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inGoal in Vancouver: Brodeur’s Puck-Handling Advantage Slow to Materialize

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and is currently at the Olympics for AP.


If there is one unquestioned advantage for Brodeur and Team Canada at the Olympics, it’s the removal of the trapezoid that prohibits goalies from playing pucks in the NHL corners. Freed from its shackles, Brodeur was supposed to revert back to the form that had most treating him like a third defenseman with the Devils, stymieing forechecks and creating breakouts.

It’s been slow to materialize, however, in large part because it’s been taken away for so long.

Despite being one of the few that doesn’t use the Marty Turco-invented reverse overhand grip with his glove, Brodeur can still snap the puck as well as anyone in the league, something he began working on after his dad Denis, a former Montreal Canadiens photographer, came home from a game raving how Philadelphia goaltender Ron Hextall played the puck like defenseman and would “change the game.” But Brodeur finds himself hesitating going into corners.

“In practice, I even kind of caught myself from going for that half a second,” Brodeur told the Associated Press. “It’s something I’ve got to get used to and not think about. Just go and react. I’ll be careful not to overdo it. People are looking for me. Everybody has been talking about it.”

That includes his defensemen, who admit the adjustment is a big one for them too.

“I haven’t really had an opportunity to play with a goalie who plays the puck as well as he does and sometimes you get caught kind of wheeling back to go grab it and he’s already got a hold of it and is moving it somewhere,” said Chris Pronger. “You need to have a quick look before you start heading back to see where the puck is going and where he is coming out to get it and really just kind of get open for him because he’s going to make a pretty solid play with it.”

Pronger said communication was key to taking better advantage of Brodeur’s ability to play and move the puck, saying they talk about it before games and during the intermissions.

“He discusses where he wants to leave the puck,” Pronger continued. “Last game we had an issue where I was calling for it and just the way his body was turned he couldn’t do it and so I know now when his body is that way he’s not going to be able to make that play.”

Even Scott Niedermayer, who spent most of his career taking Brodeur’s passes in New Jersey, has struggled to adjust to no trapezoid, which was implemented because of his old teammate.

“We found out a little last game; so much is in your subconscious,” Niedermayer said. “There was a few times where maybe as defensemen we could have been in better position for him to get us the puck because it is different when you are going back to get it yourself or when he has it and can really do something with it. To use that to our advantage us as D-men really have to adapt quickly and get into spots that are going to help us take advantage of it.”

Brodeur plans to. He even spent time last summer training on a rink without the trapezoid.

“This summer, it’s funny, I spent three or four days on the ice,” he said. “When I got back for that first (Devils) scrimmage, I was in that zone and played a few pucks and the guys were like, ‘You’re not supposed to.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s true.’ I’ll get used to it pretty quick.”

Other goalies happy not to bother

While Brodeur was trying to find his puck-handling mojo without the trapezoid, other NHL goalies were simply trying to avoid the temptation of venturing into the corners.

“I don’t play the puck that well, so it doesn’t make such a big difference for me,” said Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun with a laugh. “But it’s a little bit easier. You don’t have to think about it.”

That sentiment was echoed by Swedish stopper Henrik Lundqvist.

“I forgot about it a couple of times. I stayed in the net where I could’ve gone out,” the New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist told the AP. “I was out and then I changed my mind. I think I have to get used to it. You know me. It’s not my game. I’d rather stay in the net.”


Photo thanks to  MPR529, all rights reserved.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.