Fleury vs. Osgood – Stanley Cup Finals Rematch

May 30, 2009

With Game 1 in the books for the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals (Wings 3-1 wins), here is a great article published in the Globe and Mail breaking down the two starting goalies.

Osgood at PostThe starting goaltenders in the Stanley Cup final are opposites in just about every aspect of their profession, from age to style to reputation, but they are the same in that neither Chris Osgood nor Marc-André Fleury are any great shakes in the statistics department except for the one that matters – winning.

During the regular season, Osgood’s struggles with the Detroit Red Wings were so bad he lost his No.1 job to backup Ty Conklin for a time. He finished an underwhelming 45th among NHL goaltenders in save percentage at .887 and 41st in goals-against average at 3.09, numbers usually reserved for players on the worst teams. But the native of Peace River, Alta., finished with a record of 26-9-8.

Fleury, from Sorel, Que., was a little better, although the only major category in which he cracked the top 10 was wins with 35.

When the Stanley Cup final starts tomorrow night in Detroit, though, Osgood and Fleury will be the last two goaltenders standing. And they Fleury Puckare tied for first place in the most important category of this year’s playoffs at 12 wins each.

This is the second consecutive showdown in the Cup final for them, with Osgood and the Wings handily winning the best-of-seven series in five games a year ago to win his third Stanley Cup ring. However, Osgood, 36, is regarded as a veteran who has had the good fortune to play for a great team for most of his career while Fleury, 24, is considered another of the great young talents on the star-studded Penguins roster.

“With Chris Osgood, if you look at history, when he’s played on teams that are not so good [St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders], he’s been not so good,” said Mitch Korn, the goaltending coach of the Nashville Predators. “But there is something about playing for the Detroit Red Wings, like playing for the New York Yankees, that makes players elevate their games in response to everyone else.

“Osgood has always been very good in certain situations. You get measured on whether you win or lose and he’s found a way to win even when his stats have not been great. He seems like a guy who gets it done because he doesn’t want to let anybody down.”

Korn says Fleury is still learning his position but has shown the same kind of mental toughness as Osgood. He was thrown into the league for a time as a teenager in the 2003-04 season and did not establish himself as the Penguins’ top goalie until last season.

“When you look at guys who get to the NHL before they are ready, especially goalies, I relate that to being a child actor,” Korn said. “They often have dysfunction later in life because they don’t follow the normal path. Guys can get there too early, get sent down and struggle to get back.

“Fleury has battled through all that and, amazingly, has overcome it.”

STYLE AND SKILLS

Neither is a straight butterfly goaltender, although both incorporate elements of that game, dropping to their knees and gliding from side-to-side. It’s interesting that Osgood adopted some of that style late in his career.

“People talk about the butterfly as a style, but I think of it as a save,” Korn said. “[Osgood] added several saves to his game.”

The biggest difference between the goaltenders is in their athleticism. Korn considers Osgood’s physical skills “average.” He compensates with his intelligence and experience.

Osgood Wave

“I think Osgood is very strong between the ears,” Korn said. “He has great mental toughness and a passion for that Red Wing crest. It elevates his game.

“He reads and reacts to things. He is excellent at recognizing the patterns in a game.”

But Osgood has some skills that stand out, particularly with his stick. He is a good skater who is quick with his stick around the net, particularly when it comes to reaching back with it after someone thinks he has beaten Osgood with a deke.

Fleury’s physical skills are superior and at this point in his career he relies on his athleticism a little too much to get out of jams. But Korn says he made a lot of improvement over last season, when an ankle injury kept Fleury out for six weeks.

“That injury changed his game,” Korn said. “Before, he was an overactive goalie and he still is to some degree. He was overactive in challenging [shooters], in his movements and in making saves. As a result, he gave up rebounds.

“When he hurt his ankle, he had to reel in his game. Now he’s far more patient and in control.”

Fleury is flexible, even for a goaltender, and uses that like Osgood uses his stick to make saves after someone has beaten him with a deke, usually with his catching glove. He also likes to use his stick to poke-check, which means players have to shoot before they get too close to him.

REBOUND CONTROL

Over the years, Osgood learned to control rebounds, but he also has the good fortune to play behind the deepest defence in the league. With Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart and company around, there are few loose pucks in front of the net.

Fleury Congrads

The Penguins’ defence is not bad in NHL terms but not as good overall as the Red Wings’, which makes Fleury’s job a little harder when it comes to rebounds. But he is not quite as adept as Osgood in this department.

“He [Fleury] still has a tendency to give up a few more than he would like,” Korn said. “But at the end of the day he’s far better than he was.”

PUCK HANDLING

This is where Osgood has improved the most. Combine that with his defenceman’s skill at getting in position to receive the puck and then move it up the ice and this is a formidable weapon.

“His puck-handling has dramatically improved,” Korn said. “Plus, his players pick up the puck so well off the wall. And even in the new, non-interference NHL, [the Detroit defencemen] can still get in the way and hold [opposing] players up. That certainly makes it easier to handle the puck.”

Osgood is also quick enough around the net to get behind it and stop most of the hard shoot-ins by opposing forwards.

Fleury’s overactive nature is still a bit of a problem when it comes to handling the puck. He made a couple of costly giveaways in the playoffs.

But, Korn says, “as long as he keeps the puck on the wall, he’s okay.”

WEAKNESSES

For someone who is a favourite target of the critics, Osgood does not have a long list of soft spots, according to Korn. One is simply his 5-foot-11, 178-pound frame, which makes it more difficult to handle the traffic around the net.

“In the old days, small goalies were quick and agile while big goalies were slow and cumbersome,” Korn said. “Now the bigger goalies have become as skilled as the smaller ones and because it is a game of square-footage [in covering the net], you’ve seen goalies get bigger.”

When it comes to shooters, those who go high on the stick side have more success on Osgood than those who try to beat his catching glove.

Fleury’s weakness is his greatest strength, his athleticism. While he can use it to make saves he is not supposed to make, it also leads him to take a few too many risks, such as coming out of his net a little too much to challenge shooters. The flexibility that allows him to cover the sides of the net so well along the ice also opens the five-hole.

Game One Stats:

Osgood – 31 saves on 32 shots. Game’s #1 Star

Fleury – 27 saves on 30 shots. Two goals against he’d love to back. Played good but it’ the Stanley Cup Finals – as the saying goes, “GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH” Must be better with the live boards at The Joe in Game Two.

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Intro to Goalie Management 101 – Managing Emotions through Breathing

May 30, 2009

Huet dejectedHockey is a game that causes players to experience an array of emotions. In the span on moments goalies can experience: 

Exhilaration from making a great glove save, to;

Dejection from letting in a questionable goal, to;

Anger after opposing player takes liberties in the crease as puck is being covered, to;

Confident after making a few saves in a scramble around the net.

Success in hockey regardless of position and life is about learning to manage and control your emotions. It’s almost impossible to manage thoughts when emotions are spirraling. When emotions aren’t controlled, a goalie cannot effectively play his position which has dire consequences for his entire team. If he’s too emotional, either in positive or negative, performance is adversely effected.

As Dr. Saul Miller points out in “The Complete Player” the phenomenal book dealing with the mental aspects of the game, “to play winningFleury Beat Game One hockey you have to be able to energize, pump up, and attack but also to calm down, regain composure, and play smoothly. As emotional arousal or intensity increases performance improves until it peaks. Thereafter increases in arousal (to the point of over arousal) cause people to get too pumped or tight, which leads to a reduction in performance.

“If you are not managing your emotions, it’s hard to perform your best. Under pressure, many players become anxious, they try too hard, force the play, squeeze their sticks, chase the puck, retaliate, make mistakes, and compound errors.”

How can one control emotional arousal and create feelings conducive to playing effectively hockey? Learn how to breathe effectively. Performance problems typically happen because a player’s mind and body are not performing together. Simply, they are out of sync.

Sometimes a goalie feels his mind is racing too fast while his body seems to be lagging behind. If the goalie focuses on breathing, his mind and body begin to work together.

A goalie sitting in his crease who is worrying is either fretting about the past (examples are a goal scored against him earlier in game, poor performance last game) or the future (examples, whether he will perform well or whether he can make the saves and win the game for the team). But, power is in the present, not the past or future.

As the goalie begins to worry (regardless of either past or future), he needs to begin paying attention to his breathing as it will bring the goalie’s mind into the “here-and-now” world. As he watches the play at the other end of the rink or during a stoppage in play, goalie can shift focus to his breathing.

Without getting too technical for the younger readers, the brain consists of two-halves. One side deals with logic and technical information (helps a goalie read the impending play and reminds him how to respond) while the other handles a person’s feelings and coordination (allows the goalie to respond). Research shows a smooth breathing rhythm helps integrate both halves of the brain which helps improve chances of success for the goalie.

frozen_inside050207Success in goaltending requires the two halves to work more smoothly so there is a balance between feeling and focus. One side of the brain needs to think clearly while the other manages feelings so emotions don’t interfere with the required focus. As Dr. Miller states, “optimal performance occurs when both halves of the brain perform in a coordinated and integrated fashion. Breathing smoothly can facilitate that and contribute to a high-performance state. The complete player has both power and emotional control. Breathing is a key to both.”

So, anytime a goalie is mentally struggling in net, he needs to pay attention to his breathing to get his two halves of his brain to work together better and shift his focus to the here-and-now.

Next Goalie Management 101 entry will introduce Power Thoughts that enhance on-ice performance.


2009 Rocky Mountain Elite Goaltending Summer Camp Details

May 27, 2009

Hello Goalies and Goalie Parents,

It has been a while since details of the 2009 Summer Camp were announced and the first session is quickly approaching so we are sending this information so everyone is informed and no one misses anything. 

I.  Dates and Times of the Camp

The camp sessions are Wednesday evenings beginning June 3rd and ending August 12th. There will be no session July 1st in observation of Independence Day.

The first ice session begins promptly at 4.35 pm and the second at 5.55 pm. Each on-ice session is 75 minutes long and there is an ice-make between sessions. Details of off-ice sessions are listed below in Section V. 

II.  Camp Location

All camp sessions will be held at the Ice Ranch. Address is 841 South Park Drive in Littleton. Ice Ranch phone number is 303.285.2110. Ice sessions will be held on the full sheet. 

III.  Goalie Groups

There are two groups for the camp, each based on combination of birth year and experience. They are split evenly based on camp attendees.

The Fleury Group: Designed for younger and/or lesser experienced goalies            

The Brodeur Group:     Designed for more experienced and/or older goalies.

IV. Group Information/Sessions

Each week The Fleury Group begins working on-ice while The Brodeur Group begins with off-ice training.

V.  Attendance

With a 10-week camp, we expect several goalies to miss at least one session. Please email us (elitegoaltending@yahoo.com) before the camp begins with date(s) you will be missing so the staff can plan sessions accordingly.

VI.  Final Payment

To reserve a slot in the camp, a deposit was required in the amount of $300.00. The remaining balance ($350.00) is due before your goalie begins their first on-, or off-ice, session. We are sorry but there are no exceptions.

Balances can be submitted when goalie checks-in on July 3rd. If a goalie is going to miss the first week, please notify us by email at elitegoaltending@yahoo.com and we will make arrangements.

Checks are to be made out to Rocky Mountain Elite Goaltending.

VII. Jerseys and Off-Ice Apparel

Each goalie will be provided a camp jersey to wear throughout all ice sessions of the entire camp. The jerseys, which are all goalie cut, were ordered through a custom manufacturer and had to be pre-ordered in the early spring.  Jerseys will be distributed during check-in and since sizes were estimated at time of order there may be cases where jerseys are not actual size goalie would normally order.

For off-ice training, please make sure to bring attire and shoes appropriate for working out. Any goalie without appropriate shoes will not be able to participate in the workouts and will have points deducted from the Reebok Challenge.

VIII. Off-Ice Training Information

Rocky Mountain Elite Goaltending formed a partnership with Casey Bond and Paul Goldberg for all of our goalie-specific off-ice workouts. We are very pleased to offer our goalies the opportunity to learn from the Strength and Conditioning Coaches of the Colorado Avalanche.

Each off-ice session will last approximately 60 minutes and will concentrate solely on developing areas that will enhance each goalie’s on-ice performance.

 Most off-ice sessions will take place outside so please make sure to bring something to drink.

 Sessions begin at 4.35 (The Brodeur Group) and 6.05 for The Fleury Group.

IX. Reebok Challenge

Each goalie will participate in the Reebok Challenge as part of the camp. As before, each week there will be an on-ice drill as well as goalie-specific homework questions to earn points. Homework answers can, primarily, be found on our blog in the numerous articles. Blog address is www.elitegoaltending.wordpress.com. The top three goalies in points for each group will earn new Reebok goalie gear. The top three prizes are-

The Fleury Group

First Place – Premier III 7k Goalie Pads

Second Place – Premier III 7k Catcher and Blocker Set

Third Place – Premier III 7k Goalie Stick

The Brodeur Group

First Place – Premier III 9k Goalie Pads

Second Place – Premier III 9k Glove and Blocker Set

Third Place – Premier III 7k Premier Goalie Stick

Point System is as follows-

Point Accumulations

  1. On-Ice Session                                     Up to 10 Points
  2. Off-Ice Homework/Questions       Up to 10 Points
  3. Attendance                                           2 points each week attended

Point Deductions  

  1. Late to On-/Off-Ice Sessions        1 point

 To prevent problems with delivery (i.e. email spam filters, incorrect addresses), weekly results will not be emailed but posted on our blog.

Weekly Reebok Challenge Questions will be posted on the blog each week by Thursday evening. To submit answers please click on our email link (listed with the questions) and send the email when answering is completed. All goalies must submit their answers by 4.00 pm Wednesday to earn up to 10 points. If any questions are submitted after 4.00 pm, the highest possible point total for the week is 5.

For winners in each group, all winners will receive Reebok gear. Under no circumstances will any substitutions from other goalie gear manufacturers be allowed. If a winning goalie does not need the actual gear he earned, a substitution from within the Reebok line will be allowed of the same value.

Please note, Kevin’s son, Dillon, will be participating in the camp and Reebok Challenge but will not be eligible to win any of the prizes if he were to finish in the top three in his group. He is not aware of this and Coach Whalen prefers it stays that way…

 X. Goalie’s Behavior/The Ice Ranch

Rocky Mountain Elite Goaltending is very pleased to offer our camp at The Ice Ranch and believe the facilities will be a perfect fit for our camp. Although we do not expect any problems, we do require all goalies treat the facility and its staff with full respect – particularly the locker rooms. If any goalie(s) is found to abuse the facility/staff in any manner, they will be sent home immediately and may be excused from the remainder of the camp. If excused, there will be no refunds issued by Rocky Mountain Elite Goaltending and goalie will be held liable for any property damages to the rink.

 XI. Locker Room Assignments

Each group will be assigned two locker rooms and we request goalies use one of the two locker rooms assigned to their specific group.

XII. Elite Goaltending Blog

All camp announcements, Rbk Challenge Questions and Weekly Recaps will be posted on our blog (www.elitegoaltending.wordpress.com).  The majority of the homework questions will be based on content from the blog entries.

XIII. Contact Information

Please feel free to contact either Brian or Kevin with any questions throughout the camp. Please note, we will not discuss Rbk Challenge results.

 Kevin Whalen                                      Brian TenEyck

720.207.8081                                      303.717.4329

Thank you – we look forward to working with each goalie this summer.


Intro to Goalie Management 101 – Integrating the Mind with Body By Creating Focus Through Goal-Setting

May 26, 2009

Excellence in goaltending is partly a function of a goalie that is able to effectively get his mind and body to work together. Simply put, there is a smooth, coordinated function between thought and action. As discussed in the previous post (Manage Your Mind), negative thinking will inhibit performance.

Well, how can a goalie integrate his mind and body to reduce the negative thoughts and feelings? As with most things in life, this is easier said than done but is the key to efficiently operating the mental TV and becoming a better goalie. Understanding how to create the powerful feelings and positive productive thoughts will enable the goalie to create a state in which they can perform their best.

Fleury with Puck Behind

The first step is for the goalie to take responsibility for managing his mental TV by creating positive feelings and focus. Of course this can be a difficult concept for a young goalie to understand (control over his mind and feelings) but it is vital for success.

According to “The Complete Player” from Dr. Saul Miller, the complete player (goalie) takes responsibility (think “response-ability) for managing his mind and utilizes two basic mental training tips to help manage feelings and focus. They are:

  1. Have a clear focus, keep it simple; and
  2. Use breathing techniques to create positive feelings and change channels on the mental TV.

 The remainder of this post deals with #1, getting a clear focus while keeping things simple. The breathing tip will be addressed in the next Goalie Management 101 post.

Clear focus must begin with clear goals as energy is directed with help from goals. In his book, Miller recommends several types of goals and that they should be written down and repeated often and aloud.

Osgood at PostFirst, the goalie needs to set long-term or career goals. “Playing in the NHL” is not a productive, nor realistic, long-term goal. It’s great to strive for the NHL, but, there are too many circumstances uncontrolled by the player that will prevent him from making the professional ranks. More productive is setting goals with perspective addressing why the goalie plays or the level of competition the goalie wants to play in the next two years may be more productive. A great example for a preteen or teenager is “Earn a position on the AAA team.”

Secondly, goals for the season need to be defined. What does the goalie want to do this season? Maybe a 90.5%+ save percentage at end of season? How about working every week to improve playing the puck outside the net?

Once these three or four goals are set, the goalie needs to define what needs to be done to make the goals realistic? In order to get to a 90.5% save percentage, for example, does the goalie need to work on being more aggressive? Would improving movement, the ability to read plays, and/or controlling rebounds help the goalie achieve his goal? If so, these need to become goals in-themselves and a plan to work on those needs to be established as well.

Lastly, immediate goals for next practice or game must be set that reinforce the goals set for the season. No serious goalie should start a practice without a defined skill or tactic he is working on throughout the session. Simply standing in net as a target competing for saves is not enough.

In coaching goalies in a team setting (Midget U18AAA), I periodically skate up to the goalies during flow drills and ask what they are working onPrice Before for the day. Let’s say they better have a quick, concise response. It’s not up to the coach to define what goalies are working on during a team practice. Coaches can consult and help implement, but, it is up to the goalie. Otherwise, who’s goal is it?

 As Miller writes, “being the complete player is about having a clear direction. Working hard, and following through. It’s also about having a winning attitude. It’s about being committed, confident, mentally tough or resilient, and having a passion for the game.”

 The clear direction comes from having concise goals and following through.

 Next Goalie Management 101 entry will address breathing and it’s ability to assist in creating positive feelings that will help change the channel on the mental TV.


Hockey’s Finest: Tim Thomas

May 25, 2009

Video clip of the well-documented but very important story of Boston Bruins goalie, Tim Thomas. There is always a great story behind any goalie who makes it to the NHL but there may never be one quite like Thomas. His perseverance through all the years of being told he wasn’t good enough is legendary.

Every young goalie should listen to Thomas speak in this video. Passion, incredible work ethic and an unwavering belief in self with a clear mission will get you results in hockey as well as life.

It’s a shame Thomas and the Bruins lost to the ‘Canes in Game 7 of the 2n Round. Maybe next year…. it would be a mistake to bet against Thomas – he has an ability to prove people wrong.


The History of the Goalie Mask

May 25, 2009

Great video clip interviewing Jim Hines, the author of “Saving Face” the best book available on the subject of goalie masks (http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Face-History-Goalie-Mask/dp/0470155582), on the history of the one piece of equipment that drastically changed how the position and game has been played.


Top Ten Reasons for Goaltending Success – McKichan

May 25, 2009

McKinchanStephen McKichan is a well-known goalie coach who was the Toronto Maple Leaf’s goalie coach until this past season. He runs a very successful goalie school in the Toronto-area, Future Pro (http://www.futurepro.com), and contributes to Goalie’s World.

Below is an article he wrote a few years ago about ten characteristics of success in goaltending and making to the NHL. All goalies who want to become the best they can be, regardless of pro ambitions, should take McKichan’s Top Ten Reasons seriously and adapt them into their development plan.

“Over the years I have often pondered why hockey players and goaltenders in particular rise above and make it to the NHL. Why do so many end up driving the ice resurfacer, selling value meals at a fast food restaurant, or eternally reminding the customer,”You must pay before you pump after 11:00 pm, Sir.” (Not that those are bad career choices!) From the home office in Sioux City, Iowa here are the Top Ten Reasons for Success:

 1. Want it more than your parents
2. Ability to recognize and study successful peers.
3. Willing to experiment.
4. Able to handle praise and attention properly and with perspective.
5. Hockey is a healthy full-time obsession.
6. Able to work longer and harder than real or imagined peers. If you already work harder than anyone you know does, you must recognize that there is probably someone you don’t know doing more than you. This is a powerful motivator.
7. Able to internalize confidence. Show people how good you are, don’t tell them.
8. Able to handle constructive criticism. If you are already that perfect why aren’t you in the NHL?
9. Continued practice on weakness. You must assess, recognize and accept weakness in certain areas. Develop and perfect weaknesses. Challenge weakness, don’t ignore it.
10. Continued practice on skills already mastered. I always run into goalies that don’t need to work on a certain element of the game because they already have it down. All goaltenders in the NHL continue to work on basics like movement, rebound control and recoveries.

99% of current NHL players never made it there solely on the talent they were born with. They experienced benching, political team cuts, lost parental popularity contests, bad injuries, bad timing, bad teammates, bad coaches and a litany of other potential career stoppers. They rose above doubters, they rose above jealousy, and they rose above common and uncommon excuses for failure. Simply put, they single-handedly did it.”