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Before the Shot: Quick Shows Why Calculus Matters

Before the Shot: Quick Shows Why Calculus Matters

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick gave readers some unique insight on what it’s like facing the NHL’s most elite snipers for The Players’ Tribune.

Quick explains, “Top-tier shooters like Getzlaf and Perry can be holding the puck five feet outside of their body, or they could have it in their feet, and yet they can still get it off with mustard. That changes the whole calculus for me as a goalie. The best shooters aren’t necessarily the hardest shooters — the best shooters are the guys who can drastically change the angles of their release.”

Here’s a look at one of Quick’s saves on Ryan Getzlaf on a situation where Getzlaf does just that, holding the puck outside of his body, bringing it closer to his feet, and releasing a wicked shot on net:

Getzlaf receives a clearing attempt out of the Ducks defensive zone and gets this play going from centre ice. Rather than transition the offensive attack in a straight line down the boards, Getzlaf actually starts to curl towards the middle of the ice, hitting the inside of the neutral zone face-off dot, and then skating back towards the boards.

Why does this matter?

For one, any subtle change in a player’s direction that forces a goalie to adjust their angle makes a situation more challenging. Of course, the difficulty isn’t as great as when a player or the puck crosses the Royal Road; however, in this example, and what Quick talks about in his Player’s Tribune article, are the more subtle changes in angles that take place that pose a certain degree of difficulty from a goalie’s perspective.

Second, Getzlaf is a right handed shooter positioned in the left wing (his off-wing).

Automatically, this adds a level of complexity to anticipating what he might do with the puck. Here’s an example of what I mean in this frame:

Quick 1

Here, Getzlaf is looking like he’s going to pass, but only with his head. If you look at his stick blade, it remains closed, which indicates he is not yet ready to shoot. Also, look at his feet and hips. They have yet to open up, meaning Quick can’t over anticipate the pass. He has to respect the fact that Getzlaf can still put a shot on net.

As a result, we can see strong positioning and depth from Quick in the picture above.

Quick 3

Now, we can see what Getzlaf wants to do – shoot. His inside leg is loaded up and his head is facing the net. But, as Quick noted, what makes players like Getzlaf dangerous is how quickly they can change the angle of their release.

Let’s look at the difference between where Getzlaf started his shot to where he actually released the puck.

Quick 3 4 2 combined

As you can see, there’s a significant difference in the starting point and end point of Getzlaf’s shot.

There are three other points worth considering that added to the difficulty in reading Getzlaf’s stick:

  • Kings defenseman Alec Martinez is attempting to block the shot by reaching with his stick and then dropping to one knee. This type of play can cause a visual distraction for a goalie. And that split second when a goalie takes their eyes off the player’s stick can make all the difference at the end of the day.
  • It appears Getzlaf’s shot made it through the space between Martinez’s stick and the ice. It might have even slightly deflected off the shaft of Martinez’s stick.
  • Getzlaf’s shot goes against the grain, meaning he pulls it to his left and snaps the puck to his right (Quick’s glove side).

Quick 5

All of these things, in a mere matter of seconds, changes the “calculus” for Quick. He now has to shift his body into the shot. As you can see, Quick maintains excellent body positioning, allowing him to react into the shot versus pull up and away from it (in other words, freeze up).

Calculus 101

Wikipedia defines calculus as “the mathematical study of change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of operations and their application to solving equations.”

In this example, we see the challenges Quick faces as Getzlaf enters the offensive zone on his off-wing: his positioning by first looking away from the net like he might pass, and then quickly putting a shot on net, but not before he takes the puck wide, drags it closer to his body, and releases a solid shot on net.

The whole calculus certainly changed for Quick in a matter of seconds.

There’s no doubt Quick raises some valuable points in his Player’s Tribune article. But, I think the true value he gives is understanding tendencies. Whether it’s a Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, Quick provides readers with a glimpse of what it’s like trying to keep track of what these players can do night in and night out.

And, like Quick says in the article, “90 percent of the save happens before the guy releases the puck.”

~ 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

About The Author

Elias Rassi

~ Eli Rassi is currently the goaltending coach 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