By Stan Smith & The Old Prof
Has anyone else noticed that all over these NHL playoffs, the goalies have been taking shots off their masks? Why have there been so many head-hunting shooters? The simple answer is that it works.
A Puck Off a Goalie’s Facemask Creates a Tough Rebound
We wrote previously about the tendency of shooters in the NHL to aim high at the opposing goalie’s body. The strategy would be to hit the goalie in the area of the collarbone, neck, and even the head. It makes it difficult for the netminder to control the shot and prevent rebounds.
It also makes the goalie flinch as well. We know we would.
Early in Thursday’s Game 2 against Florida, the Panthers put a number of shots high up on Samsonov. Then, early in the second period, Aleksander Barkov scored a goal on an unscreened shot. Samsonov said after the game that he simply didn’t see the shot.
We thought when we heard that, “How could he have not seen it?” Then we wondered, was he a bit gunshy after all the high shots? Have the shots toward his face made him flinch?
We Can See Why Such a Strategy Might Work
This is all speculation of course as we have no way of knowing. However, we both have seen teams target the head and neck area of the opposing goalies during this postseason. It’s happening more in these playoffs than we have ever seen before.
And, it seems to be working. We have seen a lot of rebound goals off of these shots.
Are Shooters Trying to Hurt the Other Team’s Goalies?
The fair-play part of both of us wants to believe that no NHL player would ever purposely attempt to harm another player just to win. But then, we just watched Sam Bennett head-lock Matthew Knies to the ground causing a concussion.
Maybe Bennett didn’t mean to force Knies out of the series or potentially threaten his NHL future. However, that might just be the end result of the “play.” [Play seems such an odd word to use for the altercation, doesn’t it? It’s far from playing.]
The Panthers Are Not Alone in This Practice
We don’t think the Florida Panthers are the only team using this strategy. In Saturday’s Edmonton Oilers/Vegas Golden Knights game, a number of pucks bounced off Oilers’ goalie Stuart Skinner’s face.
If this is a strategy that NHL shooters are using, whether there’s an attempt to injure the goalies or not matters less than the fact that goalies are in being put in danger.
That’s another problem, we suppose. However, for the time being, the strategy is working. Being a goalie is a threatening position, and this new sense of target practice makes it even more so. The plan might have worked on one Panthers’ goal against Samsonov.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs are shooting for the more traditional areas such as the corners of the net, the five-hole, or above the shin pads. Mitch Marner did ring a shot off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s noggin but that looked more like an accident than anything else.
We know we will be watching for more of such actions during Game 3 and Game 4.