Viktor Fasth of the Anaheim Ducks has been the NHL's breakout star in goal this season. Although an accomplished goaltender in the Swedish Elite League, Fasth, 30, didn't make his NHL debut until Jan. 26 with a shootout win against the Nashville Predators.
NHL.com grabbed a few minutes with Fasth after practice to talk about his rapid adjustment to the North American game and what the secret has been to his impressive start.
KEN BAKER: You aren't a big goalie, but you look big in the net. What's your secret?
VIKTOR FASTH: I try to cut off the angle a little different than the taller goalies (Fasth is 6-foot, 186 pounds). And I try to play with big patience. If I go down on my knees too early, I will be opening up some holes top-shelf. So I have to play more patient than a taller goalie. I mean, I have to always be staying square to the puck and maybe get out toward the shooter a little more. The main thing is just patience. I stay on my feet as long as I can.
KB: And having big shoulder padding helps, right?
VF: I wear my shoulder and chest pads inside my pants. I have always done that. It works. I don't know if it's a big difference inside or out, but I like to have them tucked in my pants.
KB: Who were your goalie role models as a kid?
VF: Patrick Roy when I was growing up, and a Finnish goalie, Jarmo Myllys, who played for the [San Jose] Sharks in the '90s. And Swedish goalie Tommy Salo was a goalie I really looked up to. When you get older you try to watch as many goalies as possible to catch some things they are doing right.
KB: What about fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist?
VF: I actually get compared to him. He is a great goalie, and one of the best in the world. So I can learn from him.
KB: Have you ever played against Lundqvist?
VF: I have not. That would be fun. We are both Swedes and that would be a great experience.
KB: You've played your whole career in bigger rinks in Europe. How has the adjustment to playing in the smaller NHL-size rinks worked out?
VF: The smaller rink is easier in that in Europe the ice is bigger so the players have more passing options, so I've got more surface to cover. You have to be ready for the cross passes all the time. But here you are able to play the shooters much harder and can focus much more just on the shooter. But the smaller rink is harder in that you have the same number of players on a smaller surface, so there is much more traffic to deal with.
KB: Are you surprised at how well you have done at the start?
VF: I have a great team in front of me and that helps me out a lot to see the puck, plus they have been blocking shots. They have been playing incredible in front of me.
KB: How did you prepare for the transition to the NHL?
VF: I was over here in the beginning of the summer and worked out with [Ducks goalie coach] Pete Peeters. We started working on the angles and I tried to study them during the summer and through the lockout, and it helped me adjust a bit quicker. I also played some time in [American Hockey League affiliate] Norfolk on a smaller rink, and that helped a lot.
KB: Has Jonas Hiller helped you?
VF: Of course. He is a great goalie and a great guy. I learn from him every day.
KB: You executed an old-school diving poke check on a Patrick Marleau breakaway. Do you practice that?
VF: I am 30 years old. I played back when goalies still did that. So it is still in my toolbox.
KB: In what other ways do you play old-school?
VF: I think I use my stick to direct pucks to the corners to prevent rebounds more than most modern goalies. That is one part of my game that I still have from playing in the '90s. A lot of younger goalies today use just their pads and are not controlling rebounds with their stick. I also try not to use the stick paddle-down too much and use the blade instead. It works for me, but may not for everyone.
KB: What is your goal moving forward?
VF: My goal is to play as good as I can when I get the chance and try to help the team win. There are a lot more games ahead this season. I just have to keep working hard and play as well as I can when the coach plays me.
KB: You won Sweden's best pro goalie award the past two years. Do you think you someday could win the Vezina?
VF: I don't know. It is a bit early to say that. That's just not something I have been thinking about. I just have to keep working hard.
KB: Your girlfriend and daughter are still in Europe and you've been living in a hotel. How are you holding up?
VF: I am in a hotel, but they are getting here after our long road trip (which ends Feb. 16). It will be nice to get into my own place and it has been a long time since I saw my family. It will be nice to have them over here.
KB: Your dad was a professional goalie in the '70s. Does he still help coach you?
VF: He wanted me to be a forward! But I think today he is pretty happy I chose to be a goalie.
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