Putting a narrative about Lundqvist’s glove to rest

May 11, 2012, by

Every internet sports writer (national media or bloggers) at some point or another will try to spice up a headline or article subject to entice readership.  It’s the nature of the beast.  One of the most effective tools utilized is the well-crafted narrative.  Causing derision between multiple groups of people over any minute detail of the team, focusing on a slow boiling “problem” that will inevitably sink the club, etc. are a driving force behind ad revenue and page views.  Most of the time, these stories are harmless enough, the WFAN crowd will read way too much into them and post ignorant garbage all over the comments of multiple national media outlets, and life will move on.

Obviously, here at BSB, we try to cater to the more informed, rational, nuanced fan, so this isn’t an issue here, for the most part.  It’s when a narrative grows legs beyond those of the loud-mouth, know-nothing fan, is when I start to become concerned.  So, with all of that said, I want to put to rest a pesky little narrative that is getting too many people worked up.  There is nothing wrong with Henrik Lundqvist’s glove hand.

Does The King have the quickest glove in all the NHL?  Absolutely not.  With respect to the rest of his game, his glove hand is one of his weakest links.  Which isn’t to say that it’s a weak or ineffective glove hand, at all. In fact, it is an asset.  I can only dream of having advanced metrics that could back this claim up statistically, so I’m going to rely on old-fashioned scouting.

Since I have this bizarre passion for this weird position, when watching highlight shows or other games on the hockey package, I tend to focus on the technical errors in execution when goals are scored.  So, I’ve seen most of the guys in the league at least in highlight form on a regular basis.  From the eye test, Hank’s glove hand is not in the league of elite glove guys like Jonathan Quick, Carey Price or even Braden Holtby (whose glove hand is fantastic), but certainly not as bad as quite a few NHL starters/platoon goalies. (Jonas Gustavsson, Ilya Bryzgalov, and James Reimer come to mind) 

“But, his glove hand is being exploited this series!, it’s costing the team games!”  One, this is an incredibly small sample for make sweeping judgments about flaws in someone’s game.  Second, if you break down the goals that Hank has given up glove side, there is almost always a mitigating factor. Just look at Ovechkin’s goal last night.  As Suit so wonderfully analyzed, Callahan ended up falling and was unable to get back into the slot to cover Ovechkin, and one of the premier snipers in the league picked the top corner.

From a goaltending standpoint, there are several things in play here.  First, when you have to focus on the puck carrier, you know the approximate location of the player in the slot, but not 100%.  When the play shifts from Green to Ovechkin, Dan Girardi slides into Hank’s line of sight.  Not only does this make the puck more difficult to follow inherently, it causes depth issues with locating the player in the high slot (in this case, Ovechkin).

Hank lined the play up wrong, over-slid his angle and got beat.  The thing to take away from the analysis, whether you choose to believe the situation was too difficult to expect a save, and absolve Hank, or that he over-slid his angle and pulled himself out of the play, and blame Hank, either way those things had nothing to do with the prowess of his glove hand.

Seeing a puck go over a goalie’s glove is second only to the five hole when it comes to getting angry reactions from fans.  It looks easy enough, why doesn’t he just catch it?  It’s frustrating, but looking beyond the puck being missed by the glove is going to give you a much better idea of where the play really went wrong.

Hank has had plenty of tremendous glove saves throughout this playoff, season and past 7 seasons.  As frustrating as these types of plays can be sometimes, it’s important to keep it all in perspective.  Has Hank let in a stoppable goal or two glove-side during the playoffs?  He most certainly has.  It doesn’t mean that he has a glaring weakness that will now be exploited going forward. Everything is under the microscope in the playoffs, which gives sports writers more than enough fodder to create a narrative out of frustration.

Categories : Goaltending


  1. Blueshirt in Paris says:

    Justin, once again you wrote a winner. Fantastic stuff and spot on with every point.

    There is nothing more I could hope to add except simply say one of the leagues premier scorers and shooter, in the slot all alone, scoring a goal and blaming the goalie is absolute rubbish.

  2. Justin says:

    Thanks BIP, much appreciated. I agree with you that there was not a ton Hank could do about that shot anyway, even if his angle was perfect. Ovie is the last guy you want to leave open in the slot on the PP.

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      I saw they mentioned you have a goalie school. Do you happen to know Clint Elberts? He is family and has a goalie school in K.C. Long shot but curious.

  3. Walt says:

    Ovi’s goal, from the slot, was unstoppable, granted. I don’t care how quick a glove hand, your not stopping that shot!

    If there is a weakness in Hanks game, it is indeed the glove side. I believe that Hank is so quick to drop down, to cover anything low, is probably the main reason for this weakness. If he were slightly slower in his drop, it would give him a better chance for a glove save. Over all, we really don’t too much to complain about!!!!

    Having never played goal, your article gives us some wonderful insight, keep up the great work.

    • Justin says:

      Thanks Walt. I think understanding all the factors that go into a goalie’s execution gives us a much better understanding of where a play breaks down. It leads to a much more accurate analysis.

  4. roadrider says:

    His real weakness is handling the puck. Not that either that or the glove-hand thing would really matter if his teammates would do their jobs (scoring goals) half as well as he does his.

    • Justin says:

      His puck handling is weak, but that’s more of a secondary skill. I’ll take the great goalie with mediocre puck-handling over the mediocre goalie with great puck-handling any day.

