In 2012, Jonathan Quick achieved a career goal. The former UMass Amherst standout went 16-4 in the postseason, including three shutouts, with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage to backstop the Kings to their first of two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons.
In the bigger picture, the Conn Smythe-winning goalie helped to initiate a position-changing movement. The name of one of Quick’s go-to moves is “reverse VH,” also called post lean or shoulder lean. Not many North American goalies used it just three years ago. It’s since become a required technique in a goalie’s toolbox.
Two Cups, a Conn Smythe, and an Olympic starting gig are good benchmarks to affirm puckstopping credentials.
“When I tried to teach this two years ago, guys looked at me like I had three heads,” said Brian Daccord, president and founder of Stop It Goaltending in Woburn. “It was something so out of this world. Now they’re all doing it.”
There are significant progressions in goaltending’s timeline. Markers include Jacques Plante’s adoption of the mask and Francois Allaire’s teaching of the butterfly. In time, reverse VH may take its place among the position’s important advancements.
“It’s a big one,” said Kevin Woodley, managing editor of In Goal Magazine, citing Quick, Sergei Bobrovsky, Kari Lehtonen, Jonathan Bernier, Frederik Andersen, Viktor Fasth, and Marc-Andre Fleury as goalies who have incorporated reverse VH well. “It’s a pretty big step.”
Goalies are familiar with standard VH to guard against sharp-angle hazards. When the puck is in the corner, a goalie seals the strong side by planting his lead pad vertically (V) against the post. He positions the trail pad horizontally (H) along the goal line.
VH, however, locks a goalie into position. He can make a good first blocking save. But it’s not easy to push off the lead edge into the next save. A shot aimed off the trail pad creates backdoor and net-front garbage. The goalie’s torso is square to the shooter in the corner, which then calls for more movement to go into the follow-up save. In today’s game, a hectic goalie leaves more holes than a quieter counterpart.
“Look at how goalies get scored on. A lot of times, it’s in transition,” Daccord said. “A goalie in transition is going down from an up position. If you eliminate that, if a goalie’s down to begin with, you don’t get beat in transition anymore.”
Reverse VH calls for the lead pad to be down. The goalie either holds his skate against or locks his toe into the strong-side post. The lead shoulder leans into the post. The placement of the lead pad and shoulder creates a tight strong-side seal. The shooter sees no openings. The lead pad, because it’s down, also cuts down the shooting lane toward the trail pad. This reduces the danger of far-pad shots that produce rebounds.
The trail pad is off the ice, usually at a 45-degree angle. The trail edge reinforces the strong-side seal. It also gives the goalie more power to flow into the next save. In standard VH, the trail edge is off the ice and disengaged. In reverse VH, the trail edge is biting into the ice, ready for the goalie to activate when necessary.
The options that follow off the first save are what make reverse VH a game-changer.
“It’s leveraged to push the body into the post on the seal,” Woodley said of the trail edge. “Then when you come off the post and push across, you use the back edge to build momentum. You’re pushing with your lead edge off the post. With the back edge, you do a reverse C-cut to build more momentum. You’re more dynamic now.”
Every NHL goalie makes the first save. The excellent ones — Daccord considers Quick, Carey Price, and Henrik Lundqvist the best — transition smoothly into the second and third stops. Reverse VH is a good launch pad for what might come next. If the shooter tries a wraparound, the goalie engages his edges to glide off the post. If the puck enters the net-front real estate, the goalie’s already square to any threats instead of having to rotate his torso. If the puck goes out to the point, he’s ready for what might come next.
The critical benefit is efficiency. Not long ago, goalie coaches taught their charges to explode from Point A to Point B. The goal was speed.
But powerful movement leaves holes. Techniques like reverse VH allow a goalie to flow. In this area, Daccord considers Price a prodigy.
“He never explodes. He drifts and glides,” Daccord said. “He maintains very quiet, calm, efficient body language. There’s less movement of the head, less movement of the eyes. His eyes are able to track visually and attach to the puck better than being spot to spot and static.
“The game is much smoother for goalies now. There’s no more firing off the post. It’s a glide off the post. You’re coming out calmly and smoothly, not statically at all.”
The genesis of reverse VH is unknown. Woodley believes coaches in Sweden first tinkered with it approximately five years ago.
