No Red Lights: Hockey: Western Conference Finals - The Vets Lead The Pack - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

Western Conference Finals - The Vets Lead The Pack

If you had told someone at the beginning of the season that two goalies past the age of 35 would be in the Conference Finals, that person would have laughed at you... and then maybe put a hefty bet on the statement. Tell them that it these two goalies would be playing each other in the Western Conference Finals, and you would have gotten a re-raise. Having both Chris Osgood and Nikolia Khabibulin in the Finals, two goalies who were slated for backup roles, is a testament to their competitiveness and abilities.

In this battle of the Old-School goalies, let's break down the differences of their styles.  Osgood is a bit more of a traditional goalie. He makes a tremendous amount of saves on his feet and with his hands, which is the sign of a classic goalie. He would rather face straight-on shots (but who wouldn't?) and when his mental game is on, he can control his rebounds flawlessly. The Bulin Wall, on the other hand, definitely embraces the Old School tradition of reactions but can be classified as more of a Hybrid goalie. This is because he uses his body and the butterfly to make most of his saves. This does not classify him as a pure Butterfly goalie because when he moves across the net, he generally does not make saves with his body but with his hands. All of these are small distinctions but necessary when trying to find weaknesses and strenghts in goalies.

With both of these styles, each goalie must have great focus and attention. Since they are making many saves with their hands (or stick), they must accurate track the puck as it moves and have split-second reactions. Which ever team can knock their opposition off their game will have more scoring chances and probably more rebounds. When these two goalies stop watching the puck, they will leave more time and space for forwards to reach those pucks. This is when goaltending definitely becomes a team sport. It is the goalie's job to make these rebounds as easy for their defenseman to handle, and it is up to the defensement to give enough time and space for goalies to cover up their rebounds or to recover for that second shot. Despite the weakness of reaction goalies -- Butterflys have the same weaknesses but they are not intending to make the save through their reactions.

At the end of the day, it is refreshing to see a reaction goalie challenge for the Cup. The style lends itself to big, spectacular saves. The acrobatics and athleticism creates the drama needed for an edge-of-your-seat Cup run -- and the NHL knows that it could use some of that flair :)