Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SAVE OF THE DAY: KINGS' BERNIER TAKES HIS EYES OFF THE PUCK - BUT IT'S A GOOD THING!



In life, it's the little things that matter. Things like a mini-mite scoring his or her first goal, the sweet scent of Zamboni water, or even Darren Pang.

Little things are also very important in goaltending.

In Jonathan Bernier's brilliant 2-0 shutout of Edmonton on Tuesday night, the hot-streaking goalkeeper made a dazzling glove save on Jordan Eberle in the third period. Because we at Stop Da Puck love to nerd out on such things, what we noticed most was not what Bernier did while making the grab. Rather, what impressed us was what he did before the save that allowed him to be in the right position and anticipate the shot.

In the video above, as the puck is scrapped for behind the goal line, you can see Bernier not once, but twice jerk his neck to the front and peek to see who is dangling in front of the goal. If you look closely (very closely, trust us) at 6 seconds into the vid, Bernier quickly takes his eye off the puck and looks to the front. Two seconds later, he does it again and sees Eberle on the left circle still lurking like a shoplifter at 7-Eleven at one-thirty in the morning.

When the puck is fed to the front, Bernier knows exactly to where and to whom the puck is going, which sets him up perfectly to make the perfect save.

Back when I was a very young goalie (so, like, in the 1940s), goalie coaches would yell at me "NEVER TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK!"

Well, they were wrong. Goalies might at times be like superheroes, but, until they grow eyes in the back and side of their heads, taking a sneak peek is the hockey equivalent of being five moves ahead in chess.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

GIGUERE: FROM BANKABLE $7 MILLION MAN TO $800,000 BARGAIN?




J.S. Giguere has stopped da puck a lot in his 13-season career - 13,129 saves to be exact.

But anyone who has even casually followed Jiggy's current season in Toronto knows that there have been painfully few highlights.

In fact, his season has seen more lows than the guy whose job it is to count the attendance at Atlanta Thrashers games. Sources tell Stop Da Puck that Giguere can also expect his salary to see a new low.

Goaltending is an art. But, in the NHL, it's also a business. That means the oft-injured Giguere's .898 Save % and 2.90 GAA - not entirely horrendous, but among the worst numbers of his career - is bad business and will certainly cost him money when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Jiggy's actual (non-cap) salary this season is a whopping $7 million (that's not a typo, FYI). And, according to league sources, if the 33-year-old tests the free-agent market this summer he will be seeing a lot less cabbage.

How much less? One Western Conference team source estimates his value at a maximum of $1.75 mill, depending on his injury status and how desperate the team may be for a veteran backup. Another source is far less optimistic, telling Stop Da Puck, "I wouldn't pay more than $800,000."

Ouch.

So, bottom line: Who will "win" the Jiggy "sweepstakes?" And just how much will that team pay?

Despite cries from the haters to dump him like yesterday's trash, there is a realistic scenario in which Toronto (as in, his buddies Burke and Allaire) would re-sign him. That scenario: At a substantial discount.

In a world where similarly aged and experienced goalkeepers are making sub $1.5 million - Chris Osgood at $1.4 million and Mary Turco at $1.3 million - Giguere best re-calibrate his expectations.

Call us crazy, but with Jonas Hiller literally being a head case, and the Orange County fate of Ray Emery in question, if Giguere is willing to play for $1 million next year his former team the Anaheim Ducks just might come quacking.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

SAVE OF THE DAY: RYAN MILLER IS THE BLUE-AND-GOLD SWAN




At the time of this writing, it's currently 17 degrees in my hometown of Buffalo, New York.

But it was hot inside HSBC Arena Friday night as Ryan Miller made save after save against the Panthers to earn another victory on the Sabres' march to the playoffs.

Our favorite was in some respects the most understated of the night: An elegant butterfly save with his right toe that to nerds like me was simply balletic.

When Miller is at his best, he is the Michael Jordan of goaltending. He makes it look soooo easy.

He's no Natalie Portman, but Miller definitely is a master of his domain.


