Goaltending is an integral part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the goaltenders in the second round, the final 100 goals allowed by each in the regular season and each goal allowed in the playoffs were charted, with the help of Apex Video Analysis and Save Review System from Upper Hand Inc., to see what patterns emerge.
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones had impressive statistics sweeping through the Western Conference First Round, but they achieved those results with very different puck-stopping styles.
Jones and Fleury will meet in the Western Conference Second Round, with Game 1 at Vegas on Thursday.
Here is an in-depth look at each goalie's game:
[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury used an active style in the sweep of the Los Angeles Kings, allowing three goals and finishing with a .977 save percentage and two shutouts. He is long past the puck-chasing habits that led to playoff letdowns in previous seasons, but there are signs of the old, more aggressive Fleury in his first season with Dave Prior, the Vegas goaltending coach. Fleury has blended those new positional preferences with the improved post integration that helped turned his career around with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There were trends that come from painting outside the lines of his crease more often in the regular season, even if the Kings failed to take advantage in the first round.
Off pads for rebounds, over to score: Fleury gave up 22 percent of his tracked goals on rebounds and tends to kick out low shots with active pads rather than steer them into corners with his stick. As good as he was at controlling high shots against the Kings, there were second chances off his pads. Getting to rebounds hasn't been easy against the Golden Knights, but when it happens, it is imperative those rebounds are shot over his leg pads, because Fleury is rarely out of a play laterally along the ice.
Off the rush: Prior wants his goalie to hold ground rather than flow backward with the rush and, as fast as Fleury is, that tendency can be attacked with lateral plays. Fleury gave up 49 percent of the tracked regular-season goals off the rush, significantly more than the 38.5 percent average for goals tracked while breaking down playoff starting goalies for this project during the past two seasons. There were several scored quickly after the attacking team set up in the Vegas end, a trend that continued with a backdoor tap-in for Kings forward Alex Iafallo in Game 3. Vegas was slow to sort defensive-zone coverage on several goals in the regular season, but Fleury's more aggressive positioning also played a role by leaving more lateral distance to recover.
Different rush strategy: The Sharks will need to adjust their rush attack, which featured attempts to pull the puck back to exploit the tendency of Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson to slide across on these plays. Fleury is more likely to beat those passes on his skates, making one-timers and quick shots more effective.
Patience up high: Prior's preferences paid off on high shots, especially on the glove side, with Fleury's mid- and high-glove goal totals 10 percent below average and well down from his totals last season. He showed off that glove in Game 4 against the Kings, getting a piece of great chances for Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in the third period. The Sharks may want to look lower. Fleury allowed 19 five-hole goals among the past 103, including seven on clean shots when he was set and could see the release.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
Jones used a quieter positional approach in the sweep of the Ducks, allowing four goals with one shutout and a .970 save percentage. He stays mostly within the edge of his crease, beating plays with shorter, inside-out movements that force shooters to beat him around the edges of the net. It will be a significant adjustment for Vegas shooters after facing the athletic acrobatics and beyond-the-blue aggression of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the first round, but don't confuse Jones' calm demeanor and efficiency for a lack of intensity.
Left to right: Most goalies move better in one direction, and Jones has traditionally been better going to his glove side. A lack of early rotation moving toward his blocker leaves him more likely to push across flat instead of back toward his post. The result is a chasing of plays and being stranded outside his crease. This tendency has happened a lot less often this season, and even when the Ducks scored on a left-to-right power play one-timer in Game 3, it took a perfect against-the-grain shot over his glove to beat Jones.
Against the grain: Jones' against-the-grain goals allowed were almost double the average, and two of the Ducks' four goals in the series were scored this way. Playing deeper can leave goalies flat, or parallel to, the goal line in their movements, with less rotation of the back shoulder as they move, which creates a little exposure on these types of shots back the other way.
Low blocker, not high glove: At times in the first round, the Ducks appeared to be targeting Jones' glove, and though his deeper positioning can leave space in the upper corners of the net, a tendency to pull back with his shoulders off the release makes it harder to reach shots just above the pad on the blocker side. Anaheim scored there from long range early in Game 2, and Jones' 23 mid- and high-blocker goals, and seven under that arm, are above the averages for the goalies tracked during this project.
Low-high: Jones gave up 23 goals on low-high plays that start from a bad angle or below the goal line this season, which was above the average (18.3 percent) but down from the 33 he allowed in the 2016-17 regular season. Two of the four Ducks goals in the first round came on this type of play, so it will be interesting to see if the Golden Knights attack from below the goal line with one-timers and quick shots, which accounted for 48 percent of the tracked goals on Jones this season.
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