There are more goaltending coaches in Sweden and Finland than in the United States and Canada. They practice an open-source culture where they share ideas and practice trickle-down teaching to youth levels.
What probably started with an experiment evolved into an innovation. Now it’s a necessity.
“It’s just nuts,” Daccord said of the speed of goaltending’s progress. “Goalies are getting better. It’s why you need goalie coaching. You can’t learn this stuff on your own.”
Milano’s decision tough blow for BC
Eighteen-year-old boys regularly change their minds. It just so happens that for most of this species, the decision usually centers on choosing the McDonald’s drive-thru over Burger King.
For Sonny Milano, a change of heart had greater consequences.
Milano, Columbus’s 2014 first-round pick, had verbally committed to being a freshman at Boston College this fall. Milano confirmed that decision during the US national junior evaluation camp earlier this month. But Milano withdrew his commitment.
“Sonny has informed me he will sign a contract with Columbus,” BC coach Jerry York said in an Aug. 16 statement. “They will dictate his path as he embarks upon his pro career.”
The fallout: BC loses a blue-chip forward (14-25—39 in 24 games for the National Development Team Program’s Under-18 team last year). The NCAA’s battle with the CHL — Milano will likely play for Plymouth of the OHL in 2014-15 — continues. Milano’s reputation takes a hit.
“If I have disappointed anyone, particularly the great people I have met at BC, it was certainly not my intention to do so, and for that I am sorry,” Milano said in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch. “I hope that BC and those involved with its hockey program understand my decision.”
Milano has company. Last June, Michael McCarron, the hulking ex-NDTP forward, went to Montreal in the first round. McCarron had originally committed to Western Michigan. In the weeks following the 2013 draft, McCarron changed his mind and signed with London of the OHL. McCarron had 14 goals and 20 assists in 66 games last year.
For supporters of college hockey (hand raised high), attending school, at least for one year, is a slam dunk. You’re a big man on campus. You develop good practice habits because of the lighter game schedule. You become lifelong friends with people you would have never met. You might even meet your spouse. You enrich your life.
But teenage boys, especially those with professional hockey skill, have other things on their minds. An NHL entry-level signing bonus is real money (as much as $92,500 annually) that shows up immediately in a checking account. Daydreaming in English 101 may be a waste of time when your fellow students will be paying to watch you play pro hockey.
It’s just a shame that in this instance, breaking a commitment has outcomes far greater than a normal teenager’s change of heart.
Bruins playing risky game with contracts
It’s been a tricky offseason for the Bruins. Their overage penalties (approximately $4.75 million) have made it hard for the front office to re-sign Torey Krug and Reilly Smith without exploring cash-clearing trade options. Even if the Bruins move salary, it’s likely that Krug and Smith will have to accept one-year extensions and re-test the market again next summer.
That might not be fun.
Assuming they sign one-year deals, Krug and Smith will be up at the same time as Dougie Hamilton. If they follow their current development curves, all three will deserve raises. Hamilton could be in P.K. Subban’s second-contract situation. He could accept a bridge deal or sign for longer term. Either way, Hamilton will cash in.
At the same time, David Krejci, Johnny Boychuk, Carl Soderberg, Daniel Paille, Matt Bartkowski, Gregory Campbell, and Adam McQuaid will be unrestricted. Among the UFAs-to-be, Krejci is the only certainty to return. It’s a good bet the No. 1 center will sign an extension before the start of 2014-15 or sometime in the fall.
But it’s not fun for teams to have so many contracts expire at once. Boychuk will price himself out of Boston’s budget. Soderberg could do so too. Paille, Bartkowski, Campbell, and McQuaid could walk next summer.
The Rangers suffered similar consequences this summer. Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello reached restricted status. They all got raises. The Rangers still have to re-sign RFA defenseman John Moore. Because so many contracts expired simultaneously, the Rangers cut ties with UFAs Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, and Brian Boyle. They bought out Brad Richards and traded Derek Dorsett. They’ll have a hard time revisiting the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-15.
Chicago will be in a tough spot next year. In 2015-16, the Blackhawks will commit an additional $8.4 million annually to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They’ll have to re-sign RFA star-to-be Brandon Saad. They’ll shed approximately $7.5 million, according to www.capgeek.com, if Richards, Johnny Oduya, and Michal Rozsival walk. But they might also have to deal a core player if the cap doesn’t rise significantly. Salary escalation for star players is a given. But the rest of the roster suffers the fallout.
