The Right-Hand Men

Justin Goldman

2007-11-19

Harding

 

There are only a few NHL goalies that wear the catching glove on the right hand. Mathieu Garon, Jose Theodore and Josh Harding always look a little weird in net, but do they have any real advantage, or is it just a coincidence that Garon and Theodore are playing so well in November?

 

While this is easy to argue on both sides, there’s reasoning why “righty” goalies have a true advantage. In fact, most would agree that righty goalies have an advantage because they’re so rare and shooters are simply not used to playing against them. Shooting is a muscle-memory action – you do it without thinking of what hand a goalie’s glove is on – so I agree with that mindset, but bear with me as I dissect this argument from a goaltending point of view.

First of all, players shoot glove-side high more than ever these days due to the fact that butterfly goaltending has dominated the game since the mid 90’s. Goalies not only drop on almost every shot, but now they’ve refined the butterfly even more by keeping their elbows in tight to their body and dropping their gloves down to their sides in order to cover that “six-hole” (underneath the arms). So the gloves actually connect to the pads, instead of the elbows sticking out like chicken wings, which allow the gloves to “float” out in the open where players can score underneath the arms and “through” the goalie. Then you have the size restrictions placed on gloves, which have made them smaller than ever before.

 

That being said, shooters always have a better chance to score in the top and lower corners instead of the five-hole (duh). Let me also overstate the obvious by repeating the age-old adage, “If the goalie sees it, he’s going to stop it.” So for the sake of this argument, we’ll focus on the two main factors in goals being scored; time and space. The more you have of both, the higher scoring percentage you’ll have.

 

In today’s NHL, more pure goals (non-deflections) are actually scored to the stick side because goalies are quicker to react with this lighter, smaller glove than deflecting a puck with a stick in their hand. It’s also a well-known fact that “stick-side and just over the pad” is the toughest save for a goalie to make, because it takes more energy and time for them to move a heavy stick instead of a light glove. Realize, however, that there are many factors coming into play here, including the shooter’s skill, the velocity of the shot and the goalie’s quickness and agility.

 

Now I found some great numbers published by statistician Dirk Hoa