The rookie talks about what it takes to survive the NHL net.
Photo: Getty Images
Back in April we paid a visit to the New York Rangers' training facility, where the team’s goalie Cam Talbot taught us that keeping pucks at bay from within a 6x4 net is a lot more difficult than it seems. Now, with the Rangers squaring off against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals (their second appearance in five years), we caught back up with the stellar rookie to get a little more insight into what it takes to make a living with 100 mph pucks flying at your face.
Start Fashionably Late
“I actually didn’t get on the ice until I was about 7 or 8. I don’t know what it’s like in the States, but in Canada that’s considered late, since most kids have skates on from the moment they starting walking. My parents never really knew much about hockey, though, so I had to be the one to push them to start, and by the time I did, all the other kids on the team had been playing their positions for a while and no one wanted to play goal. So they were like, ‘Let’s throw the new kid in the net.’ I didn’t really mind, so it just stuck. Plus, they didn’t push me out, so I must have shown some ability early on.”
Stay Focused (on the Puck)
“When playing goal you have to stay sharp physically and psychologically. Mentally it’s just your last line of defense, so if that’s where you make a mistake, most of the time the puck is going to end up in the back of your net. There’s a lot of pressure on you as far as that goes, so the best thing you can do mentally is just focus on the puck, reading the play and your position. I don’t run through any sort of mental checklist before I head out on the ice, but when I’m out there I zero in on the play and forget the things that I can’t control, like how the team's playing in front of me. I’m also not particularly superstitious. I mean, we all have our own little quirks here and there, but I feel that the more you have, the more [that] can go wrong.”
Befriend the Defenders
“People ask if I ever yell at the defenders on the ice, and I’ll tell you that I don’t think that’s the greatest idea, because they’re probably not going to want to do too much for you as far as blocking shots. Generally it’s not a good idea to piss off the guys who play in front of you when you’re a goalie. And if they do take a particularly fierce slap shot for you, go tap them on their stick and say, ‘Hey, great block.’ You usually acknowledge plays like that because they are pretty big plays in the game.”
Study the Guys on the Other Side
“A goalie’s worst nightmare is seeing a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin coming down on you during a shootout or from a breakaway. These guys don’t just have two, three, four, or even five moves. They pretty much make it up as they go. You can get to know some of their tendencies, but for the most part, when its players like that, the fact that they’re so hard to read is part of what makes them better than most. So when they’re coming down on you it’s like, Ah shit, you better not screw up!”
Get Your Downward Dog On
“In terms of physical preparation, goalies in particular have to be pretty flexible – and I’m probably one of the least flexible guys in the league. I mostly have to rely on my power and my positioning, but I am trying to improve with a lot of stretching and foam-rolling, which helps get your body warmed up. During the off-season I try to get in some yoga, but it’s tough to keep up with that during the season.”
Skip the Celebrations (for Now)
“If I’m in the net when the Rangers score, I don’t even flinch; I have to remain focused. The other players will go through the line and slap hands, but I have to stay in my net and get ready for the face-off.”