Buffalo, combine a good fit
For the next two seasons, Buffalo will be the host city of the NHL draft combine. The event had previously been held at hotels near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It’s a good get for the city and the Sabres, who will host the combine at the First Niagara Center and Harborcenter, the team’s new sports complex. The two facilities are important to Buffalo’s downtown, which is rebounding. If the NHL introduces on-ice combine elements to complement the fitness tests (staples include the vertical jump and the Wingate bike sufferfest), they can use any of the three sheets. But it’s also good for the NHL and its teams. Toronto was appealing because of its location. It was within driving distance for OHL, QMJHL, Michigan, New York, and New England prospects. It was easy for teams to fly into Toronto. But many of the American teams were flying into Buffalo and driving 90 minutes to Toronto because of the cost savings. Now they’ll be able to skip the latter leg.
Sigalet back in the league
Great news from Calgary, where ex-Bruin goaltender Jordan Sigalet, once Tuukka Rask’s partner in Providence, will be the Flames’ goaltending coach. Sigalet appeared in one career NHL game, for the Bruins on Jan. 7, 2006. Sigalet played for 43 seconds in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay after Andrew Raycroft was pulled because of a knee injury. Sigalet, the team’s seventh-round pick in 2001, played at Bowling Green for three years before turning pro in 2005. By then, he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Sigalet managed his condition with medication as a professional. On Nov. 17, 2007, during a game for Providence, Sigalet collapsed in the crease. He played one more season for Providence before the Bruins opted not to qualify the goalie. Before his Calgary promotion, Sigalet had been the goalie coach in Abbotsford, the Flames’ former AHL affiliate. Sigalet’s pupils will be Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. As a player, Sigalet was very popular among his peers. Sigalet’s new charges should excel under his friendly approach.
MacArthur cashes in
In 2010-11, the Maple Leafs did not consider Clarke MacArthur’s 21-41—62 line in 82 games worthy of an extension. On Tuesday, MacArthur probably had a laugh at Toronto’s expense when he agreed to a five-year, $23.25 million extension with Ottawa. Former Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning, as Buffalo’s director of amateur scouting in 2003, drafted MacArthur in the third round. When given opportunities, MacArthur produced as a second-line wing with Buffalo, Atlanta, and Toronto. But all three organizations cut ties with him, a decision they’re regretting. Last year, MacArthur had 24 goals and 31 assists in 79 games with the Senators. He’ll be assuming more responsibility this season because of the departure of Jason Spezza. The 6-foot, 195-pound MacArthur isn’t overly physical or fast. But he’s always around the puck. Brains pay off.
The local hockey world took a kick to the gut on Aug. 16 when Hingham’s Corey Griffin died after a diving accident on Nantucket. Griffin was a member of the 2006-07 BC team before transferring to Babson, where he played for coach Jamie Rice. Griffin’s former BC teammates include Cory Schneider, Brian Boyle, Nathan Gerbe, and Ben Smith. Griffin also played at Thayer and Taft . . . The Sports Museum will recognize Patrice Bergeron on Sept. 17 during The Tradition, its annual event at TD Garden. Bergeron will be honored for his hockey achievements and his commitment to community service. General admission is $200. For more information, visit www.sportsmuseum.org . . . The Hockey News has been ranking its top team logos. My five favorites: Montreal, Detroit, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and New Jersey. Those that can go: Anaheim, Washington, Minnesota, Carolina, and Columbus . . . Simon Gagne, a Bruins camp invite, can play both wings. The 34-year-old Gagne, who was out of hockey last season, will be in for a fight to make the team. But Gagne has experience, flexibility, and value on his side. He won’t require much to sign . . . It’s possible the NHL could adopt a player tracking video system by 2015-16. This would help teams gather better, cleaner player data such as shot location. The biggest obstacle, however, will be the game’s frenzied pace. The best cameras might implode while trying to identify players coming and going during a line change. The NBA has no such issues, as substitutions do not take place on the fly . . . At my farmers’ market, blueberries are disappearing, tomatoes are reddening, and apples are arriving. Hockey must be close.