Crashing the Crease: Killer Rebounds

Last week, Kevin took the time to evaluate Michael Leighton’s year in the AHL and to provide some insight into issues that we may expect to see with him.  One of the big issues I saw in watching the videos was what I’m going to call the “killer rebound.”

Leights reaches to cover a puck

Photo Courtesy of Eric Jenks

In basic terms, this “killer rebound” is a first save gone wrong.  Horribly wrong.  The goalie makes the stop and, for a moment, feels a glimmer of satisfaction.  His pallor quickly reveals, though, that all is not right with this save.

For one reason or another (i.e. a purely blocking save or stick positioning or the anger of the gods), the puck goes right to his weak side and to an open attacker.  Helpless, the goalie now watches as the dagger is twisted and the puck is authoritatively placed behind him.  Of course, Leights isn’t the only goalie to ever give up a weak-side rebound goal.  This nightmarish situation did get the wheels turning a little bit, though, on perhaps the most critical factor in a high-level goalie’s performance:  rebound control.

Good goalie coaches far and wide have developed different methodologies for tracking rebounds and gauging a goalie’s rebound efficiency.  My first introduction to this was from Steve McKichan, owner of FuturePro Goalie Camps, and I’m sure other goalies and coaches have seen it elsewhere.  The premise behind this approach is simple in concept.  Identify which rebound types are the most desirable, the least desirable (aka a goal) and then everything in between.  After that’s done, assign a value to each and judge performance based on percent of optimal score attained.

The thought behind a scoring system is that pro- and elite-level goalies will make the first save a large majority of the time.  They wouldn’t be in or near the show if they were consistently getting sniped on that first look.  This quantitative approach allows a coach to provide more in-depth analysis and make sense of grey area that separates the good from the great.

Here’s a simple example system to chew on:

  1. A save that results in a trapped puck or a puck placed out of play gets the goalie top marks.  This is the highest level of rebound control because the goalie has essentially taken control of the play.  The attacking team is now defensive, in theory, and waiting for the goalie’s team to make its next move.
Bryz executes a gut trap with nary a rebound to be found.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

  1. Stepping down from there is a save that puts the puck out of the attack zone and into a low-percentage scoring area, such as the corners or the glass.  This is a step lower because, while it is a save, the puck is still up for grabs.  Control is not directly won.
Bryz makes a blocker / shoulder save through traffic

Photo Courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

  1. Now we are in the killer rebound regime, where we have the save that kicks back out into traffic or into a high-percentage scoring area.  This is an obvious one to avoid where possible.  The goalie has made the save, but he’s set himself up to get another shot taken on him.  While not always his fault, this is a bad one.  Situational awareness and active stick use can minimize the potential for this type of rebound.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll lump the weak-side rebound into this category, even though that could be classified as an even-worse rebound.
Bryz puts a rebound back out into the slot

Photo Courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

  1. The final type of rebound is not a killer rebound at all.  It’s a plain, simple, dirty, ugly, disgusting goal.  Unless it’s against the other team — then it’s a beautiful thing.
Bryz beaten by Ponikarovsky

Photo Courtesy of Norman Y. Lono/Getty Images North America

And there you have it:  a simple approach to rebound analysis.  Basically, two types of desirable rebounds, the “killer” and then the disgusting abomination.  A lot of solid rebound control is tied to other basics, such as being on-angle and square.  It also is heavily impacted by stick involvement.

If you’ll allow me to time travel for a second, former Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki provides a good example for this.  I would argue that he had a higher than average propensity for using his pads as his first save option, and thus seemingly found himself on the bad side of stick involvement.  This left him in a position where he had to make a difficult save on the rebound.  For reasons like this, it’s safe to say that if a goalie’s rebound efficiency is tracked over the course of the season, it will provide a good deal of insight into his qualitative performance as a whole, even more so than save percentage.