ANTTI NIEMI: THIS SHARK NEEDS TO SHOW MORE FIN



While sitting in the second row at the Kings-Sharks game Thursday night, I got to thinking a few things - like how much I love the popcorn in the Staples Center Chairman's Room.

And, more relevant to the point of this glorious goalie blog, I also noticed that Sharks keeper Antti Niemi (aka "The Great Wall of Finland") has a flaw in his game that quite possibly may have cost the Sharks the game (they lost 4-3 in a shootout).

Now, of course, we at Stop Da Puck have to admit that finding things wrong with the otherwise fundamentally sound, 6'2" former Stanley Cup winning goalie (with an impressive 30-17-6 record this year) is an exercise in the kind of hyper-critique usually left for Montreal Canadiens fans and abusive husbands for whom their wives are just never good enough. But we digress.

Our point is this: At least two of the goals, and possibly three, that Niemi allowed in the Kings game blew past his glove like a thief in a home for the visually impaired. (In the below video, check out the second-round shootout goal to his glove side at 6:00, followed by Brown's game-winner - also to the glove side.)

These two goals exposed a weakness in his glove positioning that I noticed throughout the game. Rather than turn his glove out away from his body so that the webbing covers the net to his left, he tucks it in as if he is pointing the glove at the puck (look at the pic above this post to see his standard glove positioning). By tucking his glove in tight like this Niemi is making simple geometrics work against him: By not covering the net space with his glove, shooters see the hole and in these cases shoot into the open space. The fix: This Shark needs to hold his left, uh, fin out at his side and turn his wrist slightly outward.

But judging by how Kings forwards Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown both went for the glove on Niemi makes us think that we aren't the only ones who have noticed this crack in The Great Wall of Finland.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THE WINNER OF THIS YEAR'S VEZINA IS...PEKKA RINNE!



... well, at least according to a poll of Stop Da Puck fans conducted this month.

Here are the top three vote-getters of our exclusive poll results:

* Pekka Rinne: 51 %
* Tim Thomas: 38 %
* Roberto Luongo: 9%

With Thomas and the Bruins stumbling into the stretch, and Rinne consistently playing out of his mind just about every night, the 6'5" Finlander has clearly emerged as a dark-horse/sentimental favorite candidate for the season's award for the NHL's top goalie.

By the numbers, Thomas barely edges Rinne in Save % (.937 to .930) and GAA (2.06 to 2.07), yet Rinne's late-season performance has been downright Predatory.

Who do you think should win the Vezina? Tell us in comments below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MARTY BRODEUR SHOWS OFF JAZZ HANDS!

Breaking News: Stop Da Puck has found the first hockey player qualified to join Dancing With the Stars. And, no surprise, he's a goalkeeper!

We think Brodeur quite possibly could make Jazzercize cool again. Or maybe it's time NHL Network launches a new series: Dancing With the Devils.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SAVE OF THE DAY: BRENT JOHNSON DOESN'T GO 'LADY GAGA' WITH GLOVE



Admit it. You're a sucker for a dramatic glove save.

You like it when the goalie makes the save look much harder than it was. Like when a basketball player dangles unnecessarily on the rim after a dunk, or when a beer-bellied bowler sweeps his hairy arms skyward a la "Kingpin" as if he's telepathically controlling the ball down the alley. You get the picture. All athletes like to put on a good show every now and then.

Glove saves simply inspire theatrics, draw out a goalie's inner Lady Gaga.

But sometimes they don't.

Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson (in a 5-4 win) in the third period Monday night made a glove save on a 2-on-1 break that was impressive in how undramatic and easy he made it look (though notice in the video clip above how he does hold his glove up for an extra second just in case the cameras missed it).

We at Stop Da Puck commend Big Brent for his less-is-more simplicity. But we forgive him if, next time, he drops his poker face, becomes a fame monster and decides to flash his claw with more flair.

Friday, March 18, 2011

WHEN IT COMES TO SHOOTOUTS, GOALIES ARE #WINNING



You might think my favorite story of the day is the one about Jen Aniston supposedly adopting a boyfriend from Africa. But, actually, it is not (good guess, though).

