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Devan Dubnyk vs. Jake Allen

Similarities, differences between Wild, Blues goalies could decide winner of first-round series

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

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


Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild and Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues had seasons that finished in opposite directions. Among goalies to play at least 30 games, Dubnyk was seventh in the NHL with a .923 save percentage, but it was .889 in 14 games in March. Allen had an .895 save percentage on Feb. 1 when the Blues promoted Mike Yeo to replace Ken Hitchcock as coach and changed defensive zone systems. In Allen's final 25 games after the change, he was at .938.


Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Allen's strengths, according to backup Carter Hutton, are highlighted by an ability to patiently wait out the release and shift into shots without chasing them. But before the coaching change, Allen too often was caught drifting backward as the shot was taken, even on some from the point. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, who began working with the goaltenders when Hitchcock and goalie coach Jim Corsi were fired, recognized Allen also was getting caught flat, or parallel to the goal line, instead of squaring up on shots. Since making that adjustment and trying to stay square while following the play, Allen is back to his old self more often.



Against the grain: Allen gave up 18 goals on these types of shots, which go across the goalie's body and are designed to catch him moving the wrong way by shooting to the other side. It's not an alarming number and some of it is explained by Allen's early season habit of not squaring up on shots. But even now there are times Allen retreats in straight lines back to his near-side post rather than squaring up as he moves backward, which leaves him with some far-side exposure off rush chances.

Video: STL@FLA: Trocheck beats Allen on odd-man rush

Trusting reads, staying in control: Allen, Hutton and the Blues defensemen have talked about being more comfortable in the zone-style defensive system Yeo returned to rather than the man-to-man system Hitchcock implemented at the start of the season. Though it would require save percentages instead of just goal tracking to truly measure the impact of those changes on Allen, his ability to trust his reads and positioning more now is shown by fewer scrambles and tap-ins. Of the 25 goals along the ice on either side of Allen, seven came since Yeo became coach.

Forces you to beat him: Another sign of Allen's control is on shots through the body, which can be an indicator of getting spread out and opened up. One of six goals under the arms and seven of 25 through the five-hole came after the change, and three of the latter were on quick rebounds in tight. As for the 32 high-glove and nine mid-glove goals, Allen made shooters work for them, with seven on clean shots he could see and set for. The rest involved a combination of screens (16), one-timers (nine), deflections (13) and lateral plays (19), with 13 above the faceoff circles or on the same side, and six going through the slot.


Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild


Dubnyk has been one of the top goaltenders in the NHL since being traded to the Wild by the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14, 2015. So just as Allen didn't forget how to play the position early this season, there's reason to believe Dubnyk's late-season struggles are the exception rather than the rule.



High glove: A big part of Dubnyk's growth into an elite goaltender started with a depth management rule he learned from then-Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke, that if he can't beat a pass on his skates, he's too far out. That formed the foundation of his turnaround, but it also leaves him playing well back in his crease, reliant on the coverage his 6-foot-6, 213-pound frame provides and active hands to close the top of the net. So it's not surprising to see high totals around the edges of the net, including 29 high-glove goals, many of which were glove-side shots just under the crossbar.

Video: MIN@DET: Dubnyk's stellar glove save denies Miller

Make him move: Dubnyk may not have as far to travel moving side to side from deeper in the net compared to more aggressive goalies, and improved tracking and mechanics the past two seasons allows him to move laterally without opening as much as he used to. But forcing a goaltender to move laterally and taking quick shots remains the best ways to beat any goalie. Sixty-five of the goals on Dubnyk involved a one-time shot, and 82 of the goals (58.1 percent) included some type of lateral movement, including 54 (38.3 percent) on plays across the slot line, which divides the zone from below the top of the faceoff circles, forcing the goalie to shift from one side to the other.

Long rebounds, elevate rebounds: Of 30 rebound goals, four were off clean shots, an indicator of Dubnyk's ability to control plays he can see and set for. It's important to note his pads are designed to create longer rebounds, so don't expect loose change in tight on low shots. It's also important to get rebound chances up quickly. Most of the 26 goals along the ice on either side of Dubnyk were the result of backdoor tap-ins. His depth priorities, butterfly recovery efficiency, and long legs mean it's important to get second chances above those pads.

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