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Breaking down Crawford’s Glove Hand Breakdown

Breaking down Crawford’s Glove Hand Breakdown

Crawford MAsk 1There 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:

Lucic release

Now take a look at what happens to Crawford’s glove as the puck gets closer to it:

Lucic goal

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:

Bergeron release

And look where it ends up:

Bergeron goal

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:

Paille release

And here he is after:

Paille goal

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:

Untitled

And here it is after:

Untitled goal

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

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

16 Comments

  1. DSM

    Nerves. He’s a relative kid in this scenario, and his save selection is becoming one of safety over having the confidence in himself to make the right selection. His glove is competent when it’s headed top corner, but if InGoal is seeing this tendency near the body you know Boston was and is all over it.

  2. Matt in Montreal

    Reebok’s fault.

  3. JWB

    Excellent break down with videos and still’s! I feel Crawfords’ dilemma; I have a tendency to drop my glove and arm quite often.

  4. Robbie

    Great article that should help us goaltenders spot what shooters are looking for. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that Crawford has a injured glove hand. He seems very hesitant to catch the puck and when he does its not clean.

  5. larry sadler

    I enjoyed the article. It was a well written, well researched, and well documented analysis of what I consider is the problem with the Cdn game. I have traveled to Finland every June to update my goaltending coaching. As the article states the Finnish has always impressed me with its biomechanical based foundation. The hands leading the goalie style as demonstrated by Rask and the other Finnish goalies makes for a more efficient approach. We have to evolve in this country and start teaching our goalies to lead with the hands so as to better track the puck into the gloves.
    Good job Elias I will be in touch next time I am in Ottawa.

    • Eli Rassi

      Sure thing, Larry! Drop me a line on Twitter (@EliRassi) when you get a chance.

  6. Eli Rassi

    Hi everyone! Thank you very much for the feedback on this article. I really appreciate it and hope that it helps further understand the use of hands, whether it’s watching other goalies or in your own game.

    Enjoy Game 6!

  7. Ralph Zobjeck

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he has a sore shoulder. I have a tear in my rotator cuff and it is extreamly hard to keep my hand in position when going down. The momentum makes the glove hand want to fall to the pad. The blocker side isn’t as bad as you have the stick on the ice to support the weight as long as it is in the right position.

    • Jon

      Ralph, no way unless its an excuse. Couple reasons.
      -While dropping the glove goes down, then he MOVES it back up. Trouble is he is moving down first to get a puck moving up
      -He is perfectly fine on his “highlight reel” saves where the puck goes straight into his glove, he feels it and make the showboat save
      -He is constantly throwing himself into the boards to stop it behind the net
      – He is trying to interfere with skaters both behind the net and in the slot area.

      No goalie with a nagging injury is going to skate out and Pick the opposing skaters. You arent going to hang behind the net to block them from skating up ice. You are staying home and trying to protect it.

      Its Coreys style.

  8. Jon

    It has nothing to do with his body weight. Its the blocking style. Unless you separate your upper from lower body in the drop to the butterfly your arms will drag down with you. The trouble is with the pure blocker you let the play come to you. You are not attacking the shooter or forcing the shooter to take a shot that you A: Know where he can shoot B: Are making him shoot at

    So you are asking someone that lets the play come to them to learn to float his upper body is nigh impossible. For Crawford Loungo, fillin the Blocking goalie style here, you are always going to have that issues. Take a look at Price, this season most of the playoff goals were the shooter moving then shooting where Price IS, because Cary was moving away to play the “book” position. Again you are asking a goalie that came from the school of ” make yourself big, use as much size and gear as you can” to get in the way, to stop thinking that way and trying to get him to think like a shooter. He can’t thats not what you drafted and paid millions to play in goal for you.
    You drafted him to take up space and basically buy you time for the D to get there and clean up the mess. That is your defensive strategy.
    See if you fix his “glove issue” you will open up a host of other ways to beat him. If he was on mid level team in the bottom 15 of his division, he would be getting destroyed. That is what you are drafting. Teams aren’t drafting goalies that can think and stay ahead of the shooter, get in the shooters head, and I mean knowing what the shooter has to shoot at. Nope teams want a 4×6 body if they could.
    So while the breakdown is great, its simple physical physics that cause this. Again, the style is take the bottom of the net away and play the percentages. You are asking him to block the puck “in MOST INSTANCES” of where the it would go. You arent asking him to react, force, and control the game. Every play table hockey with the big bubble? The goalie is on a stick and can move left and right and its a lump of plastic….. THAT defines the blocking style.