With Frank Nitty now aside, let’s go back to the future with some more current Flyers goalies…

One of the trends that was apparent in the goals against Leighton was definitely his propensity for making the first save a priority, but not necessarily having the best lateral recovery skills to get into position for the subsequent rebound, as Kevin noted.  This drives home the importance of focusing on top-tier rebound control for Leighton.  Through whatever means necessary, he needs to focus on corralling the first shot or getting it to a safe location.  This will be of more importance to him over the course of the season than a more mobile goalie like former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky or even Ilya Bryzgalov.

The videos posted accentuated this notion (albeit somewhat unfairly since they are goal highlights), as we saw Leights try for a couple of desperation saves by diving across the crease.  This is a behavior I’m used to seeing in roller hockey, which doesn’t lend itself to lateral motion anywhere near as easily as ice does, but not as much in ice.  This isn’t to say that Leighton can’t move laterally, but it is fair to say that he plants himself once he’s down after the first shot, as the video Kevin posted last week showed.

A lot of younger goalies will, rather than diving once down, perform a butterfly slide or push to get to the puck.  When executed with speed and control, it gets a good amount of blocking surface in front of the puck without putting the goalie on his stomach or behind.  It’s not mandatory to do this, but it is an efficient and speedy technique to recover angle and depth.  Not an apples-to-apples comparison with the Leighton video, but here’s a quick clip of Columbus Bob performing this technique:

If you want to see the mechanics a little more closely (and be awed), take a look at the following video of Jonathan Quick.  At the three-second mark and again at the six-second mark, he executes a powerful butterfly push to recover his angle.  Note that Quick is a freak of nature.  His power is superb, so to expect every goalie to do what he’s doing here is unrealistic.  Still, his moves in this video are demonstrative of how a more downwardly mobile goalie would address puck tracking for less-than-ideal rebounds.

Jonathan Quick’s Speedy Recovery

Bryz, based purely on anecdotal observation, is somewhere in between a Bobrovsky and a Leighton.  When he’s on, he’s a sticky goaltender.  The puck seems to find a way to stay in his pads or his glove and he traps the puck really well.  He’s not a vintage Martin Brodeur level in terms of game control via rebounds, but he’s certainly able to at least keep a majority of his rebounds at the second tier or better.

When Bryz does give up the bad rebound, he’s shown that he’s not incapable of a butterfly slide and he seems more capable of executing a push / slide when already down to get to the next shot, but it’s not going to be with the same fluidity that you get from a guy like Bobrovsky.

What this means for Bryz is that he can afford to be a slightly more lackadaisical with his rebound control on average.  He can give up a few more of those third-tier rebounds and still manage to get away with it due to his marginally larger frame and slightly better speed relative to Leights.  Obviously, he’s not going to aim to give up high quality scoring chances off of his rebounds.  I’m just saying he’s more capable of recovering for that second save better than Leighton.  The video below from a shutout against the Devils highlights his movement after going down while tracking the puck.  He’s a little more old school in that you’ll see him shuffling and T-pushing across the crease, but he still retains more mobility in recovery and movement.

Over the course of the season, Crashing the Crease will track the rebound efficiency of Bryz, Leights and whomever else happens to grace the Flyers’ net using a rebound scoring system similar to the breakdown provided earlier.  Ideally, we’ll see Leighton’s rebound performance getting better from October through April as he gets re-accustomed to NHL-level shots and game speed.  I wouldn’t expect a significant uptick in Bryz’s rebound control, but I would expect a greater level of consistency than we may have seen last year.

This type of statistic is a little more goalie-centric than even save percentage, as most rebounds are direct products of goaltender response.  By the end of the year, we’ll have a solid statistical basis to decipher how rebound control correlates to individual and team performance, so stay tuned.

  • Geoff Detweiler

    I. Love. This.

    • Justin Brennan

      Glad to hear it, Geoff. Thanks for the read!

  • Ivan

    Awesome work! Keep it up.

    • Justin Brennan

      Thanks, Ivan. Appreciate the feedback!

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