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2009 Playoff Goalies Are Almost Puck-Proof

JEFF Z. KLEIN The New York Times 07.05.2009 19:09
Jonas Hiller, making a save against the Sharks, has a .955 save percentage in the 2009 playoffs.

Jonas Hiller, making a save against the Sharks, has a .955 save percentage in the 2009 playoffs.

Has goaltending become too easy? The question arises as shot after shot bounces off Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller and the other goalies in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“If you’re 6 foot 2 and wearing the big equipment that goalies have on nowadays, you can play on your knees three-quarters of the time when the puck is near your net,” said Chico Resch, who played 14 seasons as an N.H.L. goalie in the 1970s and ’80s.

Hiller, whose Ducks held a two-games-to-one lead over the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in their best-of-seven second-round series, had a .955 save percentage in the playoffs going into Thursday’s game. If he continues at that rate, he will break the unofficial record for playoff save percentage, the .953 recorded by Montreal’s Rogie Vachon in 1969.

And it is not just Hiller turning aside pucks at an unprecedented rate.N.H.L. goalies are recording the highest save percentage of any postseason in recent history thanks largely to vast improvements in equipment that ensures safety and ease of movement but also blocks a greater part of the 24-square-foot goal mouth.

“If you’re a boy learning how to play goal today, you’re taught to shuffle around on your knees,” Resch said. “And why not? You can cover everything along the ice that way. Goalies now are really good at flashing their glove hand up to catch high shots, but that’s because they’ve been learning and practicing on their knees their whole careers.”


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