Watching a game in full speed, even with slow motion replay, we often miss things. You can then look at what the stats and analytics say, but they too will miss specific details. Often you have to watch video repeatedly to get a better understanding of what is going right, or more often, what is going wrong with a player.
Real time doesn’t allow us to see a small technical weakness, nor does analytics. Watching video, over and over, is where you will be able to pick up subtle nuances, but only if you have the capacity to know what you’re looking for.
When it comes to evaluating goalies, I’m well behind. And that’s why a few years ago I reached out to have a goalie segment once a week. Since then I’ve learned a lot about the position, but I’m still in the beginner stage and will likely remain there for a while.
Mikko Koskinen is a hot topic in Edmonton, specifically his glove hand. Is it really as bad as some believe?
I talked to Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine to discuss. I asked him to watch video of Koskinen and then get back to me on what he sees.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t know if there is one answer,” said Woodley. “We talked about this earlier in the season (about the glove), and I looked at a bunch of film and I actually think he has good hands, I really do. But his footwork was putting him behind at times, off angle at times. On powerplays he was sort of fading and almost off square to the glove side. I talked early in the year about that windmill effect — the tendency to want to pull the glove up, which opens your shoulder away from the path of the puck, versus keeping the glove out front and tracking into the puck and having the body and the glove all closing in together. I think he’s improved — there are fewer wind-mills — and he’s keeping the glove out front and active more often.
“All it takes is a game like Vegas where it all comes unraveled and his glove hand is the focus again. When there is this much conversation around this and it’s become a part of the opposing scouting reports, you are going to need to do some work on it. If you’re not set, and you’re not square you don’t give yourself a chance to track the puck. You tend to pull up and we saw it on a couple goals lately, like the Brady Tkachuk winner. He’s a little flat off his angles so that is part of it — again, it’s a two-on-one, so maybe he’s hedging that back side to make a push across and because of that he’s not square on the shooter. As he pushes to the ice, the knee drives to the ice. If you drive your knees to the ice, your torso and head pull back, and your glove lifts up, and the Tkachuk OT goal was a perfect example of that. The puck ends up getting under both his vision, and his coverage and goes right underneath his glove.
“Also the Schwartz goal in the Blues game. The glove side of the sharp angle, to me that is post play and still something they are working on, and not the glove hand specifically. It’s about being flat, off angle, and poor post play execution. In Vegas, Stone’s goal, again, it is a post play. Cody Eakin on a partial breakaway, I didn’t mind how he played that. He was slightly off his angle, but sometimes you just need to tip your hat to a shooter,” explained Woodley.
There are many different elements to goaltending. As Woodley explains, he thinks Koskinen has good hands, but it is his positioning that puts him in a position to be exposed and now players are looking to shoot there. One bad game and opposing players are like sharks. They smell blood, in this case a perceived weakness, and will attack it relentlessly.
Can Koskinen improve? That is the main question in Oilersnation.
“I believe he can, because I’ve seen improvements,” said Woodley. “The windmill motion was way more exaggerated earlier this season, and I see less of it. And that is a big adjustment to make, and there is going to be some imperfection in it if you’re changing the entire motion of the way you use your glove. The post play — it’s a challenge for him, we knew this would be a challenge for him. They don’t attack from dead angles in Russia like they do in the NHL.
“Post play was always going to be a massive change for him, but I actually like the changes he’s made, and the fact that he’s done it in season. They haven’t been perfect and there is still work to do, and a lot of it is reads. These are all adjustment that he’s made during the season and they are not easy. I’ve heard about the work ethic, and how much he’s put in to making them.
“The results aren’t there yet, all the time, but there has also been some really good glove saves. I like the way he projects it forward on plays in tight and along the ice low, most of the time. There are a lot of positives here too. I know teams aren’t allowed to ask players to stick around in the off-season and work with specific coaches, but I really hope he is going to stick around and do this work in the summer. It’s really hard to make big changes during the season, he’s made some impressive ones so far. I think it would probably accelerate the adjustment if he were able to spend some time working on it throughout the summer with the Oilers goalie coach, as opposed to waiting until training camp next season to get started again,” said Woodley.
I enjoyed Woodley’s responses, because I learned something, and now I will watch for improvements in those specific areas.
Joe Gambardella has a modest two-game point streak, but he has looked more comfortable lately and Ken Hitchcock decided to give him a look in the top-six. He explained the improvements he has seen in Gambardella’s game over the past few weeks. “Quickness of thought. It takes time to adjust and to adapt to the speed of the NHL and the last few games he and Currie are processing the game better and we will give him a chance up the lineup,” said Hitchcock.
Ilya Kovalchuk is back in LA skating with their skills coach. He and head coach Willie Desjardins are not on the same page. The Kings are in a tough spot with him. If he retires, his contract still counts against the cap because he signed it when he was 35. Maybe he gets a mysterious injury, and he goes on IR for two years, or maybe a new coach will connect with him better. Either way his signing has not worked out well for him or the Kings.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Willie Desjardins, on defending well and the overall performance:
Well, I thought they got lots of chances. I thought we played well the first half of the first period. They didn’t have a lot. They didn’t have a lot. They got some power plays, and then they generated some stuff off their plays. Overall, I thought our guys played smart. They’re a good team, a real good team, and I think we were on our heels a little bit but we didn’t break.
Desjardins, on whether quotes like Drew Doughty’s today tangibly ramp up emotion and intensity:
I think there’s always dislike between players, like every game you have it. It’s not just that game, it’s every game you get that. So that wasn’t unusual. You can see that in every game, there are certain things. But yeah, it does bring a little bit more emotion to it, and it was probably good for both sides.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Some Kings fans, and their amateur scouts might be yelling right now. After winning two of 18 games between February 9th and March 18th, the Kings have suddenly won three games in a row and now Ottawa trails them by six points. The Kings are why I believe you can never completely tank, because players will always try to win. Oilers end Kings modest winning streak with a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl picks up his 96th point and inches closer to 100. When he does the Oilers will become the 64th team to have a pair of players with 100+ points. Sixty-one of those teams made the playoffs. Only the 1988 Quebec Nordiques (Peter Stastny/Michel Goulet) and the 1990 Pittsburgh Penguins (Mario Lemieux/Paul Coffey) missed. The Oilers could become the third to miss the postseason.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The broadcast microphones pick up a conversation between Doughty and McDavid.
McDavid: “Your comments about Tkachuk made me laugh. You know how to stir it up.”
Doughty: “I can’t stand that kid. Good player though.”
McDavid: “Didn’t you stick guys early in your career?”
Doughty: “Yes, but never in a cheap way (laughs). Now shut up and get back to the game. It doesn’t look good us being friendly. Get ready for a stick next shift.”
McDavid: “Try catching me first. You defend like Burns (laughs).
Doughty: “You can chirp when you make the playoffs two years in a row.”
McDavid: “You are the verbal equivalent of Tkachuk. Cheap.”
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/26/2019 – 1:00 pm MT