Andrei Svechnikov does not intend to stop trying to score lacrosse-style goals for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The only player to score a lacrosse-style goal in the NHL — lifting the puck onto the blade of his stick and then whipping it past the post while behind the net — did it Tuesday, scoring against Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets during a 6-3 win.
Svechnikov first did it against Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich on Oct. 29, one of the most talked-about goals of the season.
Though NHL goalies can no longer discount the possibility of such high-risk, high-skill moves, they say they have no plans to overreact.
“If you notice [Svechnikov] is out there and he’s going behind the net, it’s probably going to cross your mind from now on,” said Calgary goalie Cam Talbot, who was the backup when Svechnikov scored in a 2-1 Hurricanes victory. “Maybe you can stick your head against the post or something, but I’m not going to change the way I play just because he’s on the ice.
“But if he’s going behind the net and you realize it’s him, you’re going to think about it. Luckily, we’ve played them twice already this year, so we don’t have to deal with it. The goalies in the [Eastern Conference] can worry about it.”
It is a time for goalies to be aware of the new possibility, not to worry excessively about it.
“I think tracking is the most important habit that allows a goalie to adjust,” Washington Capitals goaltending coach Scott Murray said. “It is more about having good habits that allow you to defend multiple attacks versus defending a play that happens very little.”
Most coaches praised Hellebuyck for his positioning on the goal Tuesday, saying it was a tougher chance than the goal against Calgary because Svechnikov never broke stride while pulling the puck from one side of the net to the other.
Specifically, the good tracking and visual habits Hellebuyck used, looking over his short, or same-side, shoulder as the attack started on his left, were applauded. It was a technique that seemed to allow him to recognize what was coming before he swung across to his right to try to seal the post.
Hellebuyck has yet to talk about the goal, but the way he came across the ice, with his blocker and stick positioned higher than they would be for an expected wraparound attempt, suggests he had an inkling of what was to come.
Yet Svechnikov scored. Sometimes, as a goalie, you have to give credit to the shooter.
Some wonder if a reliance on reverse-VH by goalies is to blame on these goals. Rittich and Hellebuyck each used the reverse-VH technique in trying to counter the attack.
Reverse VH, commonly used for sharp-angle attacks and plays behind the net, has the goalie go to one knee with the short-side pad up against the post and the inside pad slightly off the ice so the back-side skate edge can help drive the goalie into the post while acting as a rudder to steer around it, as well as move efficiently off the post.
For a shorter goalie, there is a concern that an inability to drive his shoulder all the way up to the crossbar from his knees and close that top-corner hole while using reverse-VH could be problematic. But, as Talbot suggested, the solution there is to tuck his mask against the post rather than dismiss the reverse-VH system altogether.
“You would be abandoning the one position that has revolutionized goaltending as much, if not more, than the butterfly,” Vancouver Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark said. “The reality is there is no other body position in the history of the game that allows us to dynamically connect everything we do away from our post to everything we do on our post.”
In other words, anyone suggesting a goalie just stand up against his posts now that the lacrosse-style goal is a threat might have to sit down.
“To me, that’s too risky because then a smart player like him or anyone else, they’re just not going to pick it up on their stick and they’re going to jam it between your legs,” Talbot said.
That’s already happened to Rittich this season. Ottawa Senators forward Anthony Duclair faked a lacrosse lift on the blocker side, then tried a wraparound on the glove side during a Nov. 30 game against the Flames.
It was a perfect example of why Calgary goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet cautioned Rittich against trying to stand up when discussing strategy after Svechnikov’s first goal.
“We talked about it a lot after,” Sigalet said. “We haven’t spent time practicing against it, just talked about what he could do better in that situation. To me, it’s just lift up and get your head there, but you have to be quick. Meet it at the same time, and [the puck] goes in off your head.”
No NHL goalie wants to be the next victim of the lacrosse-style goal, but don’t expect the abandonment of traditional save selections in an attempt to stop it.