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In Goal With Gherson - Game 4 Oilers / Jets Goaltending Review

Former pro goaltender Rob Gherson wraps up the game 4 goaltending performance between Mike Smith and Connor Hellebuyck

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets - Game Four Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right? Getting swept with three games going to over time hurts. You don’t need me to rehash the game story. So, I’m just going to get into what I saw from the goalies last night.

I’ll start with McDavid’s goal. Someone gave me credit on twitter for pointing out that wraparounds are one of the ways that you can beat Hellebuyck, and as much as I’d like to pat myself on the back, this isn’t really what I meant. This is essentially an unstoppable play. McDavid has so much speed and does a good job forcing Hellebuyck to square up to him on the blocker side, before wheeling hard around the net. Hellebuyck’s only real chance here was to cheat on the wraparound at which point, McDavid could have beat him short side.

Edmonton’s second goal was a really good individual play by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I included this video of Mike Smith dangling Nate Thompson behind the net, because I’ve always been amazed by his ability to handle the puck and although, he can sometimes overdo it, I love plays like this. This play started the breakout that led to Nugent-Hopkins leading the rush. I don’t think this is a very good goal for Hellebuyck. The first shot was just thrown at the net. It wasn’t hard and it was right at his chest. There should never be a rebound on this play. All credit to Nugent-Hopkins for going to the net and finding it though.

The game tying goal is interesting, because it’s a situation where I don’t think Smith played it very well, but I also don’t think he did anything that led to the goal. This is a very good shot by Mark Scheifele from a great spot on the ice and if Mike Smith plays it absolutely perfectly, it probably still goes in most of the time. But, Smith didn’t play it perfectly. He did a good job of getting over, but he went past Scheifele’s stick and lined up with his body. This gives Scheifele more net to work with and he beats him over the glove. This to me is the hardest part of assigning blame in hockey and the reason I don’t think it’s overly valuable to do so. My conclusion is that Mike Smith could have done more on this goal, but, I think it goes in regardless. So, kind of a moot point. As a goalie, sometimes, the other team makes a great shot.

With 8 minutes to go in regulation, Mike Smith made a fantastic save on Pierre-Luc Dubois. I’m not sure how he ended up looking up at the rafters on the play, because I couldn’t find a replay with a great angle on it, but, he got a great push across and robbed Pierre-Luc Dubois to keep the Oilers’ hopes alive.

This was Mike Smith’s best save in overtime. Ehlers was left all alone and Smith stoned him. This, to me, is Mike Smith at his absolute best. He beats the pass on his feet and because of his size, when Ehlers looks up he has nothing to shoot at. Great save to keep the game alive.

On goals like this, and five hole goals, I always look at a goalie’s stick before the shot. The culprit is almost always that the stick is too close to the goalie’s pads. What this does is cause the stick to pop up, and the blocker to move out away from the goalie’s body and open up holes five hole and under the blocker. When the glove is too tight to the body, the same thing happens. I think that’s what happened here. Right as Connor released the puck, Smith’s stick is touching his right pad, so when he goes down, it pushes it up and away, forcing his blocker to push away from his body. This is often something that happens when goalies get tired and attention to detail becomes more difficult.

With the series over so soon, I won’t be posting as much on this site, so I want to thank you for reading and I hope it proved interesting and educational. One of the things that’s always bothered me about discussions around goaltending is that team results often skew the narrative. I think Mike Smith and Connor Hellebuyck both played well in the series and gave their teams a chance to win most games.

One narrative I’m seeing a lot is that Hellebuyck stole the series, or badly outplayed Mike Smith. I don’t agree with that at all. Hellebuyck played well, but allowed some not so great goals too. Smith was the same, he made a lot of great saves and let in some goals he’d like to have back but he ended up on the wrong end of 4 games. Goalies have always been the victims and the beneficiaries of their teams and I think that’s the true story of this series from a goaltending point of view.

I guess my final thought is to try to keep the narrative out of your mind when you evaluate goaltending. Try to think about what a goalie could have done differently on a goal before deciding that they suck because they let in more than the other guy.

If you like what I’ve done here and want to learn more, follow me on Twitter @goalie_school.

I tweet a lot about goaltending.