For real, my favorite story is one I saw on NHL.com about how statistics show that goalies are getting better and better at shootouts.

As you can read in the excerpt below, it's just another bit of evidence that goalies are superior to shooters in the ability to analyze and adapt. So, yeah, basically goalies rule...shooters drool.

According to the NHL:

Goalies are winning -- The shootout is the ultimate 1-on-1 battle -- shooter against goaltender. Goalies have historically won about two of every three confrontations, but they're doing better than ever this season.

With just more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, shooters have scored on 277 of 892 attempts, a success rate of 31.1 percent that would be the lowest in the tiebreaker's six seasons. The previous low was 32.1 percent, set last season -- and that came after shooters scored on 33.7 percent of their attempts in 2008-09, their best showing ever.

No one has been better than Jonathan Quick of the L.A. Kings. Quick is a perfect 7-0 in shootouts and has stopped 28 of 33 shots, a save percentage of .848 that's the best among all goalies who've faced 20 or more shots.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

RAY EMERY LOOKS HIP IN COMEBACK



A year ago, Ray Emery had surgery in which doctors took bone out of his tibia and implanted it into the ball of his right hip to regenerate bone in his troubled pelvis. Emery spent an entire month last spring on bed rest.

Doctors didn't know if the 28-year-old 'tender would ever walk again without a limp, let alone play goalie (the pounding goalies place on hips and knees is considered the most demanding in all of sports). Emery's condition, in fact, was the same one that tragically ended Bo Jackson's athletic career. "Usually when you have this type of thing done, they just want you to walk again," Emery, signed by Anaheim last month, has said.

But in his first post-surgery start back on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues, Emery's butterfly was fast and efficient. He possibly looks better than before (all his off-ice training and rehab looks to have made him even faster).

Cheers to Emery. Cheers to modern medicine. And to all athletes trying to come back from serious injury: Emery should be an inspiration.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DEAR JIMMY: JUST COME OUT ALREADY!

An open letter from Stop Da Puck to Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer ...


Jimmy,

You play in Toronto. One game, you're the next Johnny Bower, a masked hero. The next game, you're a zero. Part of the deal is that you're under a microscope, and everyone (including Stop Da Puck) seems to have an opinion on why your game has befuddled us as much as Brian Engblom's hairdo (see below for visual).


We're sure goalie coach Francois Allaire is filling your head with all sorts of advice, and we're sure some of it has been really helpful. Definitely listen to your coach, but, as we have written about before, do not necessarily do everything that he tells you. Especially if he tries to convince you that goaltending is all about blocking and not actually moving your body parts in reaction to the puck. Be your own man. Be your own goalie. Play your game ... while working on improving it.

Which brings us to our next point.

Hopefully, in your limited spare time you're not reading goalie blogs, but if by some chance this letter finds its way onto your computer screen we want to convey one message. It's a simple one. It's fundamental. It's probably the one thing we instruct Mite and Squirt goalies to do more than anything else. That one thing is this: Come Out Farther.

We know you are more comfortable in the blue paint. We know you're afraid of getting beat on back-door plays. But, Jimmy, you need to step out of your comfort zone and step out at least one more foot out from the net on most close- to mid-range shots, because this is not the AHL. The shooters are picking the corners, especially the glove side. Come out just a smidge even and more pucks will hit you. The shooters will see less net. The shooters will score less. Trust us. Give it a try.

On so many goals recently, if you would have setup at least at the top of the crease, or even - the horror of it! - an entire foot atop the crease, there is a good chance the pucks would have hit you and not the back of the net. Yes, you are a blocking goalie.

We like to see all goalies perform at their best. Watching you impotently sit back in the net makes us feel like we are watching Hugh Hefner do it without Viagra. Please, just give yourself a chance to block more by challenging the shooters.

If you don't believe us, just watch the videos below.

Puck-stopping regards,

Stop Da Puck









CAREY PRICE VS. BRADEN HOLTBY: WHO'S THE BIGGEST LOSER?



