tell you why Bobrovsky dropped low on that one, its because there was a 3 on 1 and with a buffalo forward coming in full stride on his right side it was either a well placed top shelf goal or a pass to the forward on his right side. either way there would have been a goal. i often times dont know which way to go on these situations after i lose faith in my defense!!!

    • paul szabo says:

      With all due respect to Alfredo, I beg to differ. A review of the replay shows it to be a 3 on 2. Despite the announcer’s calling it a 3 on 1, Flyers no. 6 covers Sabres 36 and Flyers D no. 5 blocks the pass lane to Sabres no. 22. Of course I am no NHL goalie but it looks to me like the correct read would have been shot all the way, and thus a legitimate cause for advancing at least to the top of the blue ice.

  4. Mike Bianchi says:

    Lundqvist would have made the save that Bobrovsky did not. Lundqvist would have stood up to make it. Bobrovsky dropped before the shot was taken. A common mistake. A goalie has to react to the shot, not just automatically drop to take a way the bottom.
    Great point about the VH position. Luongo got beat again tonight game 3 1st goal against Chicago. He almost save it, but he went into VH too early.

  5. Bill says:

    I teach the technigue but never have liked the VH… Same with all the paddle down plays younger kids make…
    Saw the Flyers in Dallas at the end of the season and B was all over the place. He will be another AHL European league goalie if he doesn’t get focused on what his job is… Plante said it best… “If you have to dive to make the save you were not in the right position in the first place…” Also to Alfredo, confidence in your D has nothing to do with making the correct save selection and stopping the puck.. That is your job….Also the goalie ALWAYS takes the shooter…since He has the puck and is the only one that can score…. Awareness of the other player should be automatic but that guy can’t score can he…cheat and die….lol Oh and NO goal is automatic…lol

    My statement to all my goalies and Parents is The goalie is the only person on the ice that can’t make a mistake. Other than that there is no pressure to playing goal…

    I send this site to all of my goalies as well as their coaches…Best out there..And a real forum without all the shouting.

  6. larry sadler says:

    You made an interesting comment about Sergei Bobrovsky. The real problem he has are his use of improper cues. Too many goaltenders come out on their angle and move back into their net at the wrong times, they are using the wrong cues. With my goaltenders I have them rest standing up, back in the net with their back against the middle of the cross bar watching the puck when it is down at the other end of the rink. I have them move out to cut down the angle when the puck crosses the centre red. They don’t start to back up until the puck crosses the top of the face-off circles. By standing up they are resting their legs and breathing more freely without the constriction of being unnecessarily in the crouch. Resting against the crossbar tells them where the middle of the net is. By moving out as the puck crosses the centre red line and by starting to move back as the puck crosses the top of the face-off circles they give the impression that they are constantly in motion. This intimidates an opposing shooter since they find a mobile goaltender harder to beat then a stationary one.
    In Bobrovsky’s case he starts to retreat far too soon – when the puck crosses the blue line. Many goaltenders have either been taught to retreat when the puck is at the blueline or they are just allowed to do so, either way they give away far too much of the net. (Remember the defensive zone is now 17% bigger than it was before the rule changes). Bobrovsky allowed this puck to score all because he used the wrong cues, something too many goaltenders do today.

    • paul szabo says:

      Hi Larry;
      Great to see so many goalie coaches checking in on this topic, since depth and angle are the two primary tools we all need to learn to work with. I too try to teach my goalies to wait with their back on the crossbar as a point of reference, and come out when the play crosses the red, then ready stance when it crosses the blue. Nice to see some concensus on this one. I rmember shaking my head this winter as my son’s pee-wee (head) coach yelled at my kid to come out and wait “at least to the hash marks” when the puck was in the other end, as a means of being supposedly ready.
      One other point with regards to the NHL: if Bobrovsky indeed is making the mistake you describe, it does not reflect well on his coaching staff, who get paid $$$ to teach him. I wonder if it is not a holdover from the style in Europe-Russia, where there is so much east-west passing that the goalie may have to play deeper.
      In today’s NHL we see this type of flow less and less, whereas now the goalies tend to have a much shorter range of movement i.e. heels in or heels out of the blue (Roloson described this, among others) and not much more. Nevertheless, look at guys like Quick and Howard- playing a bit like Grant Fuhr back in the day by challenging the shooter.

      • larry sadler says:

        Paul
        Your comment on goaltending coaches is a good one. We have for too long relied on collective experience rather than on a scientific and analytic approach to sport – goaltending specifically.
        I recently read an interview in Goalie’s World magazine in which a goaltending coach stated he had his goaltender playing deep in the net because “I wasn’t agreat skater and that’s the way I played when I was a junior”.

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