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Glove Hand Comments

A comment by the infamous "Thomas the Enforcer" over at ITCS got me to thinking.

His contention that the "book" on every goalie, at least in the shootout was to go high-glove for a high-percentage shot.  I'd like to respectfully disagree with the vaunted intraweb personality.  I know I've seen/heard plenty of analysts comment on several of the marquee goalies having spectacular glove hands that will stymie shooters more often than not.  Names like Brodeur, TheRick, Luongo, and Kipper to name a few.  I can't remember where I read it, but both Brodeur (and Roy in his heyday) were both known for lowering the glove hand to encourage shooters to look that way, only to snatch the puck out of the air.

That's all well and good, as far as uniformed opinions go (my favorite opinions, BTW) but there are some numbers to back it up.  NHL stats guru/blogger The Forechecker ran the numbers on shooter handedness vs. goalie's catching hand in the middle of last season and just before this year.  The results are definitely interesting.  Just as baseball managers match up hitters and pitchers, shooters and goalies show a definite trend.  The point of the Forechecker's analysis is that lefty shooters fair better shooting AWAY from the glove hand, as opposed to toward it.  That is, they fair better shooting on a lefty goalie because his glove is on their backhand.  Righty shooters are the same way.  They should stick to their forehand and stay away from the glove-side when facing a like-handed netminder.

If Thomas' contention was correct, then there wouldn't be such a high correlation between handedness.  In fact, you'd expect to see the opposite: Lefty shooters fair better on righty-catching goalies (and vice-versa) if going 'high glove' was the bread and butter shootout move.

I have my own theory on the advantage shown by the Forechecker's numbers.  The hardest save for a butterfly goalie to make is the one just over his blocker-side leg when down on the ice (we call it the 8-hole) .  It's too high to hit the pad, but too low to effectively get the stick and blocker on consistently.  It's a tough save, and I can tell you from experience that it's a low-priority when executing a tight butterfly.  You have to get the arms in tight (to close up the 6- and 7-holes) and you have to get the legs tight to shut down the 5-hole.  Trying to get something out over the pad on that size is converse to closing down both of those.  Most goalies would rather get beat over the leg pad than under the arm.  It's the old addage (give up goals around you, not through you).