Blackhawks

Blackhawks

Goalies are creatures of habit. Their daily routines are more sacred than those of the players at other positions. They prepare more extensively and they have to be the most dialed-in on the ice. 

Throw in a global pandemic that's greatly diminished their reps and thrown off their rhythm ahead of the NHL's 24-team playoff format set to begin August 1 and what happens?

NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes is here to tell us.

"As a goalie, the challenge of that is it's such a feel-intuitive sport and it's almost like golf: you have to play and play often, even your practice rounds, just to be able to have your touch, your timing, your reads, your spacing, your positioning, your instincts, all those things," Weekes told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone on Wednesday. 

"So the challenge with being a tender is when that's limited or when that's compromised, it certainly impacts you. But right now, I think for those guys, pending their bodies and what they can handle, I think at least one way to counteract that is see as many pucks as possible right now."

The league's netminders will at least have the opportunity to see pucks for two weeks with their team starting on Monday when formal training camps leading up to the postseason at hub cities Edmonton and Toronto begin.

Weekes — who tended goal in the show for 11 years and helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 — says a number of goalies, depending on where they've been on the grid, have been able to keep some of their skills sharp during the NHL pause that began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

He mentioned goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, who went back home to Europe, have been able to skate almost the entire duration of the pause.

"Then, there are other guys who, let's say are in Florida, I know (Sergei) Bobrovsky started skating a while back, Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa has been skating for quite some time," Weekes added. "So, depending on where you're situated, where you're located geographically, that kind of had a big impact on whether or not you were able to get to a rink."

But what about goalies who weren't able to get on the ice or see shots?

According to Kevin, they've had to come up with ways to stay fresh and ready at home beyond throwing a tennis ball against the wall like you see them do in the tunnel before games.

A lot of goalies had already upgraded from ball-on-the-wall to tennis ball machine prior to the pause. Others have been doing online vision training and vision exercises according to Weekes

"It's literally been all over the map," he said. "Some guys have been able to play tennis and feel like that's helped them with their footwork and their conditioning and just tracking, having something directed at them. 

"So it's literally been all over the map for different guys that I've spoken with but nothing can fully simulate it, guys are just trying to do the best that they could. What was challenging for some guys is some guys were stuck in situations where that's all that they had available to them and then they go on Instagram and for example see Henrik skating, which he should be, which is awesome."

Come the start of the tournament, it may be obvious who was able to keep their last line of defense weapons sharp. You can only cram so much into two weeks.

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