Reactions, Rawlings and Rankings

Justin Goldman

2011-06-13

Thomas

 

Last Monday, I revealed one way in which fantasy managers can get a pulse on some future top-flight prospects via the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence goalie camp. As a result, we all learned about the viable long-term future of guys like Mark Visentin, Tyler Bunz and the small but fiery Alex Dubeau.

 

Speaking of small but fiery, with Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final just a few hours away, the goaltending world continues to discuss, compare and contrast the differences between the more popular blocking butterfly style employed by Roberto Luongo and the avant-garde, reaction-based hybrid butterfly style employed by Tim Thomas.

 

As I explained in my new piece on NHL.com, Thomas' elite cognitive skills have been the driving force behind his ability to play so well in the Stanley Cup Finals. Please take a few minutes to read the piece, including interesting quotes from Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley, as it connects to the rest of this week's lesson.

 

While discussing Thomas' ability to read plays and then react in a completely non-constricted manner, Valley and I talked about the influence Thomas' time spent in Europe had on his ability to play with such terrific patience.

 

“Playing in Finland and Sweden, you can’t play a strictly blocking style," Valley said. "The game has more of an East-West style, which forces a goalie to have to learn how to be patient and read plays. It probably helped Thomas a great deal, to go over there and be able to adapt to that style. And that style is more of what we’re seeing here in North America since the rule changes. He’s basically taken the two schools and marriaged them together.”

 

As I have said millions of times before to Dobber Nation, today's most successful prospects have that marriage of both styles. They have the butterfly technique, but they also have the cognitive skills and attentive mindset to stay up on their skates and not drop until absolutely necessary.

 

This plays a major role in why European goalies like Ondrej Pavelec, Kari Lehtonen, Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback are experiencing such solid success in the NHL this season. Their size is certainly an advantage, but they also have the necessary balance of both styles to make excellent decisions.

 

It also plays a role in why the smaller goalies like Jhonas Enroth, Jon Bernier and even Richard Bachman are still successful despite the trend of bigger blocking goalies taking up so many NHL and AHL spots. They know how to block, but more importantly, when to block. And the foundation of their game is based on reading first, then reacting.

 

And with Thomas, who has Swedish and Finnish hockey experience, being the perfect example of a small goalie that knows when to block and when to react, it's no surprise he's in the zone and in the heads of the Canucks.

 

Ultimately, I'm hoping it influences how goalie coaches and future prospects think about the way they play and teach.

 

Instead of a country churning out more robotic goaltenders, which is something that worries Hockey Canada's Kevin Prendergast, I can only hope goalies and their coaches might be influenced by Thomas' accomplishments and begin to spend more time working on honing their vision and cognitive skills.

 

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