The ‘Book’ on Lundqvist and Quick in Stanley Cup Final
Thanks to the goaltending-specific analytics and shot-tracking software of Double Blue Sports Analytics, we worked with the NHL Network and NHL.com to keeping closer track of the shot and goal trends during the Stanley Cup Final than ever before.
Here are the complete goal and shot totals, along with additional qualifiers indicating the types of plays that generated both, for Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist during the Los Angeles Kings’ five-game Cup win over the New York Rangers:
We also tracked the types of plays that generated shots and goals for each game in the Cup Final. The NHL.com breakdowns are already online for Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, and Game 4, and the charts for the decisive double-ovetime Game 5 are here:
We also tracked where the shots and goals originated from on the ice, and breaking down the quality based on that. The totals are listed below so you can judge yourself:
Admittedly we are having a little fun with the headline on this one. As former professional forward Justin Bourne pointed out in his article on The Score network, the idea of a defining weakness on goaltenders as good as Quick and Lundqvist may be a stretch. Bourne cited a Twitter conversation between myself and Darren Pang after we both noted the Rangers shooting a lot low blocker on Quick in Game 2 and wrote:
Nine to the blocker side does seem awfully high, but it just seems unlikely to me that the Rangers had someone stand up in the dressing room and say “shoot high blocker on Quick, he’s weak there.”
We agree it’s hard to imagine such a scenario. There are, however, tendencies that are carefully charted by the opposing goaltending coach on most teams, and they do present “a Book” on the opposing goaltender to their team’s shooters and coaches. We know because we’ve seen some of these reports over the years, including one from Team Canada that identified high blocker as a better spot for an open look on Lundqvist than the high glove alternative, a function in part of his incredibly reactive glove.
It’s also what we set out to imitate by charting every goal that Quick and Lundqvist gave up this season, including the playoffs, for an NHL.com pre-scout on both goalies heading into the Cup Final.
As for the nine shots to the blocker side in Game 2, a trend that has continued to a lesser extent in Games 3 and 4, what made them notable was the number of times the Rangers shot there early in the game, including some open looks that left shooters like Rick Nash with time and space to pick a spot.
As Bourne rightly suggested, that may simply be the best shot the game presented at the time, and it’s always been a good idea to shoot blocker side, low or high. But it’s also possible something was noted in the pre-scout based on Game 1, which included Chris Kreider scoring on a breakaway that saw Quick break out his half-butterfly save selection, keeping the left pad and glove high at the expense of a lowered right shoulder and dropped blocker, and this was an overreaction to that. It’s also possible Quick’s tendency to use a “paddle-down” save in tight, which also lowers that right shoulder and takes the blocker out of play, has led to the higher number of shots to that side overall.
Maybe the shooters are just seeing that on the spot. Maybe they have it in mind based on those pre-scout notes from their own goalie coach. Most likely it varies from one shooter to the next, but if even one uses it on a shot that ends up in the net as a result in a series as tight as this one – and Justin Williams open look on the Game 1 overtime winner may or may not be an example – that “book” has paid off.
Thanks to the work of Double Blue we can now track the exact locations of the shots to try and see if these trends are real or imagined. As noted in the Game 4 wrap up for NHL.com, the “high blocker” book on Lundqvist hasn’t played out despite a lot of attention after all three goals went in on that side in Game 1, but there have been some notable near misses and posts on open looks directed that way.
We also see it in things like one-timers, with the Rangers directing more (38 shots and 3 goals) at Quick, whose aggressive positioning makes him more vulnerable to quick shots after lateral passes, compared to the more passive Lundqvist (24 shots, 0 goals on one-timers).
We’re not sure it provides all the answers, but it certainly adds a layer to the context in which we assess the goalies. And best of all, this technology is available for any goalie, goalie parent or goalie coach that wants to get better. All those identifying shot and goal “dots” and zone numbers? Just click on any one in the Double Blue App and video clips for each shot and goal pop up, allowing you to easily identify any trends that are causing the goalie to give up more from certain areas or in certain situations.
For more on this goaltending-specific shot-tracking software check out Double Blue Sports Analytics.