  9. Phil Power

    Great breakdown! This goes to show how big minor adjustments can be, Crawford does not have a bad glove as the media is playing up…just has a bad habit forming. Not speaking on an NHL level, but from a goalie who struggles with his glove hand…when you do make those adjustments it takes the opposing team a lot longer to clue in…. unfortunately the Bruins do not have that luxury.

  10. Huh?

    It’s great to read an article by a guy who’s never played a single game in junior or pro hockey rip apart a world class NHL goaltender. It’s very easy to show before and after photos with no context and ham up whatever analysis you want. Crawford is the stanley cup champion and had the lowest GAA of all goalies in the playoffs. I really hope you can give him some lessons this summer Eli, cause boy does he needs some help!

    • Eli Rassi

      Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t classify this article as one that “ripped apart” a world class goaltender. It’s a simple analysis of something that was widely recognized by analysts and the media. All I did was write this article similar to how a scouting report would be written for any goaltender. It’s completely unbiased.

      I believe this article contains all of the context that’s needed to help people understand what was happening at a specific location on Crawford’s glove side. It has video and images, and explains in detail what was happening to Crawford’s glove when the puck was shot at a specific area of his arm. As you can tell by the comments, some goalies have experienced something similar and noticed it, too.

      For the record, I never said Crawford wasn’t a world class goaltender. In fact, I was asked if I thought he could help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and my answer was yes.

      I don’t understand what my playing career has anything to do with this. You’re right, I never played major junior or pro hockey. If you’re going to judge by that, then you’re including a long list of people out there who are involved with hockey (coaches, media, analysts, scouts) who never played at a high level, yet make valuable contributions to the game.

    • Ralph Zobjeck

      Agreed. I coulden’t stand hearing the media talking about the “Sophmore Slump” and it finally got into his head. Cory is as level headed and solid a goalie any team could wish for.

  11. Brian Laarveld

    The biggest problem I have with people ripping the glove hand is in game 4 two of the 3 goals that went glove side he had no chance on regardless of the glove position, especially the Zara shot off the glass behind and the Zara one timer. You would be hard pressed to find any goalie that would have been able to stop either of those. The other problem I have is Crawford gave up 5 goals the Blackhawks won that game 6-5, no one NO ONE questioned Rask’s play in that game but everyone ripped Crawford for giving up 5 (really 3 in my opinion) to the point Q was asked who would start game 5! Crawford is the most underrated goalie in the league because of one average season after being named the #1 starter. He out played Howard, Quick and Rask in the playoffs. People overlook him because he’s not flashy like those guys, he’s a blocking type positional goalie who can be athletic when he has too. All the talk about him being the weak link, a question mark etc was garbage. He also set the Blackhawks all-time playoff record for lowest GAA with a 1.84. He and Rask gave up the same # of goals (46). He should have won the Conn Smythe but that doesn’t matter to him but Kaner said it right when he said “Crow got snubbed”. Too much analysis put into this “glove side problem”, obviously Boston may have wanted to try something else, they did loose right? In Crawford’s 23 games in the playoffs he had 1 SO, gave up 4 or more only twice with a high of 5, gave up 3 five times and 2 or less 16 times. In Rask’s 22 games he had 3 SO (the one against the Hawks in the final was a joke, ask anyone) gave up 4 or more six times with a high of 6, 3 once and 2 or less 16 times.