Goaltender Puckhandling

Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:54 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Even though it didn’t really come up in today’s press conferences or media scrums, I feel as if the issue of goaltender puckhandling in this series has played a bit of a role. And by puckhandling, I don’t only mean shooting it with the stick, but also actual control of the puck and choicesmade as far as where, when, and how to move said biscuit.

In the first two games, I watched Pekka Rinne move a few pucks that made me cringe. There were times it seemed like he and the D were not on the same page as far as where he might scoot a puck he at firstthought to cover, and it resulted in some turnovers and scoring chances… not to mention prolonging some shifts for the Preds. In Game Three I felt Rinne did a much better job not only at playing the puck and communicating, but deciding to hold on and let his centers do the work. This also plays back into the importance of faceoffs, but more on that later.

Mike Smith had a solid first two games but at times during the year had been accused of either over-playing the puck instead of letting his D come back and get it, or just making bad decisions. Today Dave Tippett refused to throw his goaltender under the bus, saying that the defense should have gotten back faster to help Smith when he gave the puck away resulting in David Legwand’s goal Wednesday night.

I hearken back to Tippett’s comments earlier in the series that he felt the reward was much greater than the risk associated with his goalie’s proclivity for playing the puck. However, once Nashville really cranked up its forecheck in Game Three, Smith appeared to crack just a tiny bit. It will be extremely important for the Preds to continue to pressure Smith in Game Four Friday night. Perhaps the ratio of risk to reward might even itself out a little bit.

Rinne’s reluctance to freeze the puck in Game One and subsequently Game Two might have a bit to do with a lack of trust in those aforementioned faceoff men. I spoke with Mike Fisher earlier today and he was pretty honest, saying he had a bad Game One and knew he had to bear down and improve. He went back to the drawing board, talked with teammates and coaches, and emerged with much better numbers. Nashville’s other centers appear to have really dug down and improved as well. Suddenly the defense tightened up. The goaltender looked much better and could just freeze pucks. And the Predators emerged with a win. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
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G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
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D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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