This is a stressful time for a marginal professional goalie.
There are only 60 NHL goaltending jobs. The Bruins, like most teams, have five goalies on NHL contracts: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg, Malcolm Subban, Jeremy Smith, and Adam Morrison. In Sweden and Finland, two progressive puck-stopping nations, native goalies are not ceding their creases to Canadians or Americans. For a free agent, some of the only employment opportunities are in the Southern Professional Hockey League, where paychecks aren’t brimming with zeros.
Throughout hockey, goaltender supply far outweighs demand. There are the filthy rich, such as Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, and Carey Price. There are relative paupers, such as Svedberg, Cam Talbot, and Dustin Tokarski. The middle class is fading away. You’re either an ace or a No. 2 nomad in search of security and a seven-figure income. For the latter, such goals are difficult to achieve. It’s why goalies are desperate for any kind of advantage to survive. The smart ones are looking for help. They’re getting it.
Two camps will suffer: the goalies who don’t jump onto the instruction train, and the shooters who aren’t keeping up. Of the two, the latter are at greater risk.
“We’re winning. We’re freaking winning,” said Brian Daccord, founder of Stop It Goaltending, a Woburn goalie clinic. “We’re winning the battle of the individual coaching. Maybe it’s the supply and demand and the motivation. That’s why a goalie will go, ‘Huh, vision training. Maybe that’s going to give me an edge. Cognitive training. Maybe that’s going to give me an edge. What’s going to give me an edge over other guys?’ ”
Daccord, who is also the goaltending coach for Adler Mannheim in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, points to the reverse VH as an example. The technique is relatively new. Goalies like it because they can seal off the strong-side post, steer rebounds out of danger, and move easily into the next save. Goalie coaches first tried it in Sweden. In the last three years, it has become an essential part of a goalie’s toolbox. The technique emerged and exploded because of experimentation, practice, and execution.
The philosophy of innovation is a driver behind Daccord’s latest creation. Daccord is the man behind Premier Athletic Development, which is the home for Stop It Goaltending. The PAD Boston, as Daccord calls it, is a one-stop shop revolving around the goalie: on-ice training, cognitive training, off-ice fitness, yoga, physical therapy, and vision training. The PAD Boston, which opened in September, serves youth hockey goalies to NHLers such as Cory Schneider, one of Daccord’s longtime pupils. It is a place where goalies can learn, train, and explore new ideas that might develop into the next go-to technique.
The heart of the facility is its 60-by-50-foot ice surface. The sheet features 14 creases, although Daccord’s preferred maximum is eight goalies working at one time.
The theory is simple. A goalie doesn’t need a 200-by-85 rink. It would be counterintuitive to chase pucks around the ice when all a goalie needs is space behind the net, a crease, and a workable radius. This way, a coach can be right next to the goalie to issue corrections and film him or her with the iPads on rolling stands that Daccord considers critical tools.
A goalie’s success, after all, comes through coaching and repetition. The idea is to practice proper technique to the point at which movements become habit.
“When that puck goes off his blocker and into the corner, he can’t even try not to follow it. Can’t even try,” Daccord said. “His myelin is so wrapped — his muscle memory is so wrapped the way we want it to be wrapped — that he’s got to try to do it wrong.”
The on-ice work is only one component. Before they step on the sheet, goalies can work out down the hallway or take a yoga class. During the summer, Daccord likes his goalies to do yoga at least once a week. By Daccord’s estimation, a college-level goalie will drop into the butterfly about 125 times per practice. This repetitive rotation puts heavy strain on the hips. Yoga and off-ice workouts that emphasize mobility and agility help goalies open up their hips and negate the punishment of the butterfly technique.
Goalies can also consult with the Center for Cognitive Sports Performance (CogSports), which is located on the facility’s second floor. CogSports’s primary product is a test goalies take to help themselves and their coaches understand their mental approach. Based on the answers, a goalie might have to learn how to become more humble, for example, to accept responsibility after allowing a soft goal.
Downstairs, goalies can visit Eye on Performance, which specializes in vision training. Good goalies stop pucks they can see. But it’s not easy to track a small black disk approaching at 100 miles per hour through a tangle of bodies. Goalies can perform exercises to improve elements such as depth perception, peripheral awareness, and contrast sensitivity.
