Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 05/05/14 at 02:39 AM ET
The last few dinosaurs of the stand-up goaltending technique--30-something-and-up goalies like myself--fondly remember goaltenders like Bob Essensa as pioneeers, and as cautionary reminders that relying on the same technique all the time was nothing less than dangerous.
In an era when goaltenders stayed on their feet until shots came their way, Essensa offered a unique alternative to trying to look OVER your opponents when screened. Instead of poking his head over traffic, he'd crouch down to the point that his entire torso and head were parallel to his thighs, looking through players' elbows and even around their butts to find the puck.
This was fantastic until Essensa began to use the torso-squat as his default way to look through every screen, and coaches and teams realized that all you needed to do was to plant somebody in front of Essensa and fire a shot at glove or blocker height, and you'd score as Essensa went into his instinctual pose.
Carey Price is doing something of an "Essensa" this playoff season, but he's doing so as a butterfly goaltender--driving his knees to the ice first, and then squatting down with his torso over his leg pads to look around players' knees instead of their butts, and when he does so, he brings his glove and blocker very, very low, trying to cover more of the bottom of the net than the top.
As such, the Boston Bruins and every other team that's been successful against Montreal's figured out that Price's "Essensaing" is so extreme that he basically dares players to shoot for the top half of the net.
Most goalies do drop to the butterfly to look around traffic these days, but they don't crouch down as far as Price does, and they keep their hands high, with their gloves and blockers at shoulder level to let opponents know that the top half of the net wn't be easy pickings.
Comcast Sportsnet Northeast's Joe Haggerty reports that the Bruins are aiming high whenever they place butts in front of Price's vision, and they'd rather have Price keep on doin' what he's used to do, because it helps Boston's cause:
“I think we’ve definitely noticed that when he’s screened, he’s looking low,” said [Dougie] Hamilton. “He gets really low, so it seems like we score a lot of goals up high when we have net front presence. I don’t if we’re really trying [to do that], but we’ve definitely noticed that. When we can get our shots through their defenseman – especially the ones trying to block it -- we have a really good chance of getting it in.”
In Game 1 it was Johnny Boychuk that beat Price cleanly with a top corner point shot before going into his double barrel gun goal-scoring celebration, and in Game 2 all three of the pivotal third period goals were to the top half of the net.
Hamilton scored the first after stepping into a Brad Marchand pass, and depositing the puck under the crossbar with a healthy level of traffic in front of the net. Patrice Bergeron’s goal almost doesn’t count, but it also kicked up high on Price after hitting a million dollar rut in the TD Garden ice.
Then Price also dropped for the game-winner as the Bruins were working him side-to-side with lateral passing, and Reilly Smith simply elevated his shot off the Torey Krug cross-ice pass. The Montreal netminder was down and out on the play, and Smith had the whole top half of the net to shoot for while both Bergeron and Marchand battled at each side of the crease.
“It seems like almost all of the goals so far have gone to the upper half of the net,” said [Torey] Krug. “We’ll see. You never know maybe in the next game they’ll all be goals to the bottom half of the net.”
Haggerty continues, and maybe the Bruins should've kept their mouths shut--assuming that Price adjusts as a result.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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