Goaltending plays a huge role in winning championships, and this is especially prevalent in this year’s playoffs. Specifically, the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks can look at their netminders as one reason for their postseason success. The Flyers’ Carter Hart and Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom have carried their team’s workload, but their approach to the job is different.
Be Still My Hart
The Flyers locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to the play of the recently turned 22-year-old Hart manning the net. The Alberta native is consistently square to the puck with crisp, fast movements and he gets his feet set. Having his feet stationary under his shoulders is crucial to those movements as it allows him to be ready and to react to the puck without sacrificing energy.
His poise is evident in this clip, as he turned away one of the 29 shots from the Canadiens in Game 4 of the first round on his way to his second straight shutout. The save is relatively routine and simple, but it is all due to the little details that Hart took care of leading up to the shot. He moved with the puck as Montreal passed it around the zone. Without sacrificing depth in his crease, he shuffled to get his shoulders square to the puck and kept his feet underneath him each time a Canadiens player got the puck.
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Most importantly, Hart worked so he could see the puck the whole time. While the Canadiens moved it around looking for a perfect shot opportunity, Hart battled through traffic to maintain his sightlines. When Suzuki released the puck, Hart tracked it all the way to his glove. Most importantly, he continued to track the puck after it took a weird bounce out of his glove, and he was able to gather the rebound quickly without giving the Canadiens another scoring opportunity.
Hart makes saves look effortless which provides a calming presence for the Flyers. His team can play their defensive system with confidence, knowing that their goaltender will have their back. In some cases, it even allowed them to take calculated risks in their own zone because of their confidence in their young netminder. Philadelphia’s play from the net out produced an undefeated record in the round-robin and a berth in the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Right on the Mark
A green Canucks team is making waves in the postseason after beating the Minnesota Wild in the Qualifying Round and advancing past the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues. With a young core leading the offense, the veteran goaltending of Jacob Markstrom has locked down the back end. With eleven seasons under his belt, the Swedish goaltender brings the desperation and competitiveness necessary in the playoffs. Markstrom has that x-factor that allows him to compete to make saves. It can’t be taught or practiced, he just finds it within himself to do whatever it takes to keep the puck out of the net.
Towards the beginning of the second period in Game 5 of the first round, the Blues won a faceoff at center ice and dumped the puck in to establish their offensive forecheck. After hitting the linesman, the puck took a weird bounce and found itself in the middle of the ice as Markstrom was headed behind the net to aid the breakout. Jacob de la Rose of the Blues won the race to the puck and stepped right into a shot, only to be denied by a sprawling Markstrom. As soon as the puck changed course, Markstrom’s first step was to get back to the net. In an ideal situation, a goalie gets to the net, gets square, and reacts to make the save.
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Caught behind the puck and out of position, Markstrom scrambled to take up as much of the net as possible. He moved in front of the crease as far as he could, projected his hands out in front of him to cut down the angle, and stretched to take away the bottom of the net. He got his blocker on the puck and denied a prime scoring chance for the Blues. This save kept the score at 2-1 and prevented the Blues from creating a two-goal lead.
Albeit exciting, highlight-reel saves like Markstrom made typically mean the goalie is out of position. He successfully scrambled to make the save, then quickly composed himself and prepared for any second chances. The Canucks effectively cleared the puck, but the team rallied when they saw their goaltender compete. Every player on the bench dug deeper to find another gear, which is crucial to making a push in the postseason.
Every goalie in the NHL has his own style of play. Some are like Hart, who plays a strong, technically sound game. Others are like Markstrom, who battle and compete for each save. There are even some goalies who have a balanced style between technique and competition. While there are similarities and differences between them all, the successful goalies are able to simplify the game and stop the puck.