Before The Shot: Lundqvist Keeps Calm Under Pressure
During Eastern conference semi-finals last year, goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals went save-for-save for seven games. For Lundqvist, winning the final game of the series was another feather in his Broadway Hat.
Let’s take a look at a sequence showcasing Lundqvist’s elite level hockey sense, leading him to make a key save late in Game 2 of the series against Washington to help preserve the win for the Rangers and even up the series:
This analysis is meant to single out Lundqvist’s ability to keep his composure during a crucial and time sensitive point of the game, and take his eyes off the puck for just one second to gain important information about what was happening in front of him.
At this moment of the sequence, the play isn’t threatening. It’s a 2-on-2 behind the goal line, with all of the Capitals’ players on the same side of the ice.
This is where we see Lundqvist’s hockey sense kick in. He turns his head and scans the ice.
As I mentioned above, the play isn’t threatening. Meaning, it’s a good time to look and see where potential threats or options are for the players to move the puck. This is a very important habit all goalies must have engrained in their game.
Since Lundqvist took just one second to turn his head and scan the ice (mostly middle and the near side), he sees Curtis Glencross coming and points to him with his glove. This type of recognition and communication is just as important for him as it is his teammates.
Considering the time of the game, Lundqvist’s ability to perform this seemingly routine movement in the previous picture helps maintain his composure and his ability to properly react to where the puck is going.
The result is that Lundqvist remains patient on his skates when coming off the post. He doesn’t blindly drop to the ice once Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (#19) moves the puck from behind the goal line. Rather, Lundqvist uses his left skate to rotate his body to remain square, makes a minor adjustment to push himself off the post, adjusting his depth in the crease – all possible because he knew where the potential threat(s) were on the ice.
Now, it’s clear that Glencross didn’t end up as the recipient of Backstrom’s pass (#20 Troy Brouwer ended up receiving the pass and taking the shot). However, the puck is moved in the general direction and area of the ice where Lundqvist previously looked.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
Goalies must take every opportunity to practice all aspects of their game during team and individual goalie training sessions, including how they maintain focus and perform basic, fundamental movements and make decisions.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the first five minutes of the game, the last five minutes of double overtime, or what the score is, the goal is to be consistently prepared for each situation.
Often recognized for his outside-in and superior puck tracking and reaction skills, Lundqvist’s technical game has been constantly evolving since he entered the NHL in 2005 under the watchful eye of Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire.
It’s this constant evolution that has helped Lundqvist consistently remain in conversation as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders for the past few years.
In this example, the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Rangers up one goal with under two minutes to play, and a chance to tie the series up against the Capitals, Consistency is King.
Eli Rassi is currently the Director of Goaltending Development with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD). CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com