Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2004 [Print without images]

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Kiprusoff, Khabibulin employ different styles

By Darren Pang
Special to ESPN.com

ESPN hockey analyst and former NHL goaltender Darren Pang breaks down the goalies in this year's Stanley Cup finals.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

Miikka Kiprusoff
Miikka Kiprusoff is quick from side to side and always has his glove at the ready.
Miikka Kiprusoff is a hybrid of sorts when it comes to style of play. He has great lateral movement going post-to-post and uses a technique similar to crawling on his knees, allowing him to cover the low part of the net effectively and move quickly from side to side.

That is a help when the puck is behind the net on wraparound chances, allowing Kiprusoff to keep the paddle of his stick low to the ice to prevent pucks from being jammed past him on scoring chances in close. Much of today's offense is based on that kind of opportunity and Kiprusoff can effectively eliminate that from the game.

And while most goalies simply block the puck, Kiprusoff likes to catch it. As a result the Lightning will stay away from his glove side and look to expose his stick side, especially with left-handed shooters coming down the left wing. Those players will bring the puck back into their skates to change the angle of the shot, forcing Kiprusoff to collapse his stick to the middle of his body and opening up the blocker side for scoring chances.

Finally, expect Tampa Bay to get as much traffic as possible in front of Kiprusoff. Any goaltender who gets his team to this point in the playoffs will stop shots he can see, so the Lightning will put as many bodies as possible between Kiprusoff and their shooters to screen and obstruct his view.

Nikolai Khabibulin, Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikolai Khabibulin
Nikolai Khabibulin uses his pads to effectively close down the bottom of the net.
When Nikolai Khabibulin is on his game, as he was in Tampa's Game 7 victory over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference finals, he is square to the shooter and pucks are hitting him in the chest. If he starts to spread himself across the net and open his body, though, Khabibulin is fighting to get the best position.

Getting square to shots and making his shoulders big to take on the puck are his strengths. Khabibulin does those things quickly and has good feet at the low part of the net, but he is not as quick as Kiprusoff when pushing himself side to side and will not rely on his glove as much as his counterpart.

Khabibulin also has a different technique on wraparounds, relying on his pads rather than his stick to close off the bottom part of the net. He keeps his pads low at all times, and while it often seems as if pucks being jammed at are loose in the crease, they are in most cases safely under his pads.

Even though Calgary stresses a north-south, straight-ahead game, the Flames will try to get Khabibulin moving east-west when they get in close to the net. Calgary will try to keep him deep in his net in a passive style by establishing inside position with their forwards against Tampa Bay's defensemen. Khabibulin was protected well in Game 7 against the Flyers, but if Calgary can get him back in the net it has a good chance of beating him.

Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN. His goalie rankings appear every other week during the regular season in Net Effect.