Craig Anderson had a tough night handling the puck in Ottawa’s 4-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday. But Anderson’s struggles produced exactly what the NHL wants to see: goals.
Puckhandling goaltenders are a dying breed in the NHL, and the league couldn’t be happier about it.
Gary Bettman and company have been trying to cut back on goaltenders venturing out to play the puck since the 2005 lockout, and it appears their efforts have paid off. In today’s NHL, even a routine dump-in can be dangerous for a goalie to stop, and their efforts to corral the puck can easily end in disaster.
That’s what happened to Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson in a 4-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday.
The Flames made it 3-1 came when Anderson failed to pin down a dump-in as it rattled around the boards behind the net. Anderson swept around behind his net to stop it, but it went right past him to Curtis Glencross in the corner. Glencross fed the puck to Josh Jooris in the slot, and Jooris beat Anderson before the goaltender could get back in position.
The Flames’ fourth goal was an even greater blunder. Anderson stopped a dump-in from the far blueline at the edge of his crease, but Markus Granlund was already on him. Forced to act quickly, Anderson flubbed the puck off a defender and right to Calgary’s Lance Bouma, who fired it home.
Watch the video to see Anderson’s puckhandling woes for yourself.
The small, speedy Calgary Flames were just the kind of team to burn a weak puckhandler like Anderson. The Flames’ forecheckers were routinely on top of Anderson before he could make the smart play, and they made him pay for his mistakes.
Bouma only had one goal in the game, but his speed gave the Ottawa defence fits all night.
Speedy players like Bouma, coupled with the restrictive trapezoid, have made good puckhandling goalies all but extinct.
Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs’ James Reimer, who also got burned by his opponents’ speed on Saturday.
Goalies no longer have the time or the space to act like a third defenceman, as Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco once did in the Dead Puck Era. Today’s NHL is much, much faster, and forwards are chasing their dump-ins with such speed that goalies can’t always think quickly enough to make the right play.
Mike Smith in Arizona may be the exception to the rule at this point, but he apprenticed under Turco for a time in Dallas.
Other than Smith, the league is pretty thin on great (not just competent) puckhandling goalies.
A goaltender is helping his team any time he can snare a dump-in and get it to his defenceman instead, but doing so has become a hazardous chore.
So when you see a goalie struggle handling the puck, as Anderson did on Saturday, know that it’s by design.
More mistakes mean more goals, more offense, and a happier NHL head office.