Way back on March 18 and 19, the Montreal Canadiens swept a weekend series from the Ottawa Senators. The Habs spent the subsequent week losing to the Detroit Red Wings and the Carolina Hurricanes, while Ottawa won in regulation in Boston and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout. As a result, when the Sens returned to the Bell Centre looking for revenge on Saturday, March 25, they were once again a regulation win away from taking over first place in the Atlantic Division.
Shea Weber and Andrei Markov, though, had other plans. Weber opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play blast from the left point that blew past Craig Anderson’s glove. Markov added two more for a 3-0 lead less than halfway through the second period.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau did manage to slip one by Carey Price with a little under eight minutes left in the period, but that was all Ottawa could manage.
As usual with these matchups, there were plenty of scrums and scuffles. Andrew Shaw and Alexandre Burrows started things off with matching fighting penalties early in the first, and Bobby Ryan and Alexei Emelin finished off the festivities, showing their mutual distaste for one another with less than two seconds on the clock.
Playoff-level intensity also leads to significant action in and around the crease. Games like this often give opportunities for NHL television commentators to say that a goalie made a save with “bodies flying all around him,” or some similar idea. Then they’ll usually talk about the goaltender’s “focus,” and how he or she “fought to see the puck.” Saturday evening was no exception.
A great example occurred with a little under seven minutes remaining in the third period.
The Senators’ Dion Phaneuf (2) kicks the puck from the left sidewall directly to Weber, but the puck bounces right over Weber’s stick. Burrows (14) impedes Weber’s progress while Kyle Turris (7) retrieves the puck below the goal line.
He flips a backhand that eludes Markov, and passes between Price’s stick and right skate to the slot.
There are no Senators in the slot, but Max Pacioretty is there, and the puck caroms off of his skates back toward Price. To further confuse the matter, he attempts to stop the puck with his stick and misses.
Price calmly redirects the carom with his right pad, and Weber attempts to clear the zone. He’s unsuccessful though, as Phaneuf intercepts the puck at the central blue line and passes it to Bobby Ryan at the right point. Ryan makes an excellent forehand move past Phillip Danault, fakes a delay that draws Markov toward the corner, then backhands the puck behind his back to Cody Ceci (5), who has driven down the slot.
Ceci controls the puck with his skates, moves it to his forehand, and shoots low to the left of Weber, who is in front of Price.
Price makes the save with his left pad sealed on the ice, then holds his ground against the inevitable hacking and whacking.
The most fun in this sequence definitely comes from watching what happens to Burrows in front of the net, when Weber launches him nearly into the crowd.
Although it’s always entertaining to see Burrows treated like a ragdoll, it doesn’t necessarily make Price’s job easier. Burrows may not be able to redirect a shot after he’s displaced, but Price is still screened, now by Weber instead. Burrows is listed as 6’1,” 188 lbs., while Weber, on the other hand, is 6’4” and weighs nearly 240 lbs. That’s a lot of Man Mountain to have to look around.
When Ryan drives low, Price assumes a V-H coverage position, with his left pad vertically oriented against the post. He is able to see the puck to the left of Burrows, up until Weber comes along.
When Weber displaces Burrows, and Ryan makes his pass to Ceci, Price adjusts his head to look past Weber’s right leg. He leaves his left pad and glove to cover the post, only slightly angling his left pad off of vertical. Seen from above, his left pad and shoulder still provide short-side coverage.
Price tries to square his shoulders to the play, further dropping his left pad without assuming a full butterfly. Weber tracks to the right as well, though, again screening Price.
When Ceci adjusts and shoots, Price quickly switches his vision to the left, and is able to slightly extend his left pad beyond the left post. His glove has barely moved, allowing him to have additional vertical coverage.
Price demonstrates an important concept here. It’s vital for goalies at all levels to see the puck as continuously as possible when there is traffic in front of them. However, many goalies do this at the expense of coverage. What Price does on this sequence is to track the puck using his head, neck, and upper shoulders without giving up low net or short-side coverage, and maintain the ability to extend his left foot and glove as necessary.
This is a great example of active goaltending “focus.” Price defends an unfortunate carom off of Pacioretty’s skates, establishes visual connection to the puck behind Burrows’ attempted screen, maintains it through Weber’s satisfying orbital launch of Burrows, and then works around Weber’s own screen to make a reactive save on Ceci’s high-danger shot attempt.
Earlier in the season, we were critical of Price’s intermittent tendency to revert to a passive butterfly technique behind a screen. There’s no sign of that here. The playoffs are coming, and Carey Price is dialed in.