Bobrovsky, Vasilevskiy and the reactive-glove Reverse (VH)
InGoal Magazine has been presenting the Reverse-VH (RVH) post-integration technique and its variations since it was popularized by Jonathan Quick during his run to the 2012 Stanley Cup.
Recently, we’ve been noticing a new variation, best demonstrated by Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky during the 2nd period of a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 19, 2017:
The sequence begins as a simple power play setup behind the Blue Jackets’ net. Zach Werenski (8) picks up the puck on his forehand, and is challenged by a lone forechecking Lightning forward, Yanni Gourde (37). Werenski decides to drop the puck for teammate Alexander Wennberg (10), but Gourde continues his pursuit, and is successful at creating a turnover.
Gourde takes possession of the puck below the face-off dot and drives the net. A left hand shot, he stickhandles from his backhand to his forehand before attempting to beat Bobrovsky high over his short side left shoulder.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark was kind enough to send InGoal a note about Bobrovsky’s use of this more reactive version of what Clark calls simply, reverse.
“We use reverse as a ‘post stance’ so, like all stances, we have reactive situations and positional situations,” Clark wrote in a text. “Obviously, distance from the net is a big determining factor on whether we are in a more reactive mode or positional mode. So, yes, we are, at times, reactive in our reverse. Understanding reverse as a ‘post stance’ is the underlying key and understanding that the reverse position is a dynamic position and not a static position would be the second key.”
The vulnerability of the near high corner when a positional reverse is used too often or too prematurely has been well-exploited by NHL shooters. Take, for example, New York’s Jimmy Vesey’s recent tally against Antti Raanta of the Coyotes:
Some goaltenders have begun to use the original VH (post pad vertical, back pad horizontal) positioning to avoid this pitfall. The usual fix while in RVH is to try to keep the post shoulder high, as well as create forward lean in the upper body to cut off the vertical angle. This doesn’t always work, though, particularly when the position is used (inappropriately) against a threat that is beyond the depth of the face-off dots, as Jeff Petry shows here against Bobrovsky in Dec 2016:
Bobrovsky does something different against the Lightning, however. As Gourde obtains possession of the puck, Bobrovsky remains on his skates in a post-integration position.
In a move every young goalie should emulate, and one Bobrovsky does as often and as well as anyone in the NHL, there is a quick head check to assess whether Gourde has any pass option.
Seeing that there isn’t any other threat, Bobrovsky smoothly converts to a glove side RVH and swats down the puck with his glove:
This isn’t a routine RVH, though. Rather than raise up his left shoulder with his glove down, Bobrovsky extends his glove toward the shooting threat. This glove extension could open up a hole above his horizontal post pad below his arm, but Bobrovsky combats this by driving his left elbow down on top of his pad, cutting off the space above his left pad boot section.
Gourde’s sharply angled attempt, which is clearly labeled for the top near corner, hits the webbing of Bobrovsky’s catching glove. The puck falls in front of Bobrovsky, and he is in position to battle for the rebound with both his trapper and his stick, with a clear line of sight. Although he looks as though he is compressed into the low half of the net, he has actually covered the entire vertical angle. (Also note how he anchors his back skate with his inside edge, which is a key to maintaining a solid near post seal.)
Interestingly, Bobrovsky seems to have evolved this position over time. In fact, a less elegant execution may have been responsible for this goal by Sidney Crosby during last season’s playoffs, one of the uglier goals that Bobrovksy has given up:
It appears that Bobrovsky is trying to get into an RVH with his glove extended, but doesn’t quite get there, resulting in an awkward stumble against the post.
Bobrovksy doesn’t appear to be alone in utilizing this technique. In fact, his intent on Crosby’s goal was probably to look something like fellow Russian Andrey Vasilevskiy does here:
Like all RVH variations, this one is best used as a blocking technique that allows for some dynamic activity. Against Crosby, Bobrovsky is overly active. He appears to try to catch Crosby’s shot initially, then awkwardly contort his body to cover behind his glove. Vasilevskiy, on the other hand, drives his body to the post and simply extends his glove to block the vertical angle.
Vasilevskiy, in fact, doesn’t actually make this save with his glove hand. Instead, the puck hits his chest, and he is able to control the rebound as it drops into his glove.
Individual adaptations of positional techniques is one of the reasons why studying goaltending is so fascinating, and this move by Bobrovsky, a 2-time Vezina Trophy winner, is no exception. It enables him to maintain a solid low blocking position against the post, use an extended glove hand for vertical angle coverage, and requires a deep elbow position to cover any gap above his left pad.
This variation of the RVH clearly takes advantage of Bobrovsky’s fitness level. A noted workout fiend, Bobrovsky had been plagued by groin problems until recent seasons. A change in his training regimen led him to develop more core strength, without muscle bulk, in an effort to utilize his flexibility but reduce his risk of injury. Vasilevskiy, a goalie with similar physical attributes, appears to have worked on a similar position. Both goalies are clearly hoping to use their personal strengths to enhance an already established technique.
As more and more shooters become schooled in the vulnerabilities of RVH utilization, it will be fascinating to see how many more goalies look to adopt this intriguing variation.