Your mom probably taught you from a young age to be super-duper careful when leaving home all alone. Same goes for a goalie leaving his netted home to play the puck. Biiiiig ... scaryyy ... baaaad things can happen.

In Tuesday night's Montreal-Washington game, we saw two worst-case scenarios of what can go wrong when you - the last line of defense - go behind the net to play the puck.

The first victim was Carey Price, who went back to stop a "routine" dump-in, only to have the puck bounce off the supposedly seam-less glass at le Centre Bell and right to the slot, where a Caps player was handed such a gift I was left wondering if a chubby little Santa Claus was lurking in that bouncy corner. (See video above.)

Later in the same game, rookie Braden Holtby suffered the inglorious experience of playing third defenseman by attempting to rim the puck along the right wing boards ... only to have it intercepted and shot in before he could get back in front of the net.

So who does Stop da Puck think is the biggest loser in these two cases? The answer is easy.

Carey Price did nothing wrong. He was simply a victim of a bad bounce. As for Holtby, it's another story (see video below).

There are, principally, four things Holtby could have done to prevent that goal from being scored:

(1) He could have played it to the left wing, where no defender was awaiting.
(2) He could have shot the puck harder around the boards, rather than the weak rim shot he sent around.
(3) He could have stayed in his net and let his defenseman fight off the attacker himself (aka "do his job").
(4) He could have hustled his butt back quicker and stopped da puck!

Holtby has been hot lately. But on this play he was more frigid than Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

THE RETURN OF RAY ... ON SUNDAE SUNDAY!



There were a few great things that happened to me at the Anaheim Ducks game on Sunday night at the Honda Center - none of which was watching a dismal-looking Ducks lose a really important down-the-stretch game to the Coyotes.

The great things were (not necessarily in this order):

(1) It was "Sundae Sunday" in the Ducks' players family/friends room in the bowels of the arena, which meant two very happy kids of mine (thanks for the hookup, Big George) got to enjoy hot fudge monstrosities with sprinkles on top in between the second and third periods. Yum.

(2) Coyotes forward Andrew Ebbett reminded me that it is not always only about the goalie when it comes to stopping da puck. Nice save ... for a non-goalie, that is! (See it at 2:40 in video above this post.)

(3) Goalie Ray Emery of the Ducks made his post-hip surgery debut in the third period in relief of a shaky Dan Ellis, stopping all nine shots he faced. Yeah, yeah. I am a sucker for a medical comeback, but Ray has had quite the journey since he last played in the NHL in Feb. 2010 and I was pumped to be there in the second row to see him have a solid return.

What people who watched from their couches did not see on TV was that Ray was vigorously stretching his hips during TV timeouts, though he didn't appear stiff or injured at all. Perhaps the 28-year-old was just being safe. After all, you can never stretch too much - especially after basically having your hip replaced.

Now, if only every night was Sundae Sunday ... ah, a boy can dream.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

RYAN MILLER IS KILLER...BUT NOT PERFECT IN LOSS TO LEAFS



Knowing Ryan Miller, he's probably blaming himself for his role in the Sabres' loss to the Leafs on Saturday. Here's why:

Goal 1: Yes, nice shot through a screen off the post and in. But, no, Ryan knows he always finds the puck and doesn't let in left handed chops from the left circle. (AT FAULT)

Goal 2: Kinda leaky, though Bozak was wide open and unmolested. (NOT AT FAULT)

Goal 3: Deflected off own D-man into the night. Bad bounce. (NOT AT FAULT)

Goal 4: Rocket one-timer, though I bet Ryan knows in his heart if he had his left pad flat faster on ice he could have saved. (AT FAULT)

So I would gander that Ryan wants two of them back. Because, as a perfectionist, he knows that if he had only let in the two "no fault" goals, the Sabres would have won 3-2. But those goals did go in, and, as often happens with Buffalo, anything less than perfect goaltending is usually not going to be enough for them to win.

JAMES REIMER: STRAPPING YOUNG MAN



God bless Hockey Night in Canada.

The 113 (or so) cameras they have covering a game makes the typical 4-camera TV coverage look utterly craptastic.

