A huge part of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final will be the battle between 2012 Cup winner Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. Those two elite goalies will go a long way in determining which team will raise the Stanley Cup later this month.
Who has the upper hand? NHL.com scouted the goalies before the series and will track their performance during each game, identifying trends affecting each goaltender. NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley, managing editor of InGoal Magazine, will use the 360 Save Review System software from Double Blue Sports Analytics to chart the goals and shots against each goalie in each game of the Stanley Cup Final. Here are his findings from Game 3, a 3-0 victory by the Kings, which gives them a 3-0 lead in the best of-7 series.
Quantity and quality: The highlight-reel saves will get the most attention, and deservedly so given the degree of difficulty on many, but this also was the busiest, and according to the shot chart toughest, game of the Stanley Cup Final for Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Using the "home plate" area in front of the goalies as the qualifier, 19 of the 32 shots Quick faced were Grade-A scoring chances in Game 3, compared to 10 in Game 1 and 12 in Game 2, both of which went to overtime. Quick faced more than 12 Grade-A shots in the final two periods of Game 3 alone, including eight of 17 shots in the second period, five of which were near the edge of his crease.
The types of chances also got tougher in Game 3, with seven screened shots being more than he saw in the first two games combined, and the four rebounds the Rangers turned into shots matching the total combined from the first two games. The number of sharp-angle attacks from directly near or below the goal line decreased to six after reaching 21 in the first two games, perhaps an indication the Rangers determined that line of attack wasn't working.
Aim high: Those dead-angle plays accounted for many of the nine saves Quick made with his stick, but for the most part the Rangers stuck with pre-series scouting indications that high shots are necessary to score on the Kings goalie. Fifteen of the Rangers' 32 shots in Game 3 were in the mid to high range. However, the way Quick was tracking pucks off the stick of Rangers players Monday hardly made it seem to matter. Even on the rare occasions he didn't see the puck, Quick put himself in position for it to hit him. Quick's game seemed more controlled in terms of his tactical aggression.
Well known for playing above the top of his crease even on in-zone chances, Quick was inside the blue paint on the two saves which led to both rebound chances by Derick Brassard. That positioning gave Quick a chance to come across compact to get a pad on the first chance and allowed him to reach back with the paddle of his stick on the second. Even the diving paddle save on Mats Zuccarello came after he tried to make a save inside the top edge of his crease. Any further out, where Quick often is, and that diving save might come up short of the post.
Does it Matter Where? It's hard to use the goals as an indication of where the Kings may have been shooting as two of the goals Monday went in at a different location than originally intended. Lundqvist appeared to moving himself into Jeff Carter's shot during a 2-on-1 before it hit the skate of a sliding defender and deflected the other way and over his glove. And Lundqvist was sliding into blocking a power-play stop when the second goal also changed direction after hitting off Martin St. Louis in the slot. The third goal, over the blocker, came after a broken play on another 2-on-1 which left that area exposed and Lundqvist helpless.
After all the focus on Lundqvist's blocker after Game 1, the Kings sent slightly more shots toward his glove side for a second straight game. But with 15 shots total and two in the third period while leading 3-0, it's not exactly a big sample size, especially after Lundqvist faced 87 shots in the first two games.
Only six of the 15 shots came from within the Grade-A zone, but that doesn't include the Jake Muzzin point shot which changed direction off the glove of St. Louis from inside that home-plate area. With the exception of seven one-timer or quick-release shots and five shots off lateral passes, the workload and number of difficult saves were down from a tough Game 2 for Lundqvist.