The objective behind facilities such as the PAD Boston is to maximize a goalie’s performance. Hockey is a brutal, competitive business. When jobs are scarce, coaching matters. Goalies are getting the good stuff, and it shows in the .930 save percentages that have become the new normal. Your move, shooters.
Horton may need to make a tough call
In one way, Nathan Horton is very unlucky. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the ex-Bruin is in misery because of a degenerative back condition that could cut short his career.
“I can’t stand up like a normal person,” Horton said. “I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man . . . so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime.”
It’s possible that Horton has played his 35th and final game as a Blue Jacket. It was a segment filled with frustration. He was unavailable to start the 2013-14 season because of the shoulder injury he suffered in Boston during his fight with Jarome Iginla. After signing with Columbus, Horton’s back started to hurt as he rehabbed his shoulder.
Horton debuted on Jan. 2 and scored the deciding goal in a 2-0 victory over the Coyotes. But on April 8, against the same club, Horton injured his groin, most likely a result of changing his stride because of his aching back.
Horton, who hasn’t played this season, is still hoping that rest — more so, a miracle — will ease his suffering. But it is a doubtful scenario. The more likely outcome is for doctors to fuse his lumbar vertebrae with a titanium rod, which would cut short his playing days.
If so, Horton would end his career with 202 goals and 218 assists. He played 169 of his 626 career games with the Bruins.
Yet Horton is also very fortunate. His back pain flared up in the fall of 2013, only months after he signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with the Blue Jackets. If Horton is done, he will collect all of his money via insurance. Had the right wing’s injury emerged a few months earlier, no team would have taken a chance on a power forward with a degenerative back condition.
Horton is facing a rotten decision: to end his pain by opting for career-ending surgery. He has one championship ring. He thought he could chase another in Columbus. The only profession he’s known may come to an early end.
Fayne doing just fine in Oilers’ defense corps
Mark Fayne was one of the summer winners. On July 1, the defensive defenseman signed a four-year, $14.5 million contract with the Oilers. He’s now earning $3.625 million annually, which is more than he made in his four previous seasons combined in New Jersey.
For Fayne, the long road paid off.
Fayne, who grew up in Sagamore Beach, is a throwback. He played three seasons of prep school hockey at Nobles. He played four years at Providence College, where he studied business management. With only 19 games of AHL seasoning, Fayne became a full-time NHLer in his first pro season.
In retrospect, Fayne succeeded because his primary destination was college, not the NHL.
“Growing up around here, my goal was always to play college hockey,” Fayne said. “Pro seemed like one of those things that was too far in the distance to think about. I always thought the best route was to go to prep school, try to get the best education I could, and try to get in the best college I could.”
In that way, Nobles was the right choice. Fayne liked playing for coach Brian Day. Fayne was a boarding student during the week and returned home on weekends. He played football and lacrosse. When the puck dropped, he stayed at Nobles for three seasons instead of playing junior, which is the choice many of today’s high-end players are making in the pursuit of more games and better competition.
“I think it’s one of those trends,” Fayne said. “Fifteen years ago, everybody was staying in public school. Then they went to prep school. Now they’re going to the USHL. I hope it comes back around because I loved prep school. I loved having that school atmosphere.”
Fayne, New Jersey’s fifth-round pick in 2005, could have left Providence after his junior year. But he still believed he had room to develop in Hockey East. On Jan. 8, 2011, during his first pro season, Fayne played in Albany’s 2-1 win over Syracuse. He has never again played in the AHL.
The 27-year-old has since become a steady, reliable, depth defenseman. In 17 games this season, Fayne has one goal and three assists while logging 16:34 of ice time per appearance.
Fayne considers the Boston area his offseason home. He trains and skates in Foxborough. Last summer, Fayne lived on Newbury Street, so he must be doing something right.
“You’re 22, 23 when you graduate,” Fayne said. “You’ve still got a lot of hockey left to play. There’s no rush to get that one or two extra years in there. Sometimes kids come out too early. Then they get stunted.”
