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Goalies advice: Watch the puck, not the moves

Tuesday, 03.31.2009 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Martin Brodeur scouts every shootout in the NHL from the comfort of his own couch.

"You just put on NHL On the Fly and you get them all," the all-time wins leader told NHL.com. "That's the way I do it."

While Brodeur admits he gets hooked into shootout highlights on the NHL Network's flagship show because "it's an exciting part of the game," the New Jersey Devils goalie doesn't watch with the same eye as the rest of us.

Like most goalies, Brodeur watches the tendencies of the shooters, and he has a fantastic memory. Brodeur sees the move a certain player uses and stores it away, so when he's in the same position as the goalie on the highlight, he has an idea of what to expect.

It's Shootout Scouting 101, and it works.

Brodeur's 27 shootout victories tie him with New York Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist for the most in the four-season history of the event. The stats also bear out how huge an advantage goalies have, as they stop two out of every three shootout attempts.

"There are a couple of young guys (I don't know), and when you get out west you don't see them as often, so it's important to really watch and it's easy to do it now with that channel and that show," Brodeur said. "You see all the goals and they keep on showing it all day. For a goalie, it's great."

When he's in the line of fire, Brodeur's key to success is watching the puck, not the shooter. By doing that, he's eliminating everything on the exterior and just focusing on what matters most.

"I know Michael Nylander comes in, slows down, backs up and goes slow, but with all that rhythm I know exactly what he's trying to do," Brodeur said. "He can do whatever he wants to do all the way down the ice because it has no bearing on what he's going to do when he shoots the puck. As a goalie your shootout starts almost from the hash marks or the top of the circle. That is really where your challenge is, instead of watching him go fast or slow or all the way around."

Watching the puck also gives the goalies an idea of when the shooter will release the puck and from where.

"If he's got the puck in front of him you know he's not ready to shoot," Brodeur said. "He could have a quick release, but you already know the guys that have a quick release, like (Jarome) Iginla or (Joe) Sakic. Most of these guys don't have that quick of a release, so you know if the guy has the puck in front I tend to think he might try to deke me. If he's got it to the side he wants to out-patient me, have me go down so he can make a move, but it's harder for him to deke back to his backhand or something from there. So the big thing for me is to see where the puck is."

"In the shootout it's just you and the shooter," Lundqvist said, "and since the puck can't really go anywhere, you are more locked into the puck."

Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom tries to scan everything as the shooter comes in on him, including where the shooter is looking, which he finds to be essential.

"You try to watch the hands, stick and skates," Backstrom told NHL.com. "You want to see where his eyes are, too. What is he looking at?"

If he's looking down, Brodeur said, then the shooter is focusing on his routine and that may be a good time for a poke check because he won't see it coming.

There also is something to be said for making him look up at you.

"I try to get his attention, say I wave my glove at him when he's coming in so he knows I'm ready for the top shelf," Brodeur said. "I'll move my blocker or fake a poke check if he's looking at me."

These are all part of the head games goalies try to play with the shooters.

"It's patience and trying to know what he's going to do before he does it," Brodeur said. "If you take it away, now he has to go to option two, and within a couple of seconds to go to option two, you better be right. And option two isn't usually as good as option one."

A goalie's tendencies or style also can make a difference in his consistent success.

Dallas' Marty Turco and Brodeur rely on athleticism and instincts, where Lundqvist and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo are traditional butterfly goalies. As long as a goalie switches up his routine every now and then, the shooter won't be able to predict what he's going to do.

"As a goalie your shootout starts almost from the hash marks or the top of the circle. That is really where your challenge is instead of watching him go fast or slow or all the way around."
-- Martin Brodeur

"The other guy doesn't have a clue what I'm going to do, and I don't really know, either," Turco told NHL.com. "That's a good thing, and the instinct to never give up shows through. I've been downright beaten, guessed the wrong way and still happen to make maybe half of the saves. They say lack of style and instincts hurt, but it helps in a split-second situation."

The goalies usually win in that split second, but that doesn't take any of the pressure off. They laugh at that notion because they know how important the shootout point can be.

"You have to put your team in position to win," Brodeur said. "Even though we are 67 percent, well, that's one goal scored in the shootout, so if the other guy is 100 percent, you lose."

Brodeur, in fact, thrives on the pressure, so he likes it when the Devils defer and shoot second. It gives him a chance to make the first save, which he thinks gives his team a leg up in the shootout and transfers all the pressure to the other goalie to stay even.

It becomes a goalie vs. goalie thing instead of a goalie vs. shooter thing.

"We have a lot of pressure because we start with the shooter," Brodeur said. "It's not like if my teammate scores, I get a break that if they score on me we're still even. The first shooter becomes the big part of the shootout."
"In the shootout it's just you and the shooter, and since the puck can't really go anywhere, you are more locked into the puck." -- Henrik Lundqvist
And the goalie normally has an idea what he's going to do.

"I remember last year (Ilya) Kovalchuk against Toronto dragged and dragged and then he just flipped it and the goalie went way out of the net and he scored the winner," Brodeur said. "He came in here a couple of games later and did the exact same move and he just flipped it right in my glove. It was probably the easiest save I had because I saw him do it."

On the NHL Network, of course.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.

Tomorrow: Don't ignore defensemen


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