During Saturday's Leafs-Sabres game, HNIC once again proved why they televise hockey better than anyone when they zoomed in on (apparently just for the joy of it) the maze of leg straps on the back of Leafs goalie James Reimer's pads.

A few things stood out to me about this borderline upskirt view of his undercarriage:

(1) Reimer, like most modern goalies, wears his straps so loose that it's no wonder they don't just fly off to the main concourse snack bar every time he kicks out his leg. Of course, this is a dirty little secret to the New Age Equipment that makes it as easy to get your pads down flat as it is to get down to that funky "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack that was released right around the same time I strapped on my first pair of brown-leather pads and fastened them tourniquet-tightly to my leg.

(2) There are enough straps there to restrain creeper Hannibal Lecter. Scary stuff.

(3) Is the Puff Daddy knee pad puffed so far out that it is illegal? Fans of Stop da Puck are aware of my obsession with the little advantages NHL goalies try to get with equipment alterations. Like, perhaps, Luongo?

Rather than me tell you why Reimer's knee pad extending out from the edge of his pad may be illegal, I am going to direct you to the official NHL rules on the topic of goalie equipment and then, in the comments below, YOU TELL ME if you think the NHL needs to re-measure his pads.

We all know the league office measures all equipment before it is worn, but I'm told by several league insiders that they rarely re-measure once the pads are "approved" and a goalie has had a chance to alter them. This is where the "cheating" takes place. In other words, you don't steal that pack of gum from 7-Eleven until the clerk has gone back to stock the beer fridge and can't see you lift the Big Red.

Specifically, the rules states: "Layering at the knee is permitted to add protection but not to add stopping area. Any layering to protect the knee, whether across the front or along the sides, shall not exceed nine inches (9”)." Read the entire NHL Rule 11 right here and hit me up in the comments section.

Does Reimer's pad (and so many others like his) "add stopping area" to the existing pad? I'm not sure. So you be the judge.

And remember what a famous golfer once said and what, perhaps fairly or not, is a quote also ascribed to Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire: "If you're not cheating, you're not trying."

Judging by what I see on a nightly basis lately, not cheating more and more means you're not a big league goalie.

WATCH JIMMY HOWARD SMOKE DUBIE



Classic duels do it for me.

Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker. Sitting Bull vs. Col. Custer. Tiger vs. His Bazillion Mistresses. You know, real passionate tete a tetes.

But no battle quite does it for me more than two goalies trying to out-goalie each other.

Such a (nerdalicious) treat was in store for me on Friday night between Detroit's Jimmy Howard and Edmonton rookie Devan Dubnyk.

Dubie stopped 42; Howie blocked 26. And while the Wings won 2-1 in OT, the real winners were the netminders.

In the above game highlight video: Especially check out Jimmy's twofer effort at 2:20 and one-timer save at 5:00.

Given the final outcome, Stop da Puck thinks Howard wins this battle. Even so, we look forward to seeing over the coming seasons who will win this Western conference goalie war.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SAVE OF THE DAY: DESPERATE DAN ELLIS DIVES LIKE A DUCK!



Goalies are taught from a young age that diving head-first to make a save is a last resort. Something best left for Mike Palmateer highlight reels. Something you do only when you're as desperate as a crazy Libyan dictator amid a coup attempt.

Well, Anaheim's Dan Ellis pulled a Moammar Gadhafi in the third period Wednesday night against the Rangers (see video above) - and, well, it was as beautiful as this creature.

If Ellis' desperation dive wasn't sweet enough, watch what happens in the play that immediately follows. Yes, there's no better offensive inspiration than a little defensive heroism!

Indeed, Ellis has officially made Stop da Puck's editorial staff rethink its position that Brooklyn Decker is the most fun person to watch lay out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

LEAFS SOURCE: JAMES REIMER'S STUMBLE THE RESULT OF "OVER-COACHING" (AND GIGGY-FICATION)




Maple Leafs rookie James Reimer has had a mostly spectacular year since getting called up after Toronto's goalie drama earlier this season, getting Leafs fans as excited as, say, Hockey Night in Canada's Jeff Marek at an OHL barn-burner.

