“A pitcher in baseball controls half the inning. A quarterback in football controls half the play. However, a goalie in hockey is there for 60 minutes. He is the consistent variable in a hockey game.’’ This quote is from Dave Maloney, on an episode of MSG Profiles, a documentary on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The goalie position is a position where if you’re slumping everyone notices. Unlike the forward or defense position, the goalie usually is easier to point out during a slump. There is nowhere for a goalie to hide, not only is the media everywhere with cameras, but you also have the fans with their phones.
They say the hardest thing to do in any sport is hitting a fastball. Understandable, but I also believe stopping a slap-shot could be atop the list. A slap-shot is the hockey equivalent of a fastball. However, there isn’t always 60’6’’ between the goalie and a shooter.
A study done at the University of Calgary has shown that goaltenders direct about 70 percent of their eyes fixations to the puck.
As a player goes through his shooting motion the not so obvious is the amount of time a goaltender spends of focusing on the puck, this is the difference between making the save or not.
The studies showed that when a goaltender made a save, the fixation on the puck started sooner and was about an eighth of a second longer than when they gave up the goal.
This season, so far, we have seen a struggling Lundqvist. Now, throughout his career, we have seen him go through slumps. Yet this year is different. This year he is struggling to break the slump.
Personally, as a goalie, I know the struggles a goalie goes through while slumping.
As a goalie, there is a saying I heard Lundqvist say during the same MSG Profile show mentioned earlier. “As a goalie, you’re always dealing with pressure. When you go out there, and step on the ice, it’s you against the shooter.” Not only is it you against the shooter, if you’re slumping it seems like it is you against the shooter, the puck, yourself and the crowd.
You hear it all the time, a goaltender fighting the puck. Getting the first save of the game is huge for a goaltender, at any level of the game. If you don’t make that first save it affects your confidence which will start to get the goalie thinking about the next shot.
Thinking about the next shot is important, but if you are thinking about it in a negative way, it will start to looks as if the goalie is fighting the puck to make the save.
A goalie against himself is never a good thing. What this means is the goaltender starts to question if he could make the save. If the goaltender starts to think this way, you will notice the mistakes in his game.
I believe this is one of the problems with Lundqvist right now. He is notorious for putting pressure on himself, which isn’t a bad thing normally. It was noticeable in the game vs. the Dallas Stars, especially on the wraparound goal. You could tell he simply overthought what was happening and jumped post to post too fast.
How to fix it?
The best thing for a slumping goalie is to get shots. That’s one of the reasons I believe Lundqvist stayed in until the end of the second against the Stars. While in a slump sometimes it may seem like you couldn’t stop a beachball, the more shots, the better.
Once Lundqvist gets out of this slump, he will be the goaltender the fans have watched over the years. He simply needs to feel comfortable in the net again.