No Red Lights: Hockey: [5/3]: NHL Playoffs -- That Save! - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

[5/3]: NHL Playoffs -- That Save!

Yesterday was a great day for hockey, especially to watch. The Pens/Caps series will create rivalries for years to come, and they never seem to disappoint. And the Canucks/'Hawks series is getting good. But there is only one thing to comment on today...

I heart Varlamov

I think that any reservations I had before about this guy's mental ability have thoroughly been answered. Even after he gave up a very weak second goal (the puck found a hole between his glove and body; he even got a decent piece of the shot but did not catch it in the web of his glove), he managed to stay with the game. He did look a bit shaken up after that goal. You can tell when a goalie is not as confident in their abilities because they lean back more, look into the net more and generally lose sight of the puck as it is moving. Watch the goalie's head to see if they are tracking the puck properly. You can also watch the goalies chest. If their chest is moving away from the puck, it can indicate that they are not as confident.

And then there was that save. It was a great play by the Pens on the criss-cross 2 on 1, which opened up a nice passing lane. They also kept up their speed during the play, which is why the Caps' defenseman was caught flatfooted. On a play like that, it is very hard to move laterally so you cannot fault (or at least I don't want to) Varlamov for going down on the pass. Even despite falling for the pass, the most impressive part of the save was how he tracked the puck with his eyes. He went down in a butterfly, kept sight of the puck as it was being passed, watched it move across the front of his net, and than as the puck came off the stick. That's a lot of puck movement in a very short time! And he had to do it while squaring up to an angle 180 degrees away!

But this is not all luck. In order to pull-off a desperation save like that, there are technical skills involved. This is why Hasek was so effective; he watched the puck even when he was rolling on to his back to spin his pad stack around. He was never flailing around without keeping his eyes on the puck. He knew where the forward wanted to put the puck because he was always watching. Then he could use whatever part of his body he could get to that spot. The man actually understood angles and dimensions very well. You could say he had a sixth-sense of body-eye coordination.

The other component to pulling off those desperation saves is just like in the name - desperation. The urgency, never-say-die attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes is what makes great saves. There has to be a hunger deep down inside that yearns to make a save, no matter what the cost. And there also has to be hope. Half-hearted attempts do not work. You lose quickness and strength if you don't believe that you will make that save. It is kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy because you will probably move slower without that hope... I guess some call it cockiness :) Either way, it is about believing in yourself.

But let's get back to the man of the hour. Varlamov looked down-and-out after the second period; he was looking into his net after shots, falling backwards after almost every play, and yet pulled off the save of the Playoff Season (so far). He understands the urgency of these playoffs and has the confidence to take the Caps far. I am completely hopping on to this band wagon.