The Stanley Cup Playoffs are now a week old and most series have at least reached their midpoints. Four games, in the postseason at least, is a big enough body of work to examine some trends.
So we have put our goalie experts -- bloggers Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild and Ken Baker of Stop Da Puck blog -- to work again, looking at perhaps the biggest story so far in the first round: the changing of the goalie guard in Philadelphia. They also talk about some of the biggest goalie surprises, both good and bad, so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here, Justin Goldman looks at the reasons behind Sergei Bobrovsky's quick hook in Game 2 and his subsequent banishment to the press box. Meanwhile, Ken Baker looks at why Brian Boucher has been so good in relief.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a goaltender is only as good as his most recent game.
For Sergei Bobrovsky
, it took just one weak goal in Game 2 by Andrej Sekera
for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
to give his rookie goalie -- and perhaps, one day, franchise goalie -- the quick hook and a pass to the press box.
Pulled after allowing three goals on just seven shots, Bobrovsky unfortunately witnessed how a single weak goal can quickly cast a dark shadow on an otherwise bright and successful rookie season.
Stretching out his right leg with a stiff and off-balanced butterfly, Bobrovsky was caught totally guessing as Sekera converted on the 3-on-1 rush. The shot beat him clean under the crossbar on the short side, exposing his most prevalent weakness right now -- too much space above the shoulders.
But how does he go about fixing this issue?
Technically speaking, Bobrovsky's quick gloves, blazing-fast feet and razor-sharp reflexes actually allow him to make many tough saves look easy. His active hands do a great job of sealing holes and snagging loose pucks and high shots. His explosive lateral pushes also make it difficult to score on him low.
These raw skills and strong mental traits make him an exceptional talent for a 22-year old. But for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, his hunched-over appearance and wide stance cause him to appear more like a 5-11 goalie.
So when Bobrovsky fails to challenge a shooter -- or is caught too deep in his crease -- he exposes even more space above the shoulders. This forces him to always be as aggressive as possible, which then causes him to over-commit, lose his net or his angles, move too much and lack patience when a shot is taken.
But if Bobrovsky can make a couple of simple adjustments, he will appear bigger in the net and take better advantage of his frame.
He can do this by narrowing his wide stance and then straightening his back. It doesn't happen overnight, but these gradual adjustments will cause him to appear bigger and taller, both in the butterfly and up on his skates.
As a general rule of thumb, the bigger a goalie appears in the net, the less they have to move in order to cover the same amount of space. The less a goalie moves, the more energy he will save.
Across time, these simple adjustments will not only allow Bobrovsky to utilize his frame in a more effective manner, but it will also help economize and minimize his movements. That does a lot of things, but most importantly, it helps keep him fresh throughout the course of the regular season.
One weak goal over the shoulders may have caused Bobrovsky's rookie season to end unceremoniously, but it's nothing that can't be fixed. It should serve as his main motivator not only this offseason as he refines his skills during the summer, but also for the duration of these playoffs as Bobrovsky could conceivably be pressed back into action.