Canadiens execute early-season makeover
Montreal was riding high. The Canadiens had won 11 of their first 16 games. But general manager Marc Bergevin was not satisfied with his roster. So he executed two moves: assigning Rene Bourque to Hamilton and wheeling Travis Moen to Dallas for Sergei Gonchar. These trades will pay off in the long run. Bourque and Moen were similar players: high-mileage, low-production left wings. Bourque was a good player in the playoffs last season. The third-liner had eight goals and three assists in 17 playoff games. But Bourque put up a ghostly 0-2—2 line in 13 games this season. The 32-year-old Moen was even worse, going 0-0—0 in 10 games. In Gonchar, the Canadiens added a veteran who can help on the power play and fit in well with fellow Russians Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. Ultimately, the moves open space for Jiri Sekac and Michael Bournival, although the latter is out with a shoulder injury. There is no excuse for coach Michel Therrien not to use his young wings instead of leaning on trusted but flickering vets.
Fighting ban is long overdue in junior
On Tuesday, Connor McDavid, who will be picked first or second in June’s draft, fought Bryson Cianfrone. The shame wasn’t just that McDavid broke his hand and will be out 5-6 weeks. It’s that he was allowed to throw down in the first place. I have always been a proponent of fighting in the NHL. It is the pinnacle of courage, sportsmanship, and selflessness. With fighting going off the cliff this season, games have lost some of their edge and entertainment as barely a bad temper flares. But it is barbaric to allow teenagers like McDavid and Cianfrone to fight. There is the physical danger of a still-developing brain taking bare-knuckled thumps. But the greater toll is mental. It’s hard enough to be a 17-year-old boy who’s asked to play a pro-style schedule. It’s even tougher when he has to carry the emotional baggage of going toe-to-toe with another boy in front of thousands of bloodthirsty fans. Leave that to men who receive paychecks and are mature enough to make the decision to fight. Let the boys play hockey.
Schneider points finger at himself
Cory Schneider has to be better. The Marblehead native, in his first year as the Devils’ full-time starter, hasn’t fulfilled expectations. Through 16 games, Schneider was 7-6-2 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. Schneider sprang a full-blown leak last Monday against the Bruins, when Seth Griffith’s no-look, between-the-legs shovel dribbled under his left pad. “This isn’t the goalie that I am and my teammates know I am,” Schneider said after the Devils’ 4-2 loss. “I can absolutely be better. It’s time to stop talking and just go do it.” The following night, Schneider did just that by letting in just one puck in New Jersey’s 3-1 win over Minnesota. Schneider kicked out all 17 of the Wild’s even-strength shots, which is in line with how he’s played. During five-on-five play, Schneider has a .930 save percentage, better than Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist, and Tuukka Rask, three of the league’s elite goalies. Minnesota’s only goal was a shorthanded strike by Ryan Carter. Through 16 games, the Devils had a 66.7 percent kill rate, worst in the league. Schneider will be fine, especially if the Devils give him a break. No other goalie had started his team’s first 16 games. That’s an unsustainable workload.
On Saturday, the Tim Taylor Cup was scheduled to debut after the annual Harvard-Yale game. The award will be presented annually to the most outstanding player of each Crimson-Eli clash to honor the former Yale coach and Harvard alum. Taylor won 337 games as Yale’s 28-year coach. Taylor died because of cancer on April 27, 2013 . . . The Bruins’ annual post-Thanksgiving matinee will not take place this year. The Bruins will host Winnipeg at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29. The time change is because the NHL wants all eyeballs on NBC Sports’s coverage of Rangers-Flyers in the “Thanksgiving Showdown” at 1 p.m. . . . The Stars are pleased with John Klingberg. The 22-year-old’s development was a factor in the Gonchar trade. Klingberg, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2010, is a skilled right-shot defenseman. All of Dallas’s other regular defensemen are left shots. Klingberg adds offensive awareness to a corps that is heavy on grinders such as Brenden Dillon, Jordie Benn, and Jamie Oleksiak . . . A clip that always makes me smile is of Bryan Murray giving it to Lindy Ruff after the Ottawa-Buffalo doozy in 2007. This was the blowup that saw Ray Emery pummel Martin Biron, then take on heavyweight Andrew Peters. I imagine Murray, who’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, will fight his sickness in the same way: all out.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.