2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

After the first period of Game 2, the Boston Bruins must’ve filed into the dressing room, plunked down in their stalls and exhaled a sigh of relief like a tornado had cruised through their town yet somehow skipped their neighborhood (fittingly, an actual tornado had done something similar during the first game). They had been outshot by a whopping margin, 19-4, but only found themselves down a goal thanks to the splendiferous goaltending of one of the league’s best, Tuukka Rask (“Two u’s, two k’s, two points,” as Bruins’ announcer Jack Edwards likes to say in the regular season).

As the Bruins emerged from their storm cellar to play the second period, something started to happen. The clouds thinned and parted a bit, and the play started to shift. The Bruins out-shot the Blackhawks 8-4, 8-5, and 8-6 respectively in the 2nd, 3rd, and overtime period, and eventually left the state of Illinois with a satisfying split.

If Generic Goalie A is in net for Boston, that likely doesn’t happen.

I have no idea if the phenomenon I’m about to describe happened to Chicago, because speculating on the mental state of an entire hockey club from my desk in another country is borderline ridiculous, but it did cross my mind when watching: Tuukka Rask might’ve “stopped” some shots in 2nd, 3rd and OT by discouraging players from ever taking them with saves earlier in the game.

That wouldn’t be what a coach would like to see from his troops, of course. But as a player facing a hot goalie, there’s few more helpless feelings than actually listening to your coach telling you to “shoot everything,” which leaves you in the position of firing an unscreened wrist shot from 50 feet out because once in 2007 some NHL goalie let one of those in (it was Vesa Toskala) so anything can happen. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, you guys.

(For some insane reason coaches will absolutely never say “that goalie is exceptional, even in a league of exceptional players, and wasting possession on a low percentage shot is garbage. We’re putting the puck in a jump ball situation when we’ve already got it. Hold on to the thing until you can get a quality look.”)

The good news is, players, particularly offensive ones, don’t always listen to coaches’ advice. Claude Julien and Joel Quenneville were both defensemen who didn’t make their livings scoring goals. While I’m sure their players greatly respect them, their hockey knowledge and their authority, there’s zero chance Patrick Kane is concerned about his coach’s opinion on how to get frozen vulcanized rubber behind a line in a cage. He has done that his entire life, and I’m guessing “throw low percentage shots on a hot goalie” is about Optional L on his mental list. Option R when the other goalie is otherworldly and pushing past that.

So what happens to guys is that they become afraid to shoot. Well, “afraid” is the wrong word; “hesitant” is probably more accurate. When everything you did for 20 minutes results in one piddly goal on 19 shots, you come to believe that pulling the trigger from anywhere above the tops of the circles is a complete waste of time. So you do hold on, contrary to your coach’s advice, and you do look for that back-door tap-in play, and you do look to beat just one more player, you do look forOH GOD TURNOVER.

A hot goalie ends up stopping shots before they happen, like hockey’s version on Minority Report.

In the final 56-plus minutes of the game, the Blackhawks – with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and all the rest of the crew – managed just 15 shots on Tuukka Rask. I have no idea how much of that had to do with the frustration of being stymied in the first period, and how much was just a result of Boston making corrections. But I do know that Hot Goalie Hesitance has limited my output in the past, and could very well have done the same to some of Chicago’s offensive forwards.