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.
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
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: