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Sports

Lots of hockey. Lots of golf. Other sports too. 

On Hockey: 2-Play Goalie Analysis: Froederick

Minivan Dad

I had so much fun with my one-play analysis of Ben Bishop that I thought I'd make it a series. Well, at least a two-part series. 

This time the subject is Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederick Andersen. In 2 plays. Whereas the Bishop analysis revealed a physical specimen with skating flaws, I believe these 2 plays demonstrate Andersen's biggest weakness- inexperience.

I get tired of television analysts who use terms like "calm, cool, collected, confident" or "shaky, fighting the puck, unfocused" to describe goaltenders and their performances. These are completely non-specific comments. For example, to say that Henrik Lundqvist is caught deep on a goal scored against him is asinine. He is almost always deep in his crease. Instead, explain why the play evolved so that his normally otherworldly anticipation and reflexes prevented him from making the particular save. It's much more work, obviously, but I'll continue to give it a shot. Like I said last time, Little Sister Goalie has her own coaches to do this for her. Sigh.

The first play to review - this one - is an obvious choice. The tying goal scored by the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews at the end of regulation in game 5 was replayed ad nauseum. Deservedly so- it was a horrible goal to give up, magnified by the situation in which it was scored.

On this Toews goal in game 5, Andersen doesn't give this up because he's "shaky" or "feeling the pressure." He gives this goal up because of a technical mistake, one that he will most likely never make again, and one that he commits because of inexperience.

The play begins innocently enough. With Anaheim leading 4-3 following a top corner rocket by Toews with Chicago's net empty, the Blackhawks gain possession and again pull Corey Crawford. The puck is dumped in to Andersen's left, and it caroms behind the net to the low right corner. Toews wins the battle for the puck, and fires it to Andersen's feet. The puck caroms in, and the score is tied. Who knows where Toews would have gotten that idea from, I wonder?

So what happened? It's not that Frederick Andersen somehow became a bad goalie. Rather, his inexperience caused him to focus on the wrong things, and he failed in his post integration, simple as that. 

On the initial shoot-in to his left, Andersen tracks the puck into the corner and around behind the net, into a puck battle along the low boards to his right.

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Already the error is present. His stick is well off the ice. He is neither square to the shot, nor preparing for post integration. Even at this point, though, I don't have a huge problem with him. I see many goalies, especially in the pro ranks, take a second to "reset" if they see a loose puck, so I'm not killing him too much here.

What happens next shows his inexperience. He sees that Toews has gained possession of the puck, but he doesn't change his position. He has begun to lower his stick, but the blade isn't square to the puck. He isn't attempting a post integration technique, either on his skates or in his reverse V-H. Instead, he is aligned to be ready for a crossing pass, or a pass back to the point. He seems relaxed (with his stick still way off the ice) because there really doesn't appear to be a scoring threat from either option. 

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In other words, despite the game situation, he doesn't perceive a threat, so he isn't ready for what happens next. Toews shoots, and scores!

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The puck actually deflects in off of Andersen's own left skate, passing through the space between his lowering, incorrectly angled stick and his front right skate.

Anaheim ultimately wins the game in overtime, so Andersen is off the hook for this goal. It's pretty clear that he should have been guarding against the low angle shot in hindsight, even though it's about the lowest likelihood play to be successful. (See @chrisboyle33 on Twitter). The irony is that most junior level goalies would have been prepared for exactly that, with some kind of post integration technique. To me, this isn't a case of "nerves" or "choking." I see it as the opposite. He is a professional goalie who is too relaxed and confident in his assessment that there isn't any immediate scoring threat, so he fails to recognize that the most dangerous guy on the ice is the one with the puck. Inexperience.

The second play is the first goal of last night's game 7 Chicago win in Anaheim, also scored by Toews on a rebound opportunity. Patrick Kane drives along the boards to Andersen's left, then turns and passes the puck to Niklas Hjalmarsson at the point. Duncan Keith, Toews, and Brandon Saad all drive the net, and Toews and Saad take up positions flanking Andersen on either side of the crease. To this point, there's nothing to complain about. Andersen's read the play, and has tracked the defenseman's move across to the middle of the ice. Toews flashes across Andersen's face from goalie right to left. Andersen peeks to his left to find the puck, which he does. 

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Hjalmarsson shoots.

Andersen makes the save with his left pad, the rebound goes out to Toews' stick, and he slams it home for the crucial first goal of the game.

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Some will cite this goal as an example of poor rebound control, which implies a lack of ability or technical prowess. It's actually Andersen's depth. Neither Toews nor Saad has made any contact with him, yet he has retreated from the top of the crease as he tracks the initial shot, as shown in each of these sequential frames. 

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By the time he makes a very nice left pad save on the initial shot, he has given up half of his initial crease depth. 

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In the NHL, Andersen is not going to make a second save on this play from that position. Had he maintained his initial positioning, the rebound off of his left pad may well have eluded Toews. If not, Toews would have had much less space to put the puck in the side of the net. Some coaches may have faulted his defense for allowing two phenomenal players to flank him, unmolested. TV analysts might say that he didn't "battle" enough, but that's not really the case. 

Why does he give up depth? Instead of a short, precise lateral push to his right behind Toews, he allows himself to flow backward. To me, this is another example of his inexperience. Andersen is a big, technically strong goaltender. He's probably been doing this for years without giving up a goal of this magnitude. I'll bet he has absolutely no idea how much depth he's given up until he's in his butterfly in the back half of his crease and Toews has his stick on the puck.

Ok! Done. Sure it's a small sample size, but there's gold in them thar multicolored Ducks unis. One play shows the importance of even the smallest footwork techniques. Even just a little side shuffle. The other shows that even though an NHL goalie has to be aware of every potential scoring threat, he can never underestimate the the guy with the puck, especially when it's a stinking Blackhawk goal line wide in the Stanley Cup Playoffs! 

So that's Frederick Andersen in 2 plays. For the TV guys, the word you're looking for is "inexperienced."