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 2, a 5-4 double-overtime victory by the Kings, which gives them a 2-0 lead in the best of-7 series.
Quantity and quality: Despite the extra overtime period, Lundqvist only faced one more shot in Game 2 than in the opener, but the degree of difficulty on many of those shots increased significantly.
In fact, using the "home-plate" area in front of the goalies as the qualifier, the number of "Grade-A" scoring chances more than doubled, from 12 in Game 1 to 26 in Game 2 on Saturday.
After being held mostly to the outside in the opener, the Kings appeared to do a better job of making life a lot harder on Lundqvist in Game 2, and the shot tracking backs up that assertion. All five Kings goals were generated on some form of rebound (two), screen (one) or deflection (two), with the overall number of shots which changed direction during travel increasing from two to eight in Game 2.
A lot of the extra work in close came during a power play which generated nine shots Saturday, an increase from three in Game 1. Four of six screen shots and two of the eight tips came during man-advantage situations.
Blocked out: Lundqvist's blocker was an area of focus heading into Game 2 after the NHL.com pre-series breakdown identified it as a potential trouble spot and again after the Kings scored all three of their goals in that area in Game 1. Three of the five goals scored in Game 2 were to the right of the Rangers' goaltender, but those totals included two goals that were not, in actuality targeted for the blocker. The first goal was fired into an empty net early in the second period after Lundqvist slid well outside his crease on fresh ice after making the initial save. It was marked as low blocker because the shot position is recorded relative to the goalie's position, not the net. The controversial Dwight King goal, meanwhile, included traffic which Lundqvist said prevented him from reaching out with his blocker to make the save.
Overall, the Kings actually tested Lundqvist's glove in Game 2, firing 10 shots in the mid-to-high range on that side compared to seven on the blocker side. And while Justin Williams picked the top blocker corner in overtime of Game 1, Alec Martinez fired high glove on a great chance late in the first period of Game 2, and the Willie Mitchell shot which Dustin Brown deflected in for the winner was headed glove side.
Perimeter play: Quick faced 11 more shots in Game 2 compared to Game 1, but only 12 total came from inside the "home-plate" area used to define a Grade-A chance. He faced 10 Grade-A shots in Game 1.
Of those 12 Grade-A shots in Game 2, only six came from the edge of Quick's crease. Lundqvist saw seven such shots in the two overtime periods alone, and 13 overall.
Two of the four goals on Quick came on those in-tight shots, but so did his biggest save, a fully extended third-period robbery of Brad Richards on a one-timer of a lateral pass to the top of the crease. It was the kind of momentum-changing save predicted in the NHL.com pre-series scouting report of Quick, who, in this case, didn't settle with throwing out his left pad, but added to his vertical coverage by stacking his glove on top of it, making it tough for Richards to get it high enough to score from so close.
Block party: With all focus on Lundqvist's blocker side, the Rangers seemed intent on hitting similar spots on Quick at the other end, firing six of their first 10 shots mid-to-high on his blocker side. By the end of the game, the Rangers had directed 12 shots at or above Quick's blocker, including nine mid-blocker saves and two goals on that side.
Chris Kreider scored mid-blocker on a breakaway in Game 1, but Quick got a piece of a similar attempt in overtime of Game 2.
Sharp angle again: New York continued to test Quick from dead angles, increasing their attacks from around or below the goal line from nine in Game 1 to 12 in Game 2, which played a role in the increase to eight low-to-high plays which created shots. Combined with more traffic, those types of plays can help keep Quick deeper than he'd prefer, or in the case of Mats Zuccarello's back-door goal, catch him still moving toward the top of his crease on the first shot.
One more time: The Rangers also seemed more intent on taking advantage of Quick's aggressive style, getting off 10 one-timer or quick-release shots after only managing three in Game 1. The opportunities in Game 2 included a nice one-time goal from Martin St. Louis over the glove of a sliding Quick, a shot the goalie may have had a chance to get across to quicker if he isn't challenging the initial shot atop the crease like Quick does.