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Braden Holtby vs. Frederik Andersen

Capitals, Maple Leafs goalies use patience to advantage, can be exposed high-glove side

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.


Washington Capitals No.1 goalie Braden Holtby came into these Stanley Cup Playoffs with the best postseason save percentage in NHL history at .938 but has yet to make it past the Eastern Conference Second Round in four tries. Frederik Andersen is in his first year as a full-time starter with the Toronto Maple Leafs but backstopped the Anaheim Ducks to the Western Conference Final, and within one win of the Stanley Cup Final, in 2015. There are similarities in their styles, though, which isn't surprising given Toronto's goalie coach, Steve Briere, is one of many protégés of Washington goalie coach Mitch Korn working in the NHL.


Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was arguably even better this season, improving his save percentage to .925 (from .922 last season) while continuing an evolution with Korn that has seen him tighten up his movements and save executions over three seasons together. Holtby relies less often on the explosive reactive abilities that used to define his style, playing a more contained, controlled style and saving the spectacular saves for second and third chances.


Forces you to beat him: Holtby's more contained positioning and controlled movements leave him less likely to reach or open up when making saves, something that manifests itself in only five goals under the arms this season. In other words, Holtby doesn't beat himself as often as he used to with exploitable tendencies, rarely wandering far from the top of his crease and forcing opponents to make great shots to beat him. That might also explain the 29 high glove goals, but it's important to note these are not save percentages, so it does not account for how many more shots he might face high glove, or whether he faces better chances on that side.

With such a discrepancy between the two sides above the pads (56 glove, 28 blocker) it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the Maple Leafs try to attack Holtby to his left.

Video: MIN@WSH: Holtby flashes the leather to deny Brodin

Work for rebounds: Outside of forcing pre-shot movement side to side, the biggest factor in scoring on Holtby was rebounds, with 30 goals coming on these second chances. But they don't come easy. Only three of the 30 rebound goals came after clean shots where he was able to get set, on angle and see the release. Like Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, it often requires combinations of multiple factors to score or create second chances on Holtby. In fact, 20 of the 30 rebound goals included at least two factors like screens, deflections, one-timers and lateral movement. If he does leave a second chance, quick plays along the ice on either side accounted for 12 goals, which might seem odd for an athletic, flexible butterfly goalie but Holtby's butterfly narrows during his recovery movements, creating space on either side.

Pick a side: Screens were only a factor in 25 goals against Holtby, who works hard on managing moving traffic and find shot releases, but his tendency to push his body into shots rather than reaching can be turned from a strength to a weakness with well-timed screens that can get him moving the wrong way because of his tendency to look around traffic rather than over it.


Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs

Andersen and Briere deserve a lot of credit for working through some early season struggles characterized by overaggressive play as Andersen tried too hard to live up to the expectations of being acquired to be a No.1 and signing a five-year, $25-million contract. They've worked to find a well-balanced approach that allowed Andersen to use his big 6-foot-4 frame efficiently and effectively, without sacrificing too much of an equally strong reactionary game.


Low, high and one-time: Andersen has a nice blend of modern post-integration options for dealing with dead-angle attacks, and he's only given up one goal all season from below the goal line, but he has been beaten 37 times on low-high passes out from near or below the goal line this season. Most (27) were finished off by one-timers, and defensive zone coverage in the slot plays a role because these plays don't give the goalie much time to push off the goal line and gain depth. But Andersen also sometimes leans outside his post on the short side with his upper body, which slightly delays his rotation back into the middle of the net on these plays.

Video: NYR@TOR: Andersen robs Grabner with his left pad

High glove: The 29 high glove goals also jump out on Andersen's goal chart but, again, it isn't a save percentage and only accounts for the shots that go in. The 42 mid-to-high glove goals included 13 clean shots where he had time to set his angle and see the release, 10 with screens, 10 with same-side lateral passes, and 14 with plays across the middle of the slot.

Get him moving: Like most goaltenders, creating pre-shot movement leads to more goals. Of the 63 one-timer goals scored on Andersen, 43 involved lateral movement before the shot, including 26 across the slow line, an imaginary line that splits the offensive zone below the top of the faceoff circles. Overall, there were 54 goals involving movement across the slot line, and another 37 that forced pre-shot lateral adjustments with movement on the same side of the ice or above the top of the circles. Sometimes backwards flow was enough, with 26 of the 41 clean shot goals coming off the rush, and 19 on against the grain shots designed to catch the goalie moving one way, or drifting backwards, with a shot in the other direction.

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