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Category: Goaltending

Attempting to quantify goalie puck handling

This was literally the only picture I could find of Henrik handling a puck. I think this was ’06.

The request for this post came from reader Max Steuer.  Keep those suggestions coming! If you have a post idea you’d like one of us to run with, make sure to reach out to your desired author via email or twitter.

Throughout Henrik Lundqvist’s stellar career to date, one of the common detractions from his game has always been his inability to play the puck effectively.  The past couple years have highlighted this weakness in his game, as Marty Biron, and now, Cam Talbot have been effective and capable puck handlers. This skill has been somewhat anecdotal (though, I have always included it in my style analyses) throughout the evolution of goalie development.

It’s nearly impossible to quantify in any meaningful way, and was always viewed as a bonus when a goaltender was blessed with strong stick skills.  After a quick Google search for the purposes of researching this post, this was all but confirmed.  Many instructors and YouTube aficionados have drills and technique suggestions and the like, but no one out there seems to have a handle on how to quantify it.

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Rangers mid-season grades: the goaltenders

United in brutal paint jobs.

United in brutal paint jobs.

So far, the crew here at BSB has covered the GM, Coach, defense and bottom six forwards in our mid-season grades series.  Today, we touch on something of a sore subject: the goaltending.  Even though Marty Biron played in several regular season games, he immediately retired and gave way to Cam Talbot.  For this reason, I’m not going to grade Marty.  However, he would get a solid A- for his broadcasting prowess.

Henrik Lundqvist

Much digital ink has been spilled in this space concerning the play of our now $59.5 million goaltender.  In contrast to the rest of his career, this season has been marred by inconsistency and erratic play.  All the speculation about his contract situation/future only compounded the problem, and was worsened by the eventual windfall he did receive.

From a statistical standpoint, the first half of the season hasn’t been a complete disaster.  Hank is currently sporting a 2.70 GAA and a .908 Save %.  As most of our loyal readers can attest, I am not a big fan of either of these statistical measures as accurate indicators of goaltending ability, but until a truly reliable advanced metric is developed, it’s all we got.  Read more »

Henrik Lundqvist, balance and the Bauer OD1N line

Weight too far forward.

Weight too far forward.

On December 19th, Bauer Hockey held a media event to unveil a new line of both player and goalie equipment that they claimed was going to be a “game changer”.  Their basic approach was to charge their research and product design engineers in St-Jérôme, Québec to change the way hockey players could perform on the ice.  The concept was made analogous to the automotive industry: remove cost considerations, aesthetic inconsistencies from the status quo, all preconceived notions about what was possible within the industry, and show us the future.  A concept car.  The pressure of the normal product to market cycle was taken out of the picture and the goal was pure innovation.  The OD1N line was born.

Three core products came out of this endeavor: a body suit, a player skate and goalie pads.  Bauer’s website has the keynote from the event if you are interested in checking out the specs on the skate and the body suit, but for the purposes of this post, we are going to focus on the goalie pad, and its primary endorser, Henrik Lundqvist.

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So, what about Cam Talbot?

Scott Levy/Getty Images

Scott Levy/Getty Images

Now that all the hemming and hawing over Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been completed, Cam Talbot’s future has been an oft-discussed topic.  Whatever you may think about the specific details of the contract, Hank is going to be manning the pipes at the Garden until 2020-2021.

This brings us back to Talbot.  His emergence this season as a viable NHL goaltender have prompted quite a few fans to jump to conclusions about his long-term future in the Rangers organization and his potential trade value and contract status.  Just to get the facts out of the way, Talbot is under contract for this season and next at a very reasonable $562,000 cap hit.  As Dave pointed out in his fantastic analysis of Hank’s contract, the discount between Marty Biron’s salary and Talbot’s hedge quite a bit of the raise that Hank received in the context of overall goaltending cost.

After next season, because of his age, Talbot will be eligible for Unrestricted Free Agency.  Generally speaking, when a player makes his NHL debut, there are usually several cost controlled years at the team’s disposal, either through the ELC or RFA status.  Because goalies are more often than not, late bloomers, the Rangers don’t have this luxury with Talbot. Read more »

Risks and benefits of the Henrik Lundqvist contract

Photo: Willens/AP

Photo: Willens/AP

In case you missed it, and I doubt you did, the Rangers re-signed Henrik Lundqvist to a massive seven-year, $59.5 million ($8.5 million cap hit) contract extension yesterday. It is a long commitment to the best goalie in the world. It’s also a contract that makes him the highest paid goalie in history (not counting Roberto Luongo’s contract, which was for a much longer term). The contract represents a clear message: This team is committed to winning, and is also committed to keeping their franchise players in New York for the foreseeable future. Naturally, there are a lot of pros and cons of the contract, so let’s get into them.

