Soon after a goal is scored from a sharp angle, social media comes alive, often with a #RVHfail hashtag, calling out the goalie for employing the post-integration technique, when a goalie drops to one knee, placing the short-side pad against the post and the other pad slightly off the ice so the skate edge of the back leg can drive a goalie into the post and up toward the crossbar.
The criticism is warranted at times. But it’s interesting the technique seems to bear more of the blame than the goalie’s decision to employ it, which would be more accurately a #failedRVH because the error is often in application and execution.
“I think there needs to be more timing with it and situational awareness,” said New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider, who is working as a guest studio analyst for NBC Sports during the playoffs. “Guys are just dropping into it. Goaltending is a reactive position, and that is not a reactive-save selection in a lot of instances.
“[RVH] is really useful, and the guys who are good at it are really good at it. I just think guys default to it way too much. They drop into it way too soon, so shooters are being more patient, waiting for guys to get into it, and then looking for that spot.”
“That spot” referenced by Schneider is between the top of the short-side shoulder and the crossbar that opens when a goalie drops into RVH, which is short for reverse-VH, a technique developed in Sweden.
Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings made it popular among NHL goalies when he used it during the 2011-12 season, which ended with Quick winning the Stanley Cup and being voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the playoffs.
The technique allowed goalies to stay more active with their hands than previous techniques and kept more of their frame in the net, better positioned to handle passes to — and deflections from — in front. It also allowed the use of the back-side skate as a rudder to steer around the post and help move efficiently off it.
Perhaps the most noted RVH goal allowed so far in this postseason was the winning goal by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray in Game 3 of their best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifier series Aug. 5. The Canadiens won the series in four games.
Murray was in RVH when Petry, at the bottom of the left face-off circle, banked a shot off the goalie’s mask for the final goal in a 4-3 win.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday went five overtimes before the Lightning won 3-2. In that game, the Blue Jackets took a 2-1 lead when forward Oliver Bjorkstrand scored against Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was in an RVH position.
That goal wasn’t from a sharp angle, so it’s fair to question the choice of RVH, which was developed for plays behind the net and below the face-off circles. But it’s also worth pointing out Vasilevskiy didn’t appear to see the release, so even if he were outside his post and squared up to the shot, that puck may still have had enough room to go in if he had instead dropped into a butterfly.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom was beaten by Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal in Game 4 of their qualifier series in another RVH situation Aug. 7.
For Markstrom, it’s worth noting he usually uses his back leg to drive his short-side shoulder up into the crossbar, so his failure to do so in this case could be characterized as failing to execute RVH properly against Staal.
It was one of three RVH goals Markstrom allowed in Game 4 after not giving up any during the regular season or the first three games of the postseason. But the Canucks won 5-4 to advance to the Western Conference First Round against the St. Louis Blues.
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen gave up a short-side goal to forward Liam Foudy that gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead in 3-0 victory in Game 5 of their qualifier series.
Whether RVH was the right choice or Andersen just didn’t execute it well can be debated.
Based on these examples, expect to see more sharp-angled shots in the 2020 playoffs. Shooters seem to be paying more attention to pre-scouts on the tendencies of goalies when sealing the post, and what holes are opened by each save selection.
“I’ve noticed that too,” Schneider said of the increased attempts to go short-side by shooters in the postseason. “Not just the goals that have gone in, but a lot of posts and near misses.”
That said, RVH isn’t going anywhere. Though its use occasionally generates an “ugly” goal, it also allows goalies to make other saves with ease, something unnoticed by outsiders.
Roberto Luongo, third in NHL history with 489 wins in 1,044 games (second in NHL history to Martin Brodeur’s 1,266), has said adding RVH to his skills was one of the most important changes he made during his final six seasons in the League.
Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark said he heard the whispers about RVH going out of style when Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov twice exploited the gap between the shoulder and crossbar to score lacrosse-style goals this season and other shooters tried the high-skill technique.
“You would be abandoning the one position that has revolutionized goaltending as much, if not more, than the butterfly,” Clark said. “There is no other body position in the history of the game that allows us to dynamically connect everything we do away from our post to everything we do on our post.”
It’s a point worth considering before picking a hashtag the next time RVH doesn’t work.