Henrik Lundqvist is definitely beatable.
Losses by conference finalists in the first four rounds: Los Angeles – 1, Phoenix – 3, New Jersey – 4, New York – 6. They’ve staved off elimination on three occasions, and the Devils are the only other team thus far to face it.
Basically, back from the dead. The goalie—Lundqvist— is actually the lowest ranked in even strength save percentage among final four goaltenders, a .946 going into round four. (Last night’s game not taken into consideration, so clicking that link may yield different results than what I’m working with). Of course he wasn’t too far behind Mike Smith’s top-ranked .949, but there you go. No goalie has pulled away from the pack these playoffs in the manner that Tim Thomas did last year ~yet~ but there’s still time.
So what’s the book on Lundqvist? How has this Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay and Vezina Trophy-nominated goaltender allow 25 goals in 14 games? Particularly since Lundqvist plays an unorthodox style that keeps him deep in his net and more upright.
I theorized that playing deeper in his net exposed Lundqvist to allowing longer shots. Kyle Turris’ overtime winner in Game Four of Round One, while a good shot, is probably one that Lundqvist should have had. Many goalies face a shot like that at the top of the blue paint, at least.
One reporter asked Zach Parise on Sunday if the book was “to shoot high” on Lundqvist. I think this makes little difference on Lundqvist or anybody else. A lot of goalies are beaten high, but when looking for a “book” on a particular goalie, we tend to forget that. If I said “Henrik Lundqvist was beaten high on 17 of the 25 shots that beat him in the playoffs”, well, what does that mean in relation to him versus other goalies?
Instead, I like mapping out shots. If you can spot a disproportionate cluster on when a lot of goals beat Henrik Lundqvist compared to goalies who gave up a similar number of goals against, such as Jonathan Quick or Tim Thomas, then there’s a “book” on either goalie, I suppose.
Greg Sinclair‘s Super Shot Search allows us to figure this out. By setting the search to include only away goals against to account for scorer bias, we can map out how Lundqvist did against other elite goaltenders. And it doesn’t appear so:
Thomas appears to allow a disproportionate number of shots from directly in front of the net, but Lundqvist doesn’t appear to allow a disproportionate number of long shots. In the playoffs, however, in the series against Washington it was the case. Of the 13 goals he allowed, just four came from the goal-mouth. But while the Capitals didn’t have too much success there, Ottawa did, however, getting six of their 12 goals on Lundqvist from that zone.
I mapped out by hand every shot location from where Lundqvist allowed a goal. Anything that Zach Parise can take away from here, go for it:
The point shots he allowed tended to come from the middle of the ice, save Daniel Alfredsson’s Game 7 outlier than was probably the weakest goal he’s allowed in the post-season based on location alone. There were four deflections that beat him, the rest were clean shots, and three of them were deflections off opponents.
That doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference between his regular season trends. Of the point shots that beat Lundqvist, they appear to be more towards the middle of the ice, while Quick’s came to his left side and Thomas came to his right. This could just be an anomaly because there are so few examples, but I have to think that this bodes well for Ilya Kovalchuk, who likes to take his shot from the middle of the ice.
Well, most players like to take their shots from the middle of the ice. Few are good enough to usually be able to take their hard shots from the middle of the ice.