April 29, 2011
As I took another sip from my glass, I realized I was squeezing it so hard that it had a realistic chance of shattering in my hands. I was watching two hot goaltenders in the Vancouver Canucks/Nashville Predators game, and the offensive frustration had managed to seep all the way into my living room.
If you've ever played any form of hockey, you've faced a hot goalie or two -- there's nothing worse than knowing it's pointless to pull the trigger unless you're in the slot and have enough time to make and consume a PB&J.
And that's just one of the many ways hot goaltending grinds between the ears of players with designs on a goal. The decision-making of offensive players only gets worse as goaltending gets better; and for a team like the Canucks who need some of their studs to be more studly, that isn't a good thing.
Snipers de-rail in a number of different ways:
Don't fire until you see the whites of his eyes
When you realize you're playing a hot tender, it seems pointless to fire from a bad angle. Without a screen, it seems pointless to fire from any distance that wouldn't qualify as a "gimme" putt in golf, really.
At that point, the goaltender has already won half the battle. He's minimized the shots he has to face, essentially having made the saves without facing the shots. When you're shooting on some hack (as we all think of the same team left in playoffs, unfortunately), you'll hit the shoot button any time you cross the blueline -- and anything can happen with a puck on net.
Everybody becomes Wayne Gretzky
As we know from watching the various hockey recap shows like NHL on the Fly, or any of the dozen in Canada, hindsight is better than 20/20. It's like … 20/3. For further examples of this, you could read anything I've ever written ever.
Well, that attribute is not exclusively possessed by the media, and it only adds to the problem — coaches (often assistants) get frustrated at watching their players get robbed, then robbed again, and then after that, robbed.
"You should have gone upstairs there."
Coaches just aren't shy to get in players ears when the going gets tough.
"Get it up on this guy!"
"Fire it into his feet and dig out the rebounds!"
"Make him move!"
"JUST SHOOT IT."
I assure you, it doesn't help a shooter's mindset when he picks his head up to fire, sees an opening low, and suddenly remembers his coach has been yelling "shoot high" for a period and a half.
It's cutesy-wootsy time
When you become convinced the goalie you're shooting on is somehow the offspring of Jacques Plante playing in front of a force field, you subconsciously feel like you have to take the guy completely out of the net to score, so you try to pass it around him.
And everybody knows, the best way to score on a hot goalie is to pass up good looks, right?
… Unless you're a Sedin brother, not so much.
As a forward on the bench who just dished from the hashmarks, you get to have your "beaten man" moment. You have just lost, good sir.
You think you have to be perfect
A relaxed player snaps pucks at corners, having unwavering confidence in what they're trying to execute. The second you start getting desperate, you tense up. It's like having the scope on your rifle aligned slightly off, and suddenly you're shooting the puck like the waterbottles are filled with Jäger and red bull.
If I haven't described the mental meltdown that great goaltending can cause well enough, just know that it comes to this:
Okay, we need to eliminate this guy
You want the goalie to feel what you do: frustration. Also, you want him to not play your team ever again, and seeing him on crutches wouldn't make anybody tear up in your dressing room.
So to get under his skin, you start crashing the crease. On the way there, you may stop a second too late, you may catch an edge, you may spray him with snow. Maybe you fall on him. You may do whatever the heck you can to make him change the way he's playing. After all, it can't be fun knowing you're going to have guys crashing down on you after every whistle.
In the end, there's just nothing you can do. A hot goalie is the ultimate trump card in our sport, and in a series that boasts two of the best in the league, there's going to be a lot of players running through this set of frustrations.
You only hope, like water on a rock, that you can erode the goaltender into weakness so you can squeeze a puck behind him.
When you've got a rock in your own net, sometime one is enough to win.