Every internet sports writer (national media or bloggers) at some point or another will try to spice up a headline or article subject to entice readership. It’s the nature of the beast. One of the most effective tools utilized is the well-crafted narrative. Causing derision between multiple groups of people over any minute detail of the team, focusing on a slow boiling “problem” that will inevitably sink the club, etc. are a driving force behind ad revenue and page views. Most of the time, these stories are harmless enough, the WFAN crowd will read way too much into them and post ignorant garbage all over the comments of multiple national media outlets, and life will move on.
Obviously, here at BSB, we try to cater to the more informed, rational, nuanced fan, so this isn’t an issue here, for the most part. It’s when a narrative grows legs beyond those of the loud-mouth, know-nothing fan, is when I start to become concerned. So, with all of that said, I want to put to rest a pesky little narrative that is getting too many people worked up. There is nothing wrong with Henrik Lundqvist’s glove hand.
Does The King have the quickest glove in all the NHL? Absolutely not. With respect to the rest of his game, his glove hand is one of his weakest links. Which isn’t to say that it’s a weak or ineffective glove hand, at all. In fact, it is an asset. I can only dream of having advanced metrics that could back this claim up statistically, so I’m going to rely on old-fashioned scouting.
Since I have this bizarre passion for this weird position, when watching highlight shows or other games on the hockey package, I tend to focus on the technical errors in execution when goals are scored. So, I’ve seen most of the guys in the league at least in highlight form on a regular basis. From the eye test, Hank’s glove hand is not in the league of elite glove guys like Jonathan Quick, Carey Price or even Braden Holtby (whose glove hand is fantastic), but certainly not as bad as quite a few NHL starters/platoon goalies. (Jonas Gustavsson, Ilya Bryzgalov, and James Reimer come to mind)
“But, his glove hand is being exploited this series!, it’s costing the team games!” One, this is an incredibly small sample for make sweeping judgments about flaws in someone’s game. Second, if you break down the goals that Hank has given up glove side, there is almost always a mitigating factor. Just look at Ovechkin’s goal last night. As Suit so wonderfully analyzed, Callahan ended up falling and was unable to get back into the slot to cover Ovechkin, and one of the premier snipers in the league picked the top corner.
From a goaltending standpoint, there are several things in play here. First, when you have to focus on the puck carrier, you know the approximate location of the player in the slot, but not 100%. When the play shifts from Green to Ovechkin, Dan Girardi slides into Hank’s line of sight. Not only does this make the puck more difficult to follow inherently, it causes depth issues with locating the player in the high slot (in this case, Ovechkin).
Hank lined the play up wrong, over-slid his angle and got beat. The thing to take away from the analysis, whether you choose to believe the situation was too difficult to expect a save, and absolve Hank, or that he over-slid his angle and pulled himself out of the play, and blame Hank, either way those things had nothing to do with the prowess of his glove hand.
Seeing a puck go over a goalie’s glove is second only to the five hole when it comes to getting angry reactions from fans. It looks easy enough, why doesn’t he just catch it? It’s frustrating, but looking beyond the puck being missed by the glove is going to give you a much better idea of where the play really went wrong.
Hank has had plenty of tremendous glove saves throughout this playoff, season and past 7 seasons. As frustrating as these types of plays can be sometimes, it’s important to keep it all in perspective. Has Hank let in a stoppable goal or two glove-side during the playoffs? He most certainly has. It doesn’t mean that he has a glaring weakness that will now be exploited going forward. Everything is under the microscope in the playoffs, which gives sports writers more than enough fodder to create a narrative out of frustration.