The Los Angeles Kings faced the team with the 30th ranked save percentage Thursday night and ultimately put five pucks past St. Louis goaltenders Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. Tonight, they’ll face another team that has struggled to keep pucks out of their own net when Winnipeg makes its first of two Staples Center visits this season.
There are other aspects of the Jets’ game that have been there consistently. They’re a high-scoring team and have averaged 3.7 goals per game in January. 23-year-old Mark Scheifele and 20-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers both have 39 points. Patrik Laine, who won’t play tonight because of a concussion, will be a superstar in this league for years.
But Winnipeg, like St. Louis, has struggled with its save percentage. They clock in at a 26th-place tie with Dallas at .900, and promising 23-year-old Connor Hellebuyck has been pulled in each of his last two starts. It’s probably a safe bet that Michael Hutchinson will draw the start tonight.
Is there a specific game plan for teams that don’t receive consistent goaltending? This isn’t specific to Winnipeg, but, perhaps, any team that may cede a higher number of goals?
“I mean, maybe. Not necessarily, though,” Alec Martinez said. “It’s always, if a team has been struggling with goaltending, you just talk about trying to get more shots and generate opportunities but that’s not really any different than if we’re playing the team with the number one save percentage in the league. It’s still going to be the same thing – we’ve got to generate shots, generate opportunities, throw as much as we can at the net, so I guess that was a long-winded answer for ‘no.’ I mean, you’re cognizant of it.”
In pre-game meetings, forwards will receive a scouting report on the opposing netminder, with Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford sharing his own expertise.
“I think he looks at where goals have gone in previously or what percentage of shots go in where, so he definitely lets you know where to shoot type of stuff, and you know if the goalie’s good at handling the puck and you know, rebounds and screens and whatnot,” Tanner Pearson said. “He kind of gives a full overview of who we’re facing. He does a pretty good job of that.”
Of course, that’s extra information beyond the detail players mentally sift through in game situations, and Darryl Sutter said earlier today that “you can’t overload players,” and “sometimes too much is too much,” especially for players who may be struggling.
So, when Pearson finds the puck on his stick in a dangerous part of the ice amidst the fog of war in a chaotic NHL game, is he actively cognizant of every aspect of the goaltending breakdown he received from Bill Ranford before the game?
“I like to tell him ‘yes,’ but ‘no,’” said Pearson, who ranks second on the team with a 15.1% shooting percentage. “I don’t know. I think there’s too much to go through with that when you’re going down the wing. You kind of just want to, if you see a hole you go for it, so yeah. But we can say to Billy that we listen to him, for sure.”
Alec Martinez, on whether Bill Ranford goes through the opposing goaltender’s stats with the team:
Oh yeah, Billy goes through it all the time. I mean, every game we have a scouting report on the other team’s goaltender in terms of their tendencies, what they’re good at, where they tend to let more goals in than glove side versus blocker or vice versa. How well they play the puck, things like that, so yeah that’s something that Billy does an unbelievable job at scouting the other teams goalie and watches a lot of video on them and goes around and talks to everyone before the game. Not just forwards but on the goalie’s tendencies in certain situations.
Martinez, on whether goalies they don’t see as often require more pre-game focus:
It goes both ways. Guys that you don’t see very often or even guys that you see often within the division, it’s a good reminder. As for me, I mean, you’re probably better off talking to a guy like Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter or something like that where, not a defenseman. Most of my shots are probably going to be from the point and I’m shooting for sticks and screens and things like that. I’m not shooting high glove because I heard that he lets in goals high glove. So, I mean, chances are if the goalie sees it, well if the goalie sees it in this league and I’m shooting from the blue line it’s more then likely not going in unless something really went wrong so I guess you could ask them.
Martinez, on what needs to be cleaned up in five-on-five play:
Well I think regardless of the game, you know, no one’s going to play a perfect hockey game so I think that there is — we certainly gave up some chances, a couple grade-A’s that I can think of off the top of my head. Just reads or staying on guys and just being a little bit sharper. I think that was probably what he was saying was partially that game and then partially stemming off the game before that one of our big things was our attention to detail and how that needs to improve so I imagine that’s probably what he was getting at.
Tanner Pearson, on whether goalies they don’t see as often require more pre-game focus:
No, he usually goes over the exact same stuff every game with every single goalie. I think he kind of has his own routine type of thing and lets us know what to do.