Jump to content
The Official Site of the Vancouver Canucks
Canucks Community

[NHL.com article] Canucks weigh opponent's style when choosing goalie


Recommended Posts




Canucks weigh opponent's style when choosing goalie

Vancouver considers matchup issues in picking its starter

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent


VANCOUVER -- First-year Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green raised a few eyebrows when he said matchups can factor into his choice of goaltender, just as they do for which skaters he chooses for the lineup.


It is common practice for coaches to swap out defensemen and forwards in seeking a more skilled or heavier lineup to counter the strengths or exploit the weaknesses of the opposition.


Few have admitted to matching goalies against opponents based on style considerations.

"I'm not going to go into why, or how, we make those decisions, but there is some value to that," Green said of the thought process used in choosing whether Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson gets the start.


The Canucks are not choosing their starting goalie based exclusively on the offensive tendencies of their opponent. Despite each being 6-foot-6 and trying to establish himself as a No.1 goalie at 27 years old, Nilsson and Markstrom have significant style differences that are being considered as contributing factors in the decision-making process.


Green, who coached in the American Hockey League for four seasons before joining Vancouver, says he talks regularly with goaltending coach Dan Cloutier to get a feel for what his options are and how they relate to an opponent.

"I don't proclaim to be a goalie coach, I don't know exactly how to stop the puck, but I love the goalies that can stop a lot of pucks and he has more knowledge than I do," said Green, who scored 193 goals in 970 NHL games as a forward. "I do go with my gut sometimes, but [Cloutier] has a big input on it for sure, and I trust him a lot."


What the Canucks do deviates from the win-and-you're-in mentality that dominates at many levels. But it is not unprecedented.


In 2006-07, the San Jose Sharks rotated between Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala each game, and each had near-identical stats until Toskala was injured in mid-February. Nabokov and Toskala, however, had very similar playing styles.


Markstrom and Nilsson have different approaches to stopping the puck that belie the similarities others draw between them.


Markstrom is the more active of the two, willing to push out past the edges of his crease to challenge opposing shooters and rely on his impressive lateral speed and side-to-side recovery slides to make up the distance when scrambling the other way on a backdoor play or rebound. It's made for some dramatic saves through eight starts this season, but that extra movement can also open holes for pucks to trickle through.


Nilsson is noticeably more conservative, staying deeper in his crease and using his broader frame to shift into pucks rather than reaching with his limbs, forcing shooters to pick corners around him but rarely opening holes that can lead to shots through him.


Their individual strengths and weaknesses can leave them vulnerable to specific styles of attack.


When the road-weary Canucks wrapped up a five-game trip against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 24, looking to play a tight-checking, low-event game, the more compact, conservative Nilsson was the choice, even though he'd been pulled after giving up four goals on 17 shots in 10:40 against the Boston Bruins in his previous start. The fact that Markstrom won the two previous games before the Wild game was not the deciding factor.


Nilsson responded by stopping all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory, his second shutout in his four starts. Two days later, he was in goal again, this time against a more skilled, more attacking group from the Washington Capitals. It was a matchup that seemed to favor Markstrom's style, but Nilsson stopped 27 of 29 shots in a 6-2 win.


Nilsson did not make a third straight start though. Markstrom was back in against the Dallas Stars in the next game as his more explosive lateral movement could counter a potent attack that stresses rapid puck movement in the attacking zone.


The strengths and weaknesses of each goalie are not the only factor in who starts.


The decision to start Nilsson in Minnesota likely included signs Markstrom might need extra practice time with Cloutier to tighten up a few technical aspects. Often, as a goalie evolves into a No. 1 role, he loses some of his base because of the diminished practice time available. A balance between managing rest and managing the finer details in his game between starts becomes more difficult.


If Nilsson continues to have a .943 save percentage and Markstrom remains at .916, closer to the NHL average (.910 this season), the balance in starts may shift more in Nilsson's favor, regardless of style factors.


In the meantime, it's refreshing to see the Canucks considering the way each goalie plays, as well as how well they're playing, in making decisions and not relying on the traditional win-and-you're-in or starter-backup conventions that dominate conversations about goaltending usage.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Canuck situation is unusual but not that uncommon.  Most teams have a clear starter.


Green is not afraid to lay it out there.  He's very confident.  He only said that the opponent is one of the factors in making his goaltending choice.  He also wants both goalies to play enough so, one is not likely to sit for much more than a week.  And who also has the hot hand is a factor.  Then there's Greens gut feeling.....


The opponent will still be guessing who is getting the start.  As if it's going to make a difference to their line up decisions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it makes sense for our situation, but Nilsson's going to make it really interesting thats for sure. I like them both though and I doubt there's going to be that much difference between them this year when its all in the books. Nilsson's intriguing though and that Boston game was not all on him by any means. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Jimmy McGill said:

it makes sense for our situation, but Nilsson's going to make it really interesting thats for sure. I like them both though and I doubt there's going to be that much difference between them this year when its all in the books. Nilsson's intriguing though and that Boston game was not all on him by any means. 

I agree Boston was a gong show for all sorts of reasons and not indicative of Nilsson's play. Marky has been good but he still shows the tendency to let in a softy and appears to lose his net from time to time.  Nilsson seems to be more economical in his movements and plays back more and stays in his net like Schneider yet is still quick and athletic. Neither has won the starter position yet but I like Nilsson's style more than Marky's so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, riffraff said:

I still find it funny that we have Dan cloutier as our goalie consultant.

He was a really weird keeper. 


I still wonder what the trigger was, when he'd go from "Hasek level desperation save Cloutier", to "I can't stop a beach ball Cloutier."


... Did Jovo have really terrible gas or something?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a good article, just shows Greens paying attention and doing everything he can to win games which is his job.  I agree with a few posters that mentioned Markstrom s tendencies to let a soft goal in almost every game.  Its almost as if he does it on purpose and then once it's over with tightens up and stops more pucks.  If he can stop it, maybe he will finally post his first shutout, don't know of anyone else in the modern era that's played as many games without getting at least one....

Nilsson seems calmer and more consistent, it's early still but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ends up getting the nod more often, especially if he keeps it up.


Its Vancouver and we haven't had a goalie contravesory in a while..ha ha.

So far I'm happy with both of their play, almost every game they've kept us in there, and I'm especially happy with how many shots our team is putting on the other side's net, it must help the goalies confidence knowing that they don't have to steal games to get the win.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...