But, recently, Reimer, a gifted athlete with immense agility, hasn't looked as nimble in his last few games, particularly on Saturday against Chicago (yanked) and Tuesday night in a 4-3 loss against the Islanders. His athletic, challenging style has given way to a more positionally-oriented game, with him sinking even deeper into the net and focusing on "blocking" more than "reacting." Missing has been his shifty, dig-and-slide pad saves. In its place, a wider, more feet-locked stance where his body doesn't look as loose as it had been.

If this sounds like a familiar style it's because it's the robotic-yet-efficient style that legendary goalie coach Francois Allaire cemented into veteran (and injury-addled) Toronto goalie J.S. Giguere - and, sources tell Stop da Puck, is now being drilled into the 22-year-old Reimer.

Indeed, one source with knowledge of Reimer's training regime believes Reimer may be a victim of "over-coaching" at the hands of the legendary goalie guru, who is credited with helping Patrick Roy and Giggy perfect the butterfly-blocking style that is now so commonplace. But is it right for Reimer? "Allaire has taken away his athleticism by reigning him too much," says the Leafs insider. "He should let the kid play his game."

Whether or not you agree with my source's opinion, an impartial break down several of Reimer's recent goals indicates a distinct (and largely unsuccessful) shift to the Allaire method.

For example, look how deep Reimer is standing on the first goal against the Islanders ...



...and then, again, even deeper (as in, virtually in the net himself) on the third goal ...



Unfortunately for Reimer, his deep-in-blue stance (which I'm told Allaire in part instructs his guys to do so they don't get beat on back door plays so easily) got him burned the game before versus Chicago in a 5-3 loss ...



... and again on this Chicago goal (in which Reimer scarily is posed like a Giggy lookalike!) ...



Reimer has always tended to drift inward more than outward. But lately he seems to be playing even more of an "at home" game hoping pucks will hit him without him having to move. Could the young, polite, impressionable goalie be too impressionable when it comes to listening to his coach?

Whether Allaire's over-coaching is to blame, or Reimer is over-emulating Giguere on his own, or teams now have a "book" on him and have learned they can pick corners, or if it is just Reimer stumbling through a rookie slump of his own making, one thing is as clear as the QEW on a Sunday morning: If Reimer doesn't return to his prior form the Leafs will be playing golf come mid-April. And Allaire may have created more off-season work for himself by having to unwind the Giggy-fication of the Leafs promising young goalie.

For a trip down memory lane, to a time when Charlie Sheen was just another employed loser and Reimer was kicking a shutout, check out this save from February in below video ...





Do you think Reimer is getting all Giggy on us? Tell me in the comments below.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

THE VEZINA RACE: WHO WILL WIN, WHO MIGHT WIN AND WHO WON'T WIN



We know this much about whomever wins this year's Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie. It will definitely make at least four people happy:

1) The Goalie: Duh...winning!
2) The Goalie's Mom: Duh.
3) The Goalie's Dad: Duh.
4) The Goalie's Agent: Nothing can stimulate a contract renegotiation better than Vezina and nothing makes an agent happier than more money. Duh.

But while these key figures will spend an overnight at the Top 'Tender's Camp Happy, where happy endings involve never getting scored on from outside the circles (get your mind of out of the gutter), most everyone else - teammates, coaches, GMs, fans - won't be happy unless the Vezina winner takes his team to a Stanley Cup win.

Nonetheless, with just over a couple dozen games left in the season, here's how the 2011 Vezina race is stacking up:

Who Will Win: Tim Thomas. Unless Timmy has a Beantown meltdown in the next month, his .939 Save % and 1.97 GAA and 7 shutouts makes him the pucko loco of the Insane Goalie Posse. Clearly, Thomas, the 2009 winner, is the 2011 front-runner.

Who Might Win: If Thomas fades and Roberto Luongo keeps up his sick numbers, Luongo could nab his first-ever Vez. That is, unless Puff Daddy loses his mojo if the NHL makes him shave his flap.

