Friday, March 2, 2007

The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line...

but if the Caps ever want a shootout win, they're going to have to start moving in curved lines. I tried this morning to find an old Mike Modano playoff penalty shot goal to illustrate, but alas it was on TV before youtube existed. Scoring on a goaltender one on one is all about movement and perceived movement. You have to get the goalie moving one way or another. That's why the Caps drive me crazy in the shootout. They always come straight at goal and make a lateral move a couple feet before they're basically in the crease. That's a terrible way to attack a goaltender.

Here's the thing about goaltending: it's all about angles. A goaltender relies on playing the best angle to cut off most of the net from the shooter. Simple, right? The problem for goalies is that hockey is a dynamic sport. Players are never in the same place all the time, and they rarely attack goal from straight lines. Because of that, goaltenders are constantly moving around in the crease to keep the best angle on the puck. And that movement creates opportunity. While a goaltender is repositioning, he's not fully ready to stop a shot. He needs just a couple of milliseconds to reset, to stop his motion before dropping into the butterfly or waving the blocker or glove into position. Taking advantage of that moment is what shooters do.

A great example of how to take advantage of goaltender movement from last night's game was Fedotenko's second period goal on Johnson. Because Fedotenko made a quick right to left move (which also had the effect of TOASTING Erskine), Johnson began to move to his right. Fedotenko fired what can only be described as a pee-wee level wrister, but because Johnson was sliding the opposite direction (because, well, you play hockey on ice, and it's slippery) he was unable to recover in time and stop the shot.

My point in all this is simple. To give yourself the best chance in the shootout, you need to approach goal coming from an angle, not straight ahead. That way, the goaltender cannot simply play the straight angle and wait for the shot. He has to move laterally in order to stay in good position. That opens up a host of dekes and stickhandling moves which are unavailable from directly in front, such as a delayed draw to the backhand after the goaltender has moved and a speed move that gets across to the free side of the net before the goaltender can get there.

So, to sum things up... in the shootout this:
is better than this:

This concludes my honors thesis on why the Caps are 1-10 in the shootout. Any questions?


OrderedChaos said...

Great analysis — love the visual aids too. :) Let's hope the coach finally decides to add shootouts to at least some of the practices; it may not have made the difference this year, but the Caps cannot leave so many OT/SO points on the table next season.

3 Grumpy Caps fans said...

From what I understand, he added them a bit after the all-star break. Still, it's remarkable that mobile guys like Ovechkin (who almost always makes a cut before firing the puck during games) and Semin haven't tried more wide moves.

Semin's release is as quick as Modano's was in his prime, which makes a swing, delay and shoot type of move almost impossible to stop.

pucksandbooks said...

Outstanding analysis, enjoyed it very muchl; there's a thinking man's goalie behind it -- let us hope our sad-sack shootout Caps don't have to face the author any time soon in one.