A huge part of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final will be the battle between 2012 Cup winner Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. Those two elite goalies will go a long way in determining which team will raise the Stanley Cup later this month.
Who has the upper hand? NHL.com scouted the goalies before the series and will track their performance during each game, identifying trends affecting each goaltender. NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley, managing editor of InGoal Magazine, will use the 360 Save Review System software from Double Blue Sports Analytics to chart the goals and shots against each goalie in each game of the Stanley Cup Final. Here are his findings from Game 1.
Shot trends: All three goals were scored on Lundqvist's blocker side, which matched the NHL.com scouting report coming into Cup Final. But were the Kings really targeting this area? It looks like it on the shot chart.
Los Angeles fired five additional shots mid-blocker, four more hit Lundqvist at the top of the blocker-side pad and one more hit him high on the shoulder on that side. Add in the three goals and that's 13 shots toward the blocker, compared to six on the glove side.
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It's a trend even more evident in some of the near misses, like Trevor Lewis whistling a 2-on-1 shot just over the net on the blocker side. But unlike the Montreal Canadiens, who surprisingly seemed to target Lundqvist's glove in the Eastern Conference Final despite statistical evidence to the contrary in the first two rounds, it appears the Kings have read the book on Lundqvist and intend to target his blocker.
Quantity over quality: Lundqvist faced 14 shots in the first period, one more than Quick, but in using the "home plate" area in front of the goalies as the qualifier, only two of the 14 shots would be considered "Grade-A" scoring chances as New York did a good job keeping things to the perimeter. Lundqvist got a clean look at nine of the first 14 shots.
The Rangers goalie was even busier in the third period, when the Kings outshot New York 20-3, but only seven shots were inside the prime scoring zone and four of those barely qualified for Grade-A status as they came from just outside the faceoff dots. Both goaltenders were perfect on shots from above the tops of the faceoff circles inside the blue line. A couple were tough saves for Lundqvist, but he faced 18 from that area compared to four for Quick.
That's not to say Lundqvist didn't make some great stops with his team being outplayed, but it may not have been as lopsided as the shots indicated, with Quick facing five Grade-A shots in the first period, and similar game totals: 12 for Lundqvist and 10 for Quick. All five goals in the game came from this primary scoring area.
Shot trends: The most obvious trend also reflected the pre-Final scouting report, which suggested elevating the puck on the athletic Quick, with 16 of 27 shots he faced above the pads. Quick has been critiqued by some for his high goal total and low save percentage coming into the Stanley Cup Final, neither of which met his Conn Smythe-winning standards of 2012, but it's worth noting 50 of the 59 goals he had given up to that point were from that Grade-A area.
Get it on net: The other dominant trend in Game 1 was the number of sharp-angle attempts on Quick, with nine thrown toward the net from around or below the goal line. It's a tactic that might not have seemed wise given Quick surrendered only five dead-angle shots in the regular season, but Quick has surrendered more of these goals in the playoffs -- four by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and a couple more by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. Quick's eight stick saves show how well he controlled most of those attempts in Game 1, but they did produce one glorious rebound chance in the slot that required an explosive push and great blocker save.
Early rush: Chances on the rush accounted for six of the 13 shots against Quick in the first period, including the Rangers' two breakaway goals. But New York managed two more rush shots the rest of the game, failing to take advantage of Quick's aggressive positioning by missing the net or failing to get a shot through on some of their best looks, including wide-open nets for Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello on lateral power-play chances that had Quick stranded on the other side, a trend the Ducks took advantage of earlier in the playoffs.
There also was a 3-on-2 pass from St. Louis that Dominic Moore couldn't handle or he would have had an empty net with Quick again challenging the shooter and stumbling as he tried to get back, a trend the San Jose Sharks exploited in the first round.