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Henrik Lundqvist vs. Craig Anderson

How each goalie utilizes instinct, patience could decide Rangers-Senators second-round series

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series NHL.com 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.

 

New York Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist found his old form in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Ottawa Senators veteran Craig Anderson more or less retained his. Each relies more on instinct and patience than many of their more structured puck-stopping peers, but there are distinct differences between how they utilize those raw skills -- and how to attack them -- that could play a role in deciding this series.

 

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Coming off an NHL career-worst .910 save percentage in the regular season, Lundqvist looked more like the goalie that has been considered the gold standard for consistency in his first 11 seasons against the Montreal Canadians in the first round. Sticking with the patient "goal line-out" approach that served him so well, Lundqvist had a .947 save percentage that leads the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Five-hole closed?: One of the more alarming aspects of Lundqvist's regular season struggles was the 24 five-hole goals he allowed. Add in 39 goals that went in on either side of his skates, and 36 percent of the goals Lundqvist allowed were along the ice, an alarming total in the age of butterfly goaltending. Part of the problem was Lundqvist, who has always relied on staying patient and on his skates longer than his peers off a shot release, was pulling up in anticipation of a high shot, appearing more worried about protecting the high part of the net. That seemed to disappear in the first round, with Lundqvist back to closing down on pucks in front of him and staying over the top of plays in tight, and the five-hole goals went away as well. The only puck that went in between his pads was a rebound jammed in after a sharp-angle play.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist snares Weber's slapper

Sharp angles, glove side: Lundqvist has diversified his post-integration tactics the past couple of seasons but still uses a traditional VH (Vertical-Horizontal) more than most, especially on the glove side, stacking the short-side pad vertically against the post and leaving the back pad horizontally along the goal line. It tends to produce more rebounds than other options, including one that led to a goal in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2, and his transition out of VH position opened up the five-hole for a rebound goal on the OT winner by Alexander Radulov.

High glove: Lundqvist forgoes the butterfly for a more old-school half-butterfly on high glove side shots, keeping his left leg up and dropping to his right knee. It's an incredible reactionary ability but it does cause him to open up his left side at the hips and shoulders as he effectively pulls up and away from these shots. Two of the three high glove goals against Montreal were on clean shots he could see and set for, but as tempting as it is to perfectly pick the top corner, shots off the hip can be just as effective against that half butterfly, which combined with a stiff glove that presents big but doesn't close easily, can lead to rebounds on glove side shots.

 

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Anderson plays a free-flowing style that should leave him more reliant on timing, rhythm and playing a lot of games, which made his .926 save percentage amid a regular season filled with starts and stops while taking time to help his wife in her cancer fight even more remarkable. It's also a style Anderson, who reads and anticipates as well as any goalie in the NHL, has used to get on the kind of hot streaks that can match what Lundqvist did in the first round.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Sharp Angles: It only led to two goals in the Senators' six-game series win against the Boston Bruins, and blown coverage on the backdoor was part of one, but if there is one area Anderson's looser technical approach is costly, it's on "dead-angle" attacks from near or below the goal line. Anderson allowed 4.5 percent of his regular-season goals from behind the net, but that number jumps to 15 percent when you add in ones that went in from just above the goal line. While Anderson has added some modern elements to his post play under new goaltending coach Pierre Groulx, he still relies more than most on a stand up or simple butterfly approach that cost him at times, including failure to seal the short-side post on a wraparound in a 3-2 overtime loss to Boston in Game 5.

Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Anderson denies a redirection by Nash

High screens: Traffic played a role in 25 percent of the goals Anderson allowed during the regular season, but watching the first round against Boston it might not be as important to crowd him tightly in the crease. Anderson is good at looking up and over screens at the edge of his crease but was caught a couple of times by traffic and tips higher in the zone. He lifted up on one high shot that was deflected down between his feet, and was caught chasing a screen well beyond the edge of his crease on the overtime winner in Game 5. This left him out of the net and with no chance to recover when it took a tough bounce to his right in the slot.

Along the ice: Anderson uses active hands to catch and steer pucks, and doesn't typically give up a lot of easy rebounds, though there were a few of the four rebounds goals in the first round he might want back. When there are second chances, it's not as essential to elevate the puck, especially if there's a lateral element, because he is more likely to dive across compared to a more technical goalie that always goes side-to-side on his knees. It explains some of the 31 goals (34 percent) that went in along the ice during the regular season and there were several instances against the Bruins, including one goal called back for goalie interference, where Anderson ended up lying on his back or laid out on his stomach on second chances.

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