Optimization

Justin Goldman

2009-11-30

Emery

 

When Ray Emery's season in Russia ended, I knew his play would lead to a shot at NHL redemption. I also knew that, regardless of his talent and ability, Emery would no doubt experience a set of mental highs and lows that could have very negative results. When October arrived, I was surprised that Flyers management had so much confidence in his ability, as they all but handed Emery the starting job without him having to prove much of anything. To me, actions speak louder than words, especially for someone in his situation.

 

Sure, Emery silenced even his toughest critics with some excellent play in October, but it was very early in a very long season. To me, part of the problem was that the Flyers didn't give themselves any real buffer zone or backup plan. Nothing against Brian Boucher, but I could think of maybe five or six other goalies available at the time that could be pushing Emery harder for minutes. Now through 24 games for the Flyers, Emery has started 20 of them.

 

Nevertheless, things have worked out well so far. Emery has been consistent in his approach to handling the responsibility of being an NHL starter, both on and off the ice. Everything was fine and dandy during a five-game winning streak that stretched through the middle of November, until they headed west on a three-game road trip. All of a sudden, without warning, Emery's game took a nose dive.

 

I was scouting the Avs/Flyers game last Monday with extreme interest, as it was my first time seeing Emery's entire pre-game routine in real life. This routine was extremely over-active for a big goalie. It included a lot of foot and leg movement while standing in the slot during the national anthem, combined with an extravagant ritual that took place as soon as the singing ended. He immediately skated to the net and placed his head in the goal right beneath the crossbar. He held there for a good 4-5 seconds, then came back to life, put his helmet on and proceeded to hit the crossbar with his glove before the puck dropped. More than anything, it was a razzle-dazzle routine to fire him up.

 

From the first shot on goal, Emery's hands were the source of his struggle. They were over-active, forcing him to mishandle shots up high. He over-reacted badly on a simple Paul Stastny wrist shot to his glove side, a player who was struggling to score. He had a lot of excess footwork during simple tracking plays in his zone and he never seemed to settle into a rhythm. The puck control problems continued until Emery was pulled after allowing four goals.

 

Every Tuesday on The Goalie Guild, we post an article by Shaun Smith from Absolute Mental Training. Now from someone who has provided sound goalie advice for years, let me be the first to tell you that his articles are pure gold. Not only are they resourceful for goalies of all ages, but also for any fantasy manager that will go beyond the norm to improve their goaltending decisions. Simply put, if you are reading this, you should be reading them.