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Tuukka Rask vs. Craig Anderson

Goalies reliant on reads, reactive abilities for Bruins, Senators

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series, charted every goal scored against each goalie this season with the help of Double Blue Sport Analytics. Graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken are nice but the real value is tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.


Ottawa Senators starter Craig Anderson and Boston Bruins No. 1 Tuukka Rask are on the same end of the sliding scale between tight, technically based goaltending and a more free-flowing, skill-reliant style of stopping the puck. Though Rask has a little more structure to his game, each relies more on his reads and raw reactive abilities to stay near the top of the NHL, but there are differences in how they approach specific situations that could play a role in the outcome of the Eastern Conference First Round series.


Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators 

Amid a trying season personally, Anderson was one of the top goaltenders in the NHL with a .926 save percentage that was second among goalies who played more than 30 games. Making Anderson's ability to come in and out of the lineup and play so well even more remarkable is a style that should leave him more reliant on timing, rhythm and playing a lot of games. Though there might not be a lot about Anderson's style you'd teach young players, there is a lot that can be learned from how well he reads and anticipates plays and shots.



Sharp angles: If there is one area Anderson's looser technical approach is costly, it's on "dead-angle" attacks from near or below the goal line. The zone chart shows Anderson gave up 4.5 percent of his 92 goals from behind the net, but that number jumps to 15 percent when you add in ones that went in one from just above the goal line. Though Anderson has added some modern elements to his post play under goaltending coach Pierre Groulx, he relies more than most on a stand up or simple butterfly approach that cost him at times, so don't be surprised to see Boston throwing a lot of pucks at the net from sharp angles.

Don't expect easy rebounds: Anderson gave up 20 rebound goals but made opponents earn them, with four coming off clean shots where had time to set his angle and clear sight of the release. The other 16 involved multiple attributes, like screens and deflections and one-timers off lateral passes, which isn't surprising when you consider how active he is with his hands, catching pucks cleanly and controlling low shots with his stick. 

Video: NYR@OTT: Anderson knocks down laser from Hayes

Along the ice: On the rebounds Anderson does give up, it's not as essential to elevate the puck, especially if there's a lateral element, because he is more likely to dive across compared to a more technical goalie who always goes side-to-side on his knees. That explains some of the 31 goals (34 percent) that went in along the ice, a high total in the butterfly era. Anderson's narrow-stance skating retreats against the rush can produce five-hole goals, including five on clean shots, if shooters can catch him anticipating a lateral pass.


Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins 

Rask's game is slightly more refined technically than Anderson's but, like most Finnish goalies, places a heavy emphasis on retaining active hands to steer and control pucks. Like Anderson, there are more moving parts, backward flow and skating than many of their more technical NHL peers, which can lead to more reliance on timing and some of the ups and downs seen this season. But as Rask showed early this season, and with two shutouts in his final four starts, when everything is clicking, those same raw skills can make him hard to beat. 



Low and wide: The most alarming numbers are the 19 that went in low outside his right skate and 17 along the ice on the other side, but the reality is a majority are an indicator of backdoor tap-ins, often after lateral passes across the slot line, an imaginary line that divides the offensive zone below the top of the faceoff circles. Plays across the slot line account for some of the toughest saves because they force the goalie to completely rotate his angle from one side to the other, and they played a role in 39 percent of the goals on Rask, including 25 of 49 one-timers. Neither is surprising because Rask plays out to start rush chances, so he has farther to go on lateral plays, and quick shots are often the best way to catch him in motion.

Video: OTT@BOS: Rask absorbs Wingels' lengthy one-timer

Far side, high glove: Rask's numbers were balanced, but there was one interesting trend among the 30 mid- to high-glove goals: they accounted for 16 of the 28 clean goals, while a goalie is moving the other way. For Rask, it can be part of his retreats off the rush, with a tendency to back across his crease at times laterally and drift straight back on attacks down the wing rather than rotating into angle as he backs up, both which can expose far-side angle while moving. 

Net play improvement: Rask modernized his post play over the years but started this season trying to stay up on his skates more on sharp-angle attacks and didn't give up any goals from below the goal line. When he does drop, it's often with his pad inside the post and a bump off it. It's a move he does as well as anyone, but with a narrow butterfly that reduces coverage along the ice, which played a role in some of the 21 low-high plays that led to goals.

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