Since the Rangers have gotten such stellar goaltending this season, I thought I’d do an in-depth evaluation on what makes these guys so good at their craft. I am going to break each of the Rangers’ tender’s styles down into five categories: Stance, Movement/Crease depth, Equipment, Puck playing ability and Exploitable weaknesses. First up is Marty Biron, and Hank will follow shortly.
Biron utilizes a fairly standard stance set-up. He has his feet a little more than shoulder width apart and balances his body weight well. He seems to hold his body posture in a comfortable position, which allows him to have relatively little excess movement when he executes a save.
Marty is actually one of the more “old school” goalies in the NHL (obviously, that distinction does to the other Marty). He rarely uses butterfly slides to move around down low. While he does execute the butterfly as a save technique, it’s not much of a movement vehicle for him. He is a strong skater and relies much more on a standard up and down game for lateral mobility.
Benoit Allaire is a proponent of having his goalies play a little deeper in the net than your average keeper. The logic behind this is that it takes less distance to travel laterally if you aren’t taking an angle from higher outside of the crease. Since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it is much easier to go from post to post than it is to load up your push foot and angle yourself from the top (or outside) the crease to the appropriate post. What you sacrifice for this decrease in distance to cover is the angle to the shooter. The closer you are to the shooter (assuming you are on your angle), the less net he can see behind you. There is a point of diminishing returns, but usually < 6 inches or so outside the top of the crease will give you the optimal depth on the original shot.
Biron tends to take the middle road for approaching a shooter. He doesn’t operate nearly as deep in the net as Hank does, but he tends to play deeper than your average goalie. Because of his size (6’2”, 180 lbs) and his solid positioning, it is a beneficial style for him to play.
Marty wears a modified Bauer One100 set. This is the same model line that Hank has worn for the past couple of years. Hank’s pads are actually the farthest thing from the stock line, so there is really no comparison between the two sets. I won’t bore you guys with the politics of the equipment industry, but Marty’s pads utilize features from Bauer RX10 and older Itech models which give a more hybrid style despite what the graphics would have you believe.
Biron wears his pads tighter to the leg than most goalies do (the looser strap set-ups tend to promote easier pad rotation and butterfly recovery). As infamously portrayed on 24/7, Marty wraps the ankles of his skates in a heavy amount of sock (clear) tape prior to taking the ice. This serves to give him stiffer ankles and more control over the rotation of his pads and the stiffness in his skates when recovering.
The equipment a goalie wears should reflect the focal points of his style. Marty seems to prioritize quiet and controlled movement, while not being particularly dependent on butterfly-style mobility. His equipment set-up allows him to maximize that foundation.
Puck playing ability
Marty is a fairly gifted puck-handler. While I wouldn’t classify him in the elite puck playing category with guys such as Martin Brodeur and Mike Smith, he is well above average. He isn’t as rangy as those guys either. He plays a pretty conservative brand of goal and his puck handling is no different.
He is extremely competent with the puck whether he is retrieving it from behind the net, or coming out a little higher to assist in longer passes. He has a strong release and is accurate in his delivery. Since he tends to err on the side of caution, his decision making prowess is very strong as well. His solid vision on the ice helps maximize this strength of his game.
Due to the current state of the NHL; the speed, the quick releases and strength of the shots, the hybrid goalie is going the way of the old-school stand up. There simply isn’t time to execute a save, get up, move and execute another save. Goalies are becoming more and more reliant on lateral movement once they have dropped into the butterfly. Since Marty does not really utilize this technique, sometimes he can be a little slow getting to rebounds (as we saw on Zach Parise’s goal in the last game against the Devils).
Aside from this technical disadvantage, Marty is fairly structurally sound. His five hole is the weakest of his traditional shooting locations, but by no means a glaring weakness.
The biggest knock against Marty is his consistency. It really is the difference between a starting goalie in the NHL and a backup. As a backup, Marty is ideal. He is better than a traditional backup and has starting experience, but he was unable to put together consistent campaigns when given the keys to the car. A good backup will stop the shots he needs to and once in a while some that he shouldn’t. This is exactly what Biron brings to the backup role, and we are lucky to have him.
Marty has a very calm, stoic demeanor in the net, which, especially this year has helped calm a young defensive corps. He is very much a “what you see is what you get” goaltender. He has strong on-ice vision and good instincts. He plays the angles well and makes himself big on perimeter shots. He lacks some of the explosiveness laterally that elite goalies possess, but considering the role he has on the team, he is an extremely valuable asset in spelling Lundqvist when necessary.