Pros

  1. The contract is only a $1.7 million (approximately 25%) raise on his current deal. With the cap expected to hit $70 million next season (10% increase), the cap hit only represents 12% of next year’s cap, compared to 10% now. The 2% increase is well worth it to keep Hank around. The interesting part is when you start combining goalie salaries. Martin Biron (pre-retirement) was slated to make $1.3 million, for a combined total of $8.175 million this season (12.7% of the $64.3 million cap). Next year with Hank’s contract and Cam Talbot’s $562,500 contract ($9 million total) is only 12.9% of the $70 million cap. The numbers actually remain the same in terms of dollars spent on goaltending. Read more »

A simple goalie controversy answer: There is none

Scott Levy, Getty Images

Scott Levy, Getty Images

If you read some of the papers this morning, then there is quite a bit going on about a goalie controversy here in New York. It was solidified even more when coach Alain Vigneault announced that Cam Talbot is the starter for tonight’s game against Winnipeg. Talbot has been phenomenal in his first seven starts, and could push himself into the Calder conversation if his play continues. (That’s just a bad mistake on my part. Talbot is not eligible for the Calder, he is too old). Henrik Lundqvist is still an All-World goaltender, but he appears to be mortal this season. AV also noted that Hank is still the team’s #1 goaltender.

But let’s entertain this for a moment. Hank is struggling –somewhat– but his play recently has been more on par with what we’ve expected. Over his career Hank is a .920 SV% guy, and is currently at .917 SV%. That includes the San Jose and Anaheim games. Statistically he is on par with last season. So what’s the issue?

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Martin Biron retires

A week after being waived and going unclaimed, goaltender Martin Biron has announced his retirement from the NHL after 16 seasons. Biron was waived by the Rangers after a subpar performance in St. Louis, as the Rangers appeared to be ready to move on from the goalie who was the first serviceable and reliable backup for Henrik Lundqvist since Kevin Weekes.

For his career, Biron went 288-248-27 with Buffalo, Philadelphia, the Islanders, and the Rangers with a 2.56 GAA and a .910 SV%. With his retirement, the full $1.3 million salary will come off the books. Previously, only $925,000 came off the books as a part of the Wade Redden rule.

Biron will have a future in this league, hopefully as a coach. He was instrumental in scouting shootouts for the Rangers, and his advice probably gave the club an extra couple of shootout wins.

Breaking down Hank’s positional adjustment

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

As we all know by now, the Rangers have gotten off to a slow start this season.  One of the more surprising factors in Blueshirt’s early malaise was the rather pedestrian play of all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.  It wasn’t necessarily that he was playing outright badly, just far below the lofty expectations that the fan base has for #30.  After posting his first shutout of the year in Washington on Wednesday night, the fan base was able to relax a bit about the form of our number-one keeper.

Buried in a quality post-game piece by Pat Leonard of the Daily News, Hank was quoted as making a small but significant adjustment to his game for the tilt in Washington: he took an extra step out from the goal line for positioning purposes.  Hank was quoted on the subject as follows:

 “It was more on face-offs I took a step out. My positioning on the ‘D’ shots was a little bit better. A couple times in the early games I got caught deep in my net. That’s the way I play, but there’s been a lot of deflections, (so) you want to come out a little bit more, and today it worked for me.”

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Rangers goaltending nothing short of brutal

Lundqvist: must do better. (Bennett/Getty)

Lundqvist: must do better. (Bennett/Getty)

Henrik Lundqvist seems to have forgotten how to control rebounds, and his decision making around the net has been abysmal. Martin Biron can’t even stop a shot from the blueline.  Every aspect of the Rangers (Brad Richards aside) has been awful to start the year, but it has to start and end in net, and the Rangers are nowhere near good enough in goal so far. It’s been that bad that maybe Glen Sather is reducing his next contract offer to Henrik Lundqvist as we speak.

To be fair, the Rangers defense has been almost as bad; coverage has been terrible, positioning and decision making even worse, and the Rangers goaltending tandem have had opposing players open in front and have often faced far too high a quality of shot. That said, it comes back to your goaltender giving you a chance and neither goalie has done that so far.

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Best case/worst case scenarios for Ranger defensemen and goalies in 2013

How good can Ryan McDonagh be?

Defensemen

Aaron Johnson

Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.

Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.

Anton Stralman

Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.

Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »