Vasilevskiy vs Kuemper, Francouz goalkeeper match in the Stanley Cup Final

Goaltending is an integral part of the Stanley Cup playoffs. To understand the strengths and weaknesses of every goalkeeper who could play in the 2022 Cup Final between Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, the last 50 goals allowed by every regular season goalkeeper and every goal in the playoffs, with the help of Apex Video Analysis and Save Review System, have been determined. From Upper Hand Inc. , to see which patterns appear.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Final will see two very different goal-scoring modes.

While there is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskywho has played every minute as Stanley Cup wins the past two seasons and during this playoff round will be in goal, and there is still uncertainty over whether the Colorado Avalanche will start. Darcy Comber or Pavel Francos In Game 1 at the Ball Arena in Denver on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ABC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

There are differences in size, style, tactics and technique between each of the three goalkeepers. How each team attacks their strengths and weaknesses can go a long way in determining the winner of a best of 7 series, and whether Lightning can make it to the Peat Triple or if Avalanche will win its first championship since 2001.

Andrei Vasilevsky, Tampa Bay Lightning

Trying to break Vasilevskiy’s game isn’t easy. You didn’t win the Vezina Cup in 2018-19 as the NHL Goalkeeper of the Year, the Conn Smythe Cup as the playoff player in 2021, and the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons if there were obvious holes in your style. He’s upped his game, going from 0.916 savings in the regular season to 0.928 in the playoffs, and his scores when it matters most, are from legend, including 1.28 goals-to-average in a potential streak-deciding match since 2020.

With all that in mind, devising a scoring plan for Vasilevskiy is as much a warning about walking away from his strengths as it is an attempt to find his weaknesses, and not allowing A-grade chances to become a save-altering momentum for an incredibly resilient Russian goalkeeper.

Left to Right, Fender Side Height: There has been a lot of focus on teams trying to beat Vasilevskiy on the blocking side in these playoffs, and although the position is higher than in the regular season, the blocking side also allowed for the most goals in the regular season. Part of the reason may simply be to steer clear of the adorable gloved hand that remains engaged and energized even in desperate rescue situations. Part of it may be a tendency to pull back and stray a bit on high blocker side shots rather than cutting up front as it does with the gauntlet. The most important factor seems to be completing the side passes to that side before the shot. After excelling in passes through the slot line – an imaginary line that divides the attack area from the goal line to the top of the front-line circles – in the regular season, they scored 13 of their 39 goals in the playoffs, including 10 that made him move from left to right.

Screens and clutter: The next biggest factor is the screens, which represent nine targets against Vasilevskiy this postseason. Not surprising given the focus on “keeping the eyes off” of goalkeepers at this time of year, but it was also one of the few areas he struggled with in the regular season as well. Just getting one player in his line of sight isn’t enough given how adept he is at using his 6-foot-3 frame, and tall stance, to look over traffic. Multi-layered screens, deflectors, and one-time players after being checked on a pass played a role in the playoff goals.

Make the columns, beware of the stick: Goals from high, low passes from under the goal line or behind the net have dropped from 22 percent in the regular season to 13 percent in the playoffs. However, moving Vasilevskiy in and out of his positions with unconsciousness has succeeded in the past. The Lightning goalkeeper has an active stick and is adept at cutting some of those passes, but his tendency to stay paddling on the side of the rail can be exploited with short shots from the side over that shoulder or with passes and quick shots on his gauntlet. Any access using the stick and the obstruction in nature delay him from riding and crossing to the other side.

There is no such thing as an empty network: Vasilevskiy continues to produce some of the lowest allowable planned target totals along the ice and off its platforms. These goals usually represent extra hits after playing by the side, bouncing balls, or the loose ball puck. Those who participated during the playoffs mostly bounced off a player on the net side. The important lesson here is to never get complacent with the open look because few in the game are better at getting a pillow at the least expected time, and since Vasilevskiy is so resilient, he can usually have a glove stretched over him as well.

Darcy Comber, Colorado Avalanche

Kuemper’s numbers are down from the regular season (0.921 savings percentage) to the playoffs (897), but are more likely to be the result of injuries and longer-than-usual gaps between starts than any specific trend is being exploited. However, for a great goalkeeper (6-5), Kuemper plays with a great deal of flow and movement in his game and isn’t averse to coming out of the blue, either above his crease or on the sides, all tendencies more than can be targeted.

Bodies in the foreground: Broken plays made up 34 percent of the regular season goals tracked. Screens were another problem for Kuemper (18 percent), some of which was the result of him going low and trying to look around the traffic, rather than using his size to look at it. His struggle with the screens didn’t last in the playoffs, but seven of his 24 allowed goals came out of broken plays.

Riptide: Kuemper tends to slip into point shots rather than switch to them, which makes him vulnerable to deflections and bounces, especially when they go against the direction of the ball — the opposite direction the goalkeeper is moving. This played a role in 24 percent of allowed regular season goals and 21 percent in the playoffs. He’s also more likely to slip through side passes down the top of the standoff circuits, rather than beat those in his sleds. It makes him more vulnerable to quick shots in the other direction before he can set.

Side play from the opening looks high: Kuemper will come out past the top of his crease in point shots, sometimes drifting outward in an open look higher in the area, rather than putting his feet up before the shot. Both create the longer recovery needed on rebounds and swerves to the sides, so even if the ball rebounds forward, having someone on the side and available for a quick side pass is a great way to score. This is reflected among the seven goals along the ice on the blocking side in the playoffs (29 percent), which often signify the entry.

Pavel Francos, Colorado Avalanche

Francoz has also seen his numbers drop from the regular season (.916 savings) to the playoffs (.906), and he also tends to play near or over the edge of his flexion, which is more to be expected for a 6-0 goalkeeper. But most of the stylistic similarities between Francos and Quimper end there, and the differences noteworthy for the attacking team go beyond the fact that he’s holding the opposite hand.

High shots with traffic: Starting the final three games of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers and going into a resting state in game one after Comber sustained an upper body injury, Francoz plays with a narrower, straighter stance than his goalkeeping partner. He’s more likely to beat side plays on skis rather than slip off his knees and switch more subtly to pickups, which helps explain why his results improve on broken plays through traffic. But Francos simply isn’t tall enough to look at a lot of screens, and having to find a line of sight by looking around corpses led to poor results during the regular season. Shooters should look to catch him moving from one side of the screen to the other with high shots.

Extension abroad: Whether it’s less lateral play in the area – it’s better to make individual player snap passes closer to the net than to overtake them where he can beat them without slipping – or odd chances are in tight, including a breakup, and Francos’ relatively tight butterfly can stretch. Doing so results in more flicks than expected against a goalkeeper who moves well on his skates, but sometimes gets off his knees prematurely instead of passing his body with a good push. His thrusts also tend to be a little flat, rather than going straight back into the prism, which again makes him prone to stretching.

pass pads: Francos doesn’t have an overly active stick when faced with low shots, which resulted in those shots finding mid-ice from his pads, contributing to many rebounds.

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