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Carey Price vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Goalies key to deep playoff run for Canadiens, Rangers

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.


Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is considered by many to be a human how-to DVD on goaltending, playing the position with a blend of power and technical efficiency that again made him one of the best in the NHL despite a much-discussed midseason slump. New York Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist was the gold standard for consistency during his first 11 NHL seasons, relying more on instinct and patience than technique. But his numbers slipped this season, including an NHL career-worst .910 save percentage. Each could help his team make a deep run in the playoffs, but how they do it differs. So let's take a closer look at their respective styles, strengths and statistics this season.


Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Much has been made over the years of how deep Lundqvist plays. But his patient, goal line-out approach has evolved to include taking more ice, retreating on breakaways and challenging higher in his crease more often in certain situations. However, his staple remains a conservative initial depth that allows him to beat lateral plays with shorter movements staying up on his skates while giving him more time to read shots and make reactive saves.



Go low: Lundqvist gave up 36 percent of his goals along the ice. He's always relied on patience, reading shots off the stick blade and late reactions to handle high shots, especially on the glove side, where he often opens up in a kind of old-school, toe-up, half butterfly. But among the 24 five-hole goals he allowed this season were several on which anticipation of a high shot and pulling up on the release to protect the top of the net left him exposed low. He was beaten another 29 times on the ice on either side, and while this is often indicative of a backdoor tap-in, his conservative depth and narrower butterfly also create low-shot corner exposure through traffic.

Screens: Speaking of traffic, screens accounted for 32 (22 percent), of the goals Lundqvist allowed, which isn't out of the ordinary (screens were part of 23 percent of the goals allowed by Price this season). But the Rangers have a habit of getting in the way of their goalie's sightlines and adding layers to opposing screens, which increases the difficulty of making saves. Shots that hit defenders played a role in the 30 deflection goals, as well as many that went in from outside the home-plate area.

Video: NYR@OTT: Lundqvist lays out to make great pad stop

Get it off quick: With his deeper positioning making it easier to beat plays and get set, perhaps it's not surprising one-timers made up a slightly lower percentage of the goals scored on Lundqvist (31 percent) compared with Price (38 percent). But it's still important to try to catch Lundqvist moving, with 43 percent of the goals he allowed involving some type of lateral play before the shot, and 22 percent a combination of lateral passes and one-timers.

Stretch him out: Lundqvist is at his best in scrambles making small adjustments while staying on his knees, but he can get stretched out and opened up on wide lateral plays in tight, reaching rather than pushing on many of the 31 percent of goals around his crease.


Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Already considered one of the best in the NHL by his peers because of his smooth, powerful movements, Price has reached another level in four seasons working with goaltending coach Stephane Waite. He still plays with a little backwards flow off the rush but has been overly aggressive less often overall under Waite. Changes to his save stance have him more engaged, cutting off shots in front of him and reducing wasted movement in his lateral recoveries even more.



Remove the slump: A slight change in that stance, partly tied to struggling with his skate set up, played a role in Price's midseason slide, from early December through mid-February. But with that clearly behind him, scoring won't be easy for New York. Of the 32 clean shot goals -- non-breakaway plays where Price had time to get set, square and see the shot -- 23 occurred during this slump, including six of the eight goals that didn't include other elements like a lateral pass high in the zone or a low-high play on the same side.

Nothing comes easy: In all, 21 of the 138 goals scored on Price involved one scoring factor; six of those came after the Claude Julien replaced Michel Therrien as coach on Feb. 14, so the Rangers need to create combinations of lateral movement with traffic and quick shots to score. For example, rebounds played a role in 22 goals against Price; however, just six were rebounds off clean shots, and two of those were breakaways. The other 16 required other elements, like lateral plays (12), low-high movement from near or below the goal line (seven) and one-timers (10), and often combinations of at least two of the three.

Video: TBL@MTL: Price turns away Coburn's breakaway try

High shots against the grain: Don't be alarmed by the 24 high-glove goals Price allowed. It's a function of the need for great shots to beat a goalie whose efficiency includes not opening up as many holes as most while he's moving. For all the talk at times of Price getting beat on the blocker, the balance between the two sides (49 blocker, 47 glove) is what you'd expect with such a strong technical base. If there is a slight trend, it's that eight of the clean or breakaway goals involved shots against the grain. While he's good at staying square in retreat, goalies with backwards flow tend to drift slightly to the short side, increasing exposure on the far side.

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