  5. Chris F says:

    First of all, I’d like to generally agree with your overall position, Justin. Hank’s glove, while one of his weaker abilities, does not constitute a glaring weakness. He’s not flashy with his glove, which presents the illusion of being more inept than many other goaltenders. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a slapper go directly to a netminder’s glove, yet he “follows through” with a theatrical movement that gives the appearance of having made a ridiculous save. Its a facade, more often than not.

    With that said, the criticism of Hank’s glove is most definitely not confined to this series. I distinctly recall there always being a discussion about his lack of elute glove capabilities. In 2007, for example, there was a good deal of talk about the Sabers shooting high glove side to beat Hank. For what its worth.

    But, all in all, good post. I’ll try not to be so hard on The King.


    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      Well it is his “weak link”. He is just not absolutely amazing with his glove hand. So if you are going to beat an amazing goalie, go after the part that isn’t.

      And in my opinion, it was worse then it is today, he seems to have worked on it and improved over the past few years.

    • Justin says:

      Honestly, it’s almost like a artificial confirmation bias. Because all of the overall strength of the rest of his game, a disproportionate amount of goals go in glove side. But, when compared with the rest of the league, Hank’s glove is a relative strength. It’s the absolutely absurd standard he has set for himself this season.

  6. Mike says:

    I think the main reason that Rangers are still in the playoffs is definitely Hank. People can say whatever they want & praise Torts system which is complete failure as well as himself. Torts can take his system & show it up deep his behind as well as his stinky attitude, let’s see how it will work with any other goalie he’ll have if it’s not Hank.
    Lundquist will carry this team as far as he can on his shoulders in the playoffs, not dumb ass Torts who already got out coached by Hunter big time.
    Wake up, people! You blaming and praising wrong people for Rangers success

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      what I read:

      “bzz bzzz bzzz bbzzbzbbzbzbzzz leave me alone mom, im talking to my internet friends bzzzbzbbzzbbzz”

    • Vince R says:

      And what system do you suggest? Funny that Hunter is “out coaching” Torts, yet people keep harping that the Caps use a very similar system and this system turned their season around.

      But you don’t seem to like it, so fair enough. What changes would you propose?

      Also, Justin…way to nail it again!

  7. Scully says:

    It bothers me as well that mainstream media has already written the Rangers off because they dropped Game 6. I agree, they squandered an important opportunity but I don’t know of any goalie I’d rather have between the pipes for a Game 7 other than Hank… (except maybe Mike “Elite Glove” Richter in his prime :p)

  8. Ralphie Blue Blood says:

    I love Hank and the Rangers but let’s admit people, his glove is horrible. All of the goals he gives up in shoot-outs are due from people shooting high glove side. He is the absolute reason we are where we are but his glove is an issue, no doubt about it.

    • VinceR says:

      I’m going to go with the guy that runs the goalie school on this one. Yes it’s his weaker link, as it is with most that use his goal tending style…live by the sword, die by the sword.

    • Spozo says:

      His “horrible glove” has led to a sub 2.00 gaa (2nd among goalies still playing) and a .936 save%. If this guy let’s in two goals he probably loses because the team in front of him can’t score. I don’t think anything about his game that involves stopping pucks is horrible.

    • Walt says:

      What happened to M A Fluery, with the flash in the pan glove!! Hot dog!

  9. Jerryin MA says:

    I love those armchair goalies in the press and otherwise who criticize Lundqvist. No, he doesn’t have the best glove hand in hockey but he’s the best goalie the Rangers have ever had in their history — and I go back to Chuck Raynor in the 1940s — including Richter. Here’s a goalie with a gpg average of less than 2.00, and a save percentage around .940, give or take a few percent. And people complain when Ovechkin blasts the top corner on the glove side with a 95 or so mph shot and Hank doesn’t make the save? Are writers and fans of this ilk nuts? Yes, in spades. How many goalies in the history of NHL hockey have had better numbers than Hank in their careers? Very, very few. And among Ranger goalies. None. Complaining about Hank’s glove hand is comparable to complaining that Ted Williams was a mediocre hitter because he didn’t punch the ball to left field but always pulled it to right. The fact that he had one of the highest batting averages in the modern era never entered their closed and warped minds. The same is true with those who nitpick about Hank’s glove hand. Without Lundqvist the Rangers wouldn’t be in the playoffs. And certainly they wouldn’t be in game seven in the second round no matter how well they play “team” defense. Invariably that “team” defense is Hank in goal.

  10. mjs says:

    got here through japersrink (SB nation’s Caps coverage blog). great article.

    was listening to some fledgling fans of your blueshirts put the blame on lundqvist for this series going to 7. they were right — but not in the way they thought.

    the king has been the best player on the ice for almost every game of this series. the fact that the rangers are still in the playoffs can be placed squarely on his positioning (pun intended), reflex and, yes, his glove hand as well.

    • Chris F says:

      Enemy at the gates! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by, MJ.

      Wish I could say good luck on Saturday, but ya know…

  11. wwpd says:

    henrik is a perfect goalie and if he ever gives up a goal it is because gary bettman uses voodoo magic on his glove hand. the commissioner hates swedes and he hates new york. everyone knows it.

    what? he grew up in queens and spent his entire education and professional career in new york? i don’t want to hear it. C-O-N-spiracy.