It has been a very up and down season for Kevin Poulin of the New York Islanders.
He stepped into the spotlight when Evgeni Nabokov went down with an injury, and has already set a career high with 16 games played – and counting. He played very well at the beginning of his run as the starter on Long Island, but now his save percentage has dipped below .900 and is currently sitting at .892.
Nabokov has also returned from his injury, meaning Poulin likely won’t see the same amount of action as a result. The softened work load may actually benefit a 23-year-old who only suited up for 37 total games last season.
But no matter what happens from now on, Poulin remains in the running for the Save of the Year after this tremendous effort on Patrick Marleau earlier in December.
It was crazy sequence – one that required Poulin to jump into the air to avoid a bank-shot attempt from behind the net, spin around and lift his right heel into the air while fully sprawled onto his stomach:
A certain amount of luck was involved, for sure. Poulin is lucky super rookie Tomas Hertl wasn’t able to convert on his bank shot attempt from behind the net. He is also lucky that Marleau fanned on his initial shot and wasn’t able to get a very strong shot off on the second attempt.
Poulin does one thing very well on the play, and that is maintaining a great visual attachment to the puck throughout.
If you watch Poulin’s head and eyes, they never seem to stop following the puck the entire time.
Even while jumping and falling on his stomach, he never loses sight. That allows him to make the final adjustment and get his heel up into the air to make the save – there was no luck involved there.
You don’t necessarily teach the moves that Poulin pulls off on the play. He was forced to make some improvised acrobatic moves because he was caught out of the crease being too aggressive on the initial shot. To his credit, he realizes it quickly, makes some pretty athletic moves, and never gives up on the puck.
Give his flexibility some credit as well, that heel kick could not have even been attempted if Poulin’s hips were not in shape.
On the first shot, he also decides to get up with his left leg, which forces him to return to the net by spinning around in the wrong direction with his back to the slot. To Poulin’s credit, it helps him track the puck better. If he recovers with a backside push with either leg, there is a good chance he gets caught up in the traffic that is polluting his crease and it would have put him at a greater risk of having the puck banked off him and in by Hertl.
You would hate to put yourself in the position that Poulin does after the first shot, but that still doesn’t take away from his ability to track that puck the entire time. It would have been easier for him to give up, so you have to admire any goaltender that makes a save like that.
Here’s the full-length clip of the fantastic save from NHL.com:
Greg Balloch is an on-air analyst, writer and Vancouver Canucks reporter for Sportstalk on AM 650 based out of Richmond, British Columbia. He was previously an instructor for Grainger Minard Goaltending Development in Hamilton, Ontario and now teaches for Pro4 Sports in Vancouver. For more information on Pro4’s goaltender training programs, you can visit their website here.
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