Breaking down Crawford’s Glove Hand Breakdown
There is no hotter topic in the Stanley Cup Final than Corey Crawford’s glove.
The glove side of the Chicago Blackhawks’ top stopper became the big story after the Boston Bruins scored all five on that side before losing Game 4 in overtime 6-5 on Wednesday, leaving Crawford and his teammates to face an endless stream of questions about his ability to take them to the promised land.
Toronto Star reporter Dave Feschuk wrote a good article exclusively about the issues and opportunities facing Crawford’s glove hand, noting that “of the 12 goals the Bruins have scored in the final, eight have gone in past Crawford’s trapper.” The NHL Network pegged the total at 10 of 12 on the glove side.
The real question here is why.
During Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I noticed that not only were the Boston Bruins shooting towards Crawford’s glove side, they seemed to be pinpointing a very specific area around his forearm and elbow. When pucks are shot in this area, Crawford’s tendency is to pull his arm up and back, and he ends up flaring his elbow, which results in opening up a hole that wasn’t there to begin with when he was positioned in his stance. We see the first signs of this when Milan Lucic scores his second goal of Game 1:
Here’s a screen capture of Crawford in his stance just prior to the release of Lucic’s second period shot:
Now take a look at what happens to Crawford’s glove as the puck gets closer to it:
As you can see, Crawford’s glove comes down to his side with the pocket facing the ice, exposing that area around his forearm and elbow. And, as he reacts too late by throwing his elbow back up after the puck goes by, that left side opens even more.
It’s not that Crawford does this every single time, but as outlined in InGoal’s Cup Final preview, Crawford does tend to react from his knees, defaulting to a butterfly drop first, and then reacting from that position our towards pucks on the perimeter. That often includes dropping that glove hand straight down, with the arm straight, the fingers pointed the ice and the shoulders pulled back and tense.
In addition to a delay when he has to pull this glove back up for a higher shot – against all the momentum of his drop – the motion of that arm back up tends to also pull his shoulders back further, actually opening up Crawford’s left side even more as he has to pull that glove back in for those shots being aimed just off the side of his hip, between three and his initial glove position.
The Bruins seem intent on targeting that inefficient extra movement, and exploiting the holes it creates.
In the third period of Game 1, Patrice Bergeron scored a power play goal in almost the exact same spot as Lucic. I would argue Bergeron’s shot was much more difficult to save because it was a one-timer from the top of the face-off dot and caught Crawford going left to right, with the shot aimed at the opposite side he was moving:
It was a tremendous shot by Bergeron, no doubt, but again take a look at where Crawford’s glove is positioned to start:
And look where it ends up:
Now, I’m not pointing this out because two goals went in. This happened throughout the game and even when he made the saves with this stiff, dropped arm, it often created rebounds, including in the first overtime. In Game 2, I counted five or six shots directed towards Crawford’s glove, and four were definitely aimed at that area between his glove and his hip.
Dan Paille’s goal in overtime went off the post and in, so I won’t count that in the same category as what I’m talking about here, but in Game 3 Paille again exposed this area on Crawford’s glove side, ironically perhaps shortly after the Chicago goalie made a good glove save off Tyler Seguin but wasn’t able to catch it cleanly to stop play:
Here is Crawford in his stance before the shot was taken:
And here he is after:
Finally, Crawford was beat five times on shots to his glove side in Game 4, including Bergeron’s third period goal in the same spot, a shot that saw the Chicago goalie first drop his hand and then lift it back up overtop of the puck as it went past:
Again, look at Crawford’s initial glove position as the shot is released:
And here it is after:
While eight goals have gone in past Crawford’s trapper, I only outlined the four that were a direct result of shots specifically placed at his elbow/forearm area. Generally speaking, this is a very difficult spot to catch pucks, but there are options.
Sean Murray, owner and head instructor of Pro Formance Goalie School based in Vancouver, wrote an article in the February issue of InGoal Magazine about proper glove positioning and activation, a forward position ironically favoured by Finnish goalies like Boston’s Tuukka Rask.
For Crawford, while his hands start off in a good forward position, he drops his glove to his side and shifts his body weight away from the direction of the puck. This causes his weight, albeit for a brief moment, to shift in the opposite direction that it should, pulling his weight backwards, and results in an upward or scooping motion with his glove.
At the end of the day, the most successful goaltenders at any level are those who are able to make the appropriate save selection based on the situation that they’re in.
As the old saying goes – it’s a game of inches. And for Corey Crawford, those inches have now become significantly more important to protect as both teams are just two wins away from raising the Stanley Cup.
~Elias Rassi is currently an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development. For over 10 years, Eli has been afforded the opportunity to work with goaltenders in the AHL, ECHL, CHL, OHL, QMJHL, Canadian university, American collegiate hockey, and professional leagues in Europe. CGD offers group, semi-private and private training programs for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the heart of the city’s West end. For more information, please visit www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com