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Luongo's positioning gives him edge on Greiss

Florida veteran has slight advantage in series against New York

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so is breaking down the battle between the pipes in each series this season, charting goals to find strengths, weaknesses and targetable tendencies.

There's no question who has the experience advantage when it comes to the Eastern Conference First Round playoff series between Florida Panthers veteran Roberto Luongo and New York Islanders starter Thomas Greiss.

Luongo faced close to 2,000 shots in 64 games in six trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Vancouver Canucks before being traded back to the Panthers on March 4, 2014, while Greiss has faced 28 shots playing 41 minutes of one postseason game with the San Jose Sharks in 2010.

But it's not like the laid-back Greiss, who played for Germany at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, has the kind of personality that is easily bothered by pressure. And he actually had better numbers than Luongo this season, albeit in fewer games. So let's take a closer look at their styles.

POSITIONING: A lot was made of Luongo moving deeper into his crease during his time with the Canucks. But he pushed out toward the top of the blue ice on end-zone plays before he returned to the Panthers and is playing a little beyond it and with more backwards flow against rush chances now. When he's at his best, Luongo is beating plays to these spots, getting set to swallow any high shots and staying balanced over his knees on rebounds down low.

Greiss plays with a little more flow and movement in his game, moving from a narrower, more upright stance with lots of side-to-side shuffles that allow him to stay square through those movements rather than opening and closing with a T-push. He isn't overly aggressive but does play closer to the top of his crease. He will come out past the edges of the blue paint at times, which can leave him playing catch-up on quick plays, with a tendency for his hands to get left behind when he starts to reach and extend himself laterally.

Advantage: Greiss moves better, but because his reads and the system let him get set more, Luongo.

Video: CAR@FLA: Luongo makes big glove save on breakaway

BLOCK/REACT THRESHOLD: For all the focus on constantly looking for improvement in his technical game, Luongo remains a goaltender that heavily relies on making good reads. The Panthers have set up their system to give him the sightlines required to do so and minimize the shots into crowds that caused him fits in his final season with the Canucks behind the collapsing system of then coach John Tortorella.

Though every goaltender has to block in certain situations, Greiss does less of it than most, relying heavily on his reads and reactive ability. While playing a less-structured style, which makes him less predictable and harder to get a book on for opponents, it leaves fewer margins for error, and leaves him prone to deflections and bounces when he gets too casual and starts reaching for shots with his hands.

Advantage: Luongo's glove is as good as any, but because he relies so much on reacting, Greiss.

PUCKHANDLING: Luongo was scrutinized for his puckhandling gaffes with the Canucks, but like most things in his game he's worked hard to get better. And though it's likely Luongo will never make flashy breakaway passes to the far blue line, he has become more proficient at stopping dump-ins and making simple plays behind the net that can help his defense get out of the zone cleanly.

Greiss is more aggressive in how often he plays the puck, including under pressure, and he's proficient at making the right plays.

Advantage: Because he does it more and will use longer passing options, Greiss.

Video: CAR@NYI: Greiss stops Nordstrom to win game in SO

POST PLAY: Luongo has cited the addition of reverse-VH during the past three seasons as one of the biggest improvements in his game. Given how effectively teams targeted his post integration with jams and wraparounds in the playoffs before he added this technique, it's easy to understand why.

Greiss has a variety of post-integration tools to choose from, including a reverse-VH that he uses more as an in-tight save selection, but he plays more sharp-angle situations from his skates. That makes him more mobile off his posts and less predictable in terms of exploitable tendencies but also can leave him more prone to bounces and deflections on pucks thrown at the net from dead angles.

Advantage: Because his consistent approach is less likely to lead to a bad goal, Luongo.

SCORING TRENDS: Greiss has a lot of flexibility through the hips, which gives him a wide butterfly flare that also aids in his speed and low coverage on lateral recoveries from the knees. That makes it important for opponents to elevate second chances in tight even when it looks like the net is open. But that wide flare also tends to send more rebounds back out in play in front of Greiss, and in the case of chances from wider angles, shots off the far pad can produce second chances in the middle of the slot area.

Luongo still can get spread out and fall forward when he's forced to reach on lateral rush chances, a trend that is more prevalent when moving to the blocker side and less costly when moving less just because of his ability to still snare pucks with that great glove hand. He is better moving into and off his posts and also a lot less likely to get stretched out in tight these days, staying over his knees and propelling his big frame around the crease with little pushes rather than extending prematurely.

Advantage: Greiss is less predictable with a style that's tougher to break down and identify exploitable habits, but because his structure should make him more consistent, Luongo.

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