Who Won't Win But Should Have a Chance: Pekka Rinne. He is currently number two in both Save % and GAA (behind Thomas). He is constantly stealing wins for the Predators or at least giving them a chance to win games they have no right winning. But a bias against small-market Nashville (even though RInne is coached by one of the NHL's top geniuses in Mitch Korn), coupled with Rinne's relative newcomer status at age 28, will probably render the Finnish goalie a runner-up.

Please vote in Stop Da Puck's Vezina Poll in the right margin of this page.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SAVE OF THE DAY: QUICK DOES A STREET HOCKEY SPLIT



Who says kids don't play street hockey anymore? Jonathan Quick showed that not only can he spread-eagle split impressively, but he showed off a wicked glove reminiscent of my childhood street hockey scraps (just ask my brother) while stopping Daniel Sedin on Saturday near the end of the third period.

Yeah, the Kings lost 3-1. But Quick stopped 33. And this glover was my fave.

Enjoy:



DID ROBERTO LUONGO WIN HIS 300TH GAME WITH ILLEGAL PADS?



Roberto Luongo got his 300th career win on Saturday against the L.A. Kings. But did he do it by breaking the rules?

This was a hot topic of debate at the Staples Center when, to some, it appeared the Vancouver goalie was possibly wearing leg pads wider than the rules allow.

NHL rule 11.2 states: "Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches (11'') in extreme width when on the leg of the player..."

That means every goalie in the league is required to wear pads that aren't wider than 11 inches - at any part of the pad (the knee, the shin, the toe...). Now, of course, the notion that a goalie would wear illegal equipment to gain a competitive edge wouldn't be something new (cough cough...), but cheating has become rare in an era of intense media scrutiny, obsessed goalie bloggers and dedicated rule-enforcing league officials.

That being said, to the naked eye Luongo's pads simply do look wider than the standard 11-inch leg pad. I have concluded that - at least when it comes to the face of his pads - it is a case of looks being deceiving. However (and I do emphasize however), I am convinced that a particularly puffy quirk in the design of his inner leg protection may place his pads into illegal territory.

Back to the face of the pads themselves: After closely analyzing hundreds of recent action shots I am of the opinion that the face of Luongo's pads are no wider than 11 inches anywhere along the length of them. Do they look wider because they are all-white? Yes. (To understand how color can distort size, just ask your wife or girlfriend about why they wear slimming black pants rather than white ones.) But they are legal.

Here is the "but" of my breakdown. But it seems that the padding along Luongo's inner leg (aka "calf wing protector") sometimes flaps out and, though momentary, it appears that Luongo's total pad width exceeds 11 inches at these moments. And, yes, this would make his pads illegal, according to my reading of the official NHL rules, which states, "Calf-wing protectors must contour and cannot be visible to the shooter when strapped to the goalkeeper’s leg."

The best recent visible evidence I could find supporting my illegal width theory is during Luongo's March 3 game against the Predators and which I have posted at the top of this story (and Luongo apparently wore the same pads Saturday against the Kings). You can see a cleaner shot here.

This wouldn't be the first time Luongo has been called out for illegal pads. Puff Daddy was reportedly ordered by the league to take out similar knee flaps back in the 2007 playoffs after the Dallas Stars complained.

Finally, a disclaimer. Although I am convinced that Luongo's pads do "puff" their way into being illegally wide, the only way to find out for sure if Luongo's new nickname should be "Puff Daddy" is for league officials to measure them. Because rules be the rules. Just ask every player who has been fined or suspended this year for knocking another player in the head.

Now, go ahead and enjoy Luongo's win in the video below, then please tell me in the comments section if you agree with me and what, if anything, you think the NHL should do about it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

MILLER AND MACDONALD GET BURNED BY PLAYING "RISKY BUSINESS"




Be conservative.

This is the mantra for goalies whenever they venture from the friendly confines of the crease to play the puck. In other words, play the biscuit like, say, Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh - conservatively. You only make a stick-play on the puck if you are certain you can do so without risking letting in goal. If you can be a "third" defenseman, wonderful, but always play it safe.

