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Ken Baker
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Goalie Insider

New moves, creativity in shootout challenges goalies

Monday, 04.22.2013 / 2:35 PM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

Every point is going to matter in the last week of the 2012-13 regular season, so shootout wins will be tantamount when contenders for the Stanley Cup Playoffs find themselves in tiebreakers across the next seven days.

That means the goalies for those teams will be under the microscope even more than usual. Plus, their job could be harder than ever as the League's shootout scoring percentage this season -- 35.82 percent entering the week -- is even more impressive than last season.

And there is no doubt the goalies are aware of what is going on as shootout attempts become more and more intricate, seemingly with each passing day.

"Shooters are just getting better at it," said former NHL goalie Bill Ranford, now the goalie coach for the Los Angeles Kings. "Guys are no doubt more creative."

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Sabres' Miller talks tough season, hope in Buffalo

Sunday, 03.31.2013 / 10:58 AM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

Ryan Miller handles the off-ice pressures of being the No. 1 goalie in a hockey-crazed city much like he does the on-ice pressures: He doesn't back down from a fight.

And, perhaps more than ever, the outspoken netminder for the Buffalo Sabres has found himself in the middle of the media storm this season, faced with questions about his team's sub-Stanley Cup Playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings and the turmoil surrounding the firing of long-time coach Lindy Ruff (Ron Rolston, promoted from Rochester of the American Hockey League, is the interim coach).

"It's been a little bit disappointing," Miller acknowledges. "But we have a chance at making a run here."

Miller, whose contract with Buffalo expires after the 2013-14 season, took time this week to discuss a variety of topics that have played into a season full of struggles and drama. Among the topics were his team's effort to wrestle itself into position to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Buffalo is three points out of eighth place in the East and must leapfrog four teams) and his future with the only franchise for which the two-time NHL All-Star and 2010 Vezina Trophy winner has played.

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Rinne still hitting all the right notes in Nashville

Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 12:40 PM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

Pekka Rinne has some serious competition this year. But we're not talking about a race for the Hart or Vezina trophies, for which the 30-year-old Nashville Predators goalie has been a finalist the past two seasons.

Rinne's stiffest competition may be for the title of the biggest star in his own house. His longtime girlfriend, singer Kirsi Lehtosaari, is a finalist on the current season of "The Voice of Finland."

"It's very exciting for her -- and me too," Rinne said.

But don't worry about Rinne switching careers.

"I don't sing," he admitted. "I'm terrible."

Between the pipes, however, Rinne has been, despite a few tough outings as of late, as usual, terrific. With a respectable .911 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average, Nashville's iron man has posted the NHL's most games played (31) and logged more minutes (1,738:55) than any goalie in the Western Conference.

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Q-and-A with Anaheim Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 12:14 PM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

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.

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Similar styles bridge gap between Brodeur, Quick

Monday, 05.28.2012 / 11:48 AM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

During the next few days, a lot of attention will be paid to the obvious differences between Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick -- most specifically their ages. A Stanley Cup Playoffs virtual newbie vs. a Cup veteran, Quick is the 26-year-old yin to Brodeur's 40-year-old yang, to be sure.

Upon closer examination, however, it is the similarity in each goalie's approach to stopping the puck that is the most relevant reason for their success this season. The two goalies left standing this spring are among the most creative and unpredictable goalies in today's game. Their resulting dominance is no coincidence.

In what is often a copy-cat league, the unorthodox styles of Brodeur and Quick may well serve as a tipping point in what may signal a new era in goaltending. Each goalie utilizes "old-school" reflexive techniques as a base, adding in modern butterfly play -- with Quick exhibiting more of the latter -- to be considered true hybrid goalies in an era dominated by straight butterfly stylists.

In fact, Brodeur and Quick's uniquely hybrid styles fly in the face of what has been the dominant trend in NHL goaltending.

In the past decade, a formulaic system highlighting size and "blocking" saves in place of skill sets such as agility and "reactive" saves has evolved into the norm.

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Final four goalies playing at superhero levels

Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 1:00 PM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

The four remaining goalies in the hunt for the Stanley Cup all have played like puck-stopping superheroes to get their teams to the conference finals.

Indeed, as "The Avengers" movie has been blowing up the box office, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles have been starring in that other blockbuster known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And like their movie hero counterparts, each goalie in this action adventure possesses special powers which make him a uniquely talented force with which to be reckoned.

Behold, "The Avengers -- NHL Playoff Goalie Edition:"

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Baker: The mystery of Jonathan Quick revealed

Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:08 PM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

With just eight more playoff wins, Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick could be anointed King Quick.

Yet, compared to other world-class caliber goalies, very little is known about the low-key netminder who's trying to lead his team to its first-ever Stanley Cup title.

Here are eight things you should know about the enigmatic, 26-year-old Vezina finalist:

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Baker: Work ethic has Quick soaring in playoffs

Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 11:29 AM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

More than one goalie expert across the NHL considers Jonathan Quick to be the League's most capable goalie when on his knees.

Quick, ever modest, says that is perhaps because he spends too much time in that position during the course of a game

He is joking -- sort of.

In fact, a major secret behind Quick's Vezina-contending success this season, is his proclivity for self-criticism. His perfectionism fueled him to lead the NHL in shutouts (10) and carry his scoring-anemic team into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs where the Kings are in the midst of springing an upset on the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

Los Angeles has a two-games-to-none lead in the series and Quick, who has a .946 save percentage, has continually frustrated a Canucks lineup loaded with skilled scorers. Game 3 is Sunday night (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC)

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Lundqvist savoring a season to remember

Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 9:00 AM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

Talking shop with goalie Henrik Lundqvist at the New York Rangers' suburban practice center north of Manhattan, the goalie sits below a row of retired jersey banners, honoring greats such as Brian Leetch, Mark Messier and Mike Richter, the starting goalie for the last Rangers team to win the Stanley Cup in 1994.

The last player on that list is of particular interest to Lundqvist.

"How old was Richter when he retired?" Lundqvist asks a Rangers staff member, who quickly replies, "He was 36," explaining that bad knees and a concussion finally ended Richter's career.

Lundqvist, who is 30 and entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs after his most statistically remarkable regular season (1.97 goals-against average .930 save percentage), says, "I'd like to play another ten years, maybe more. But, with injuries, you never know. That's why you just have to enjoy the moment."

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Baker: Shootout savvy goalies will star down stretch

Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 10:53 AM / Goalie Insider

Ken Baker - NHL.com Goalie Insider

If anyone knows how a goalie's performance in shootouts can make the difference in a team making the playoffs, it's Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

As any Madison Square Garden fan will miserably recall from 2010 the Flyers, backed by Brian Boucher, stole the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot from King Henrik's Rangers in a nail-biting shootout in the final game of the season. 

Lundqvist's Rangers, at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, most certainly won't be called upon this season to nab a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in a similar post-OT pressure cooker. But, with the No. 8 spot in both conferences as crowded as a Bavarian beer garden in October, odds are that many teams will need their netminders to come up huge in a shootout during the final stretch.

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Quote of the Day

I think Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year. I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.

— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien on forward Loui Eriksson's potential