Well, that certainly resembled hockey last night. Everyone had on all the right equipment and there was a puck out there. Presumably there were even refs and scorekeepers. As a neutral observer, it was pretty hard to watch. The goalies played well, although they didn’t have to be great. I’m actually not sure how there were so many shots in the game when nothing seemed to happen. Here are some of the saves that defined the game.
Early in the first, Mike Smith made a great save on this partial breakaway by Adam Lowry. Lowry tried to get Smith to open up and tuck it five hole, but he did a great job of keeping his stick on the puck and shut the door. One of the keys to this save is Smith’s positioning here. He recognizes that there’s pressure coming from his glove side and that Lowry’s only options are a quick shot or try to beat him with speed, so he doesn’t come out too far, but he also stands his ground long enough to prevent Lowry from seeing too much net and shooting.
Edmonton took a penalty on the play and on the ensuing Jets power play, Smith had to be sharp again. Here’s a save he made on a Kyle Connor one timer. He beats the pass on his feet, which allows him to make a rather simple blocking save. The key to this save is awareness and knowing where everyone is on the ice. After 5 regular season starts and now 2 more in the playoffs, Smith is very well aware of what Winnipeg is looking for on their power play. The attention to detail can be seen on the behind the net replay. Watch how many times he looks over to see exactly where Connor is when the puck is on the perimeter. When the pass goes to him, he doesn’t need an extra look, he can go right to his stick.
A few minutes after killing the penalty off, Connor got another great scoring chance on a bizarre play when it seemed like Tyson Barrie wasn’t ready for the face off play Edmonton was running and Blake Wheeler was able to set Connor up in front of the net all alone. Again, Smith was able to beat the pass on his feet and make two good saves in tight.
The best save of the night came in the third period when Connor McDavid was staring at a net that was mostly unfilled by Hellebuyck. The goalie coach in me would normally recommend that you face the puck instead of the net when the best player in the world has the puck on their stick, but sometimes you end up in awkward positions and you need to fill holes in whatever way possible. Dylan Demelo did his best Dominik Hasek impression and kept the game tied at zero.
A few moments later, Hellebuyck made his best save of the night on a Leon Draisaitl one timer. The key to this save is his positioning. McDavid tried to freeze him with a fake shot pass and Hellebuyck really didn’t buy it. He stayed centred and square to McDavid, but backed up all the way to the goal line, which made it a very short push to get across for the Draisaitl shot. I think McDavid’s best option here was to try to beat Hellebuyck short side, as his foot was inside the post, making it very difficult to butterfly without pushing his body away from the post, which would open up a hole near the post. (Remember this for the OT winner.) Winnipeg did a good job of getting bodies in the shooting lane, so the seam pass probably made the most sense to McDavid at the time.
Early into overtime, Paul Stastny carried the puck over the blue line and threw a puck at the net that I don’t think Smith saw through Adam Larsson’s perfect screen. This was largely a case of bad luck for Smith and Edmonton. When Stastny pulled up it looked like he was going to look for a pass, or try to delay and find a trailer coming late into the zone. As he did this, Smith backed up, the same way Hellebuyck did on the previous save I showed, expecting the pass across. Because he backed up, his foot was inside the post and on the angle Stastny shot from, his upper body isn’t completely centred. It’s not really a part of his game, but if Smith had put his skate just outside the post, in what goalies call an “overlap” he probably fills that hole short side and even though he doesn’t see the shot, it probably hits him.
This very easy save by Carey Price shows what I’m talking about. See how his left shoulder and glove are outside the post? If Smith did that, the game might still be going. I actually don’t think this is a bad goal though, it’s mostly just bad luck. An overlap makes it a bit of a longer push if the pass is made and if he saw the shot cleanly it’s a routine save. Just mostly an unfortunate situation.
Overall, I think this was a game where both goalies (and Dylan Demelo) made a difference when they were called upon and one moment of bad luck sunk them. Again, Edmonton needs to find a way to score some goals to have any chance in the series.
Rob Gherson is a former professional goaltender from Toronto. He was drafted in 2002 by the Washington Capitals and played 5 years of pro hockey in various organizations. He won the Calder Cup in 2008 with the Chicago Wolves. He played 4 years in the OHL. He is currently a goalie coach in Toronto and recently founded Conscious Goaltending, a company with the goal of simplifying and improving goaltending knowledge across the hockey universe from the hardcore goalie nerd to the rookie shooter.