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 4, a 2-1 victory by the Rangers. The Kings lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.
Shot Trends: With the exception of the second period, the Rangers did a really good job keeping the Kings' shots to the outside. Using the "home plate" area in front of the goalies as the qualifier, 18 of the 41 shots were considered Grade A in Game 4. After allowing two Grade-A shots in the first period, the Rangers surrendered 10 in the second, including the only goal on one of four clean or partial breakaways in the second. Only six of 15 in the third were from the home-plate area, but they included a point-blank save on Dustin Brown cutting atop the crease as Lundqvist stayed with him and on top of his knees, not allowing himself to get spread out laterally.
Lundqvist got a clean look at 23 of the 41 shots and rarely allowed a bad rebound. He controlled high shots by staying patient on his skates, shifting into the puck and sealing it against his body with the glove, or steering it into a safe spot with those 12 stick saves.
So much for high blocker: Listed as a possible target in the pre-scout by NHL.com before the series and again after all three goals went in blocker side in Game 1, the Kings sure don't look like they're trying to exploit any perceived weakness on that side.
After that sending more shots to the blocker in the series opener, Los Angeles went the other way slightly for a third straight game, with six shots mid to high on the glove side compared to four on the blocker. However, a couple of near misses on good looks, including a crossbar hit by Marian Gaborik, were high to the blocker side.
Just enough five-hole: Lundqvist gave up 26 goals between the legs in the regular season and seven in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and came inches from giving up another two in Game 4 before being bailed out by teammates on shots that leaked through him and toward the goal line. Many wondered if shorter pads play a role in that high total of five-hole goals, but the reality is playing so deep means extending pads and shifting into shots, which opens holes.
See Lundqvist, Game 3: Much like Game 3 for his crease counterpart, Quick was beaten by a couple of unlucky bounces and then left with little to do the rest of the night. Eight of the 19 shots he faced were considered Grade-A chances based on the home-plate area, including both goals that resulted from deflections, one over his glove and another through his legs and to Martin St. Louis for an open net.
Quick faced five of those Grade-A shots in the second period, but the only shot he saw in the third came from outside the blue line.
Close stick side: After two highlight-reel saves to take away open nets with the paddle of his stick in Game 3, Quick just missed the Game 4 winner. St. Louis wisely raised the puck, despite appearing to have an empty net, just enough to get over the outstretched stick of Quick.
There's a reason the NHL.com pre-scout stressed the importance of raising the puck even when the net looks empty; it's because that with Quick it doesn't usually stay that way for long.
Bad angle down: The number of sharp-angle attacks continues to go down. After what looked like a concerted effort to attack Quick from near the goal line with 21 attempts in the first two games, New York was down to six in Game 3 and two in Game 4. Quick, who was excellent in the regular season on dead-angle plays before giving up a couple of notable goals in the playoffs, has gotten stretched out low on a few wraparounds to his glove side, including one by Mats Zuccarello in Game 4, leaving the top half of the net exposed.