On Thursday night, two goalies got burned. The Wings' springer spaniel Joey MacDonald and Ryan Miller.

Miller (see above clip) made an okay play wristing it around the boards but he didn't fire it high or hard enough, nor did he return to the net quickly enough. These errors cost him a goal.

Joey Mac (see below clip) miscalculated and would have been better off poking the puck to the corner. His attempted clear ended up as a pass to Marleau.



The lesson: When it comes to netminding, leave the "Risky Business" to Tom Cruise. If you do so, there's a better chance you will end up like Charlie Sheen -- that is, WINNING!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

JIMMY HOWARD'S PENALTY SHOT: WHAT WENT WRONG?



Okay, I'm kind of obsessed with the penalty shot goal that Jimmy Howard let in last night versus the Ducks. Goalies do that. We obsess. After all, obsession is the force behind all great things: Art, literature, sex, Conan O'Brien's nerdy sense of humor. But I digress...

If you are an Anaheim fan, you're thrilled that Bobby Ryan came through in the clutch with a sweet shot over Howard's glove. But, as a goalie, I'm left wondering what Jimmy could have done to stop da puck.

After video analysis so in-depth I could be mistaken for Abraham Zapruder, I've discovered what Howard could have done to force a different outcome.

As you can see in the pic above, things started out just fine. Ryan approached the zone and Howard was out above the top of the crease, challenging very aggressively. Then, as you can see in the below pic, Howard backed up as Ryan approached, but was careful not to back in too far (a common mistake when a shooter is coming at such great speed as Ryan was).



So if Howard wasn't backing up too fast, wasn't set up too far in, then where was the breakdown? That came here ...



When Ryan reached the hash marks, he skillfully shifted from handling the puck between his feet to moving the puck a good two feet over to his right forehand. That shift, without him laterally moving his feet a single millimeter, dramatically gave him a better angle to the net, which he took advantage of with a quick snap over Howard's glove.

What could Howard have done? The easiest answer would be "his homework." Because even the TV commentator Brian Hayward (a former goalie) knew what Ryan's move was likely to be, telling the audience, "His favorite move is to go to the forehand and snap it about a foot and a half off the ice." Since that is exactly what Ryan did, Hayward gets TV Personality kudos.

Meanwhile, Howard - and his coaching staff (assuming they didn't pass on this key scouting info to their erstwhile #1) - is left to obsess whether he could have better anticipated Ryan's forehand snap if he had only known. Do you agree? Hit me up in comments...

WATCH JIMMY HOWARD FLUSH $150 DOWN DUCKS' TOILET




I used to have a goalie coach who just hated it whenever I slammed my stick against the post in anger after getting scored on. "It's not the post's fault!" he'd quip after I swung my wood like a lumberjack takes an ax to timber.

Usually, his snide remark would only make me more mad. But my coach was right.

And I couldn't help but think of my teenage anger-management issues after watching what Red Wings 'tender Jimmy Howard, 26, did Wednesday night after getting scored on in OT by Bobby Ryan of the Ducks (click to :57 for the big chop). I also couldn't help but think it was an expensive outburst ...

* Cost of Jimmy Howard's goalie stick = $150.
* Cost of watching Jimmy shatter his stick on the post = Pricele$$.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TO BE IN BLUE, OR NOT TO BE IN BLUE? THAT IS MILLER'S AND LUNDQVIST'S QUESTION




Ryan Miller likes to play shots from near the top of his crease. He's from the old school, where the geometric notion of coming out farther creates less space for the shooter to see and increases the chance you will get hit with a puck and not have to react.

Henrik Lundqvist likes to play deep. He's from the CuJo Copycat School, where playing further back in the blue allows you to avoid getting beat on the sides and lets you rely on reflexes and and look-big stance to handle shots.

Which style is best? I'm an old school top-creaser. But that's a debate we can delve into the next time we have a lifetime to discuss the pros and cons. What's clear is that both goalies owned their contrasting styles Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and showed how either one can work if executed properly.

Do you think Lundqvist plays too far back in his net? Hit me up in comments...