No Red Lights: Hockey: Caps vs. Pens: The Meltdown - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

Caps vs. Pens: The Meltdown

First of all, it was glorious to see Fleury pull off the biggest save of the night. When Alexander Ovechkin came down in the first period on a short breakaway, there was an ominous feeling that this would be the Caps' night. Home ice advantage, the most prolific scorer in the league playing well and having a great series... everything was in the Capitals' favor, and then the Penguins flipped that upside down. With all their young talent, it is no wonder why they are a bit streaky. Starting with Marc Andre Fleury, they show signs of dominance and definite skill, but sometimes cannot pull it all together. Not on Wednesday night though.  On Wednesday, it was time for a rookie netminder to return to mere mortal status.

It's hard to see a goalie meltdown in a game especially in a game 7 of the semi-final cup series, but with two explosive teams like Pittsburgh and Washington, it is no surprise. The rookie Varlamov was no match for the offensive pressure of Crosby and company. Like his small breakdown during the first period of game 1, he lost confidence in his abilities; and it is apparent in his eyes. The indicator is his head. When the shot is taken, instead of watching the puck as it travels through the air, he still faces forward. He is not actually watching the puck when it either hits him or when it goes past him. Tracking the puck is what allows a goalie to react to saves. By not doing so, the goalie is actually handicapping their play.

Besides the ups and downs of playing well, what accounts for the change in his play? Why all of a sudden is the goalie changing their play? Like most of goaltending, it all boils down to the mental game. Not watching the puck turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. Put it into an everyday situation. What happens you are confronted by a peer and you feel shame? The natural reaction is to look away from any eye contact, look downward or look into the background space. These are natural human tendencies between human interactions, and goalie's are no different. When fearing another shot on net, the confidence and shame distract a goalie from watching the puck. And this is where the self fulfilling prophecy is fulfilled. Fearing another goal brings about the shame and destroys confidence leading to a lack of tracking. With the series that touted the two youngest offensive superstars in the league, it is no wonder that Varlamov could not weather the onslaught. There will be no Roy or Dryden in this years' playoff, but there's always next year.