When a goalie makes a gaffe in the playoffs, as Flyers goalkeeper Ilya Bryzgalov did with a costly turnover in the series-decider against the Devils, the error elicited questions about the stickhandling abilities and practice habits among the NHL's masked men.
"First of all, in the playoffs, things are magnified," said veteran Martin Biron, who along with the Devils' Martin Brodeur, is considered one of the most adept when passing with the paddle. "In the regular season, it kind of disappears."
Back in 2007, when Biron was playing with the Flyers, he tried to clear a puck that hit defenseman Randy Jones in the back of the skate and ricocheted into the net. "Chris Gratton was going to the Panthers' bench and he got credit for the goal," Biron said. "He didn't even know what happened. We wound up losing 2-1. It happens.
You'll look at tape and say, "Oh, why did I do that? I could have played it here, or behind the net."
Biron said NHL goaltenders rarely practice puck-handling with players, unless a coach demands it. "As a goalie, your main job is to stop the puck," Biron said. "Maybe once a month, Bennie (goaltender coach Benoit Allaire) and Hank (Lundqvist) and I will practice rim-arounds before the rest of the guys come out."
Specific drills are "something you might do in goalie camp in the summer, with five goalies in a circle," Biron said. "Here, you make decisions knowing the scheme, where the defensemen are going to be. Some teams, like the Stars when they had Marty Turco, if there was pressure from forecheckers, they would play the puck back to him and re-set."
In 2000, in the days before the trapezoid limited a goal- tender's wandering, Biron was playing for the Sabres. He skated into the right corner to play a puck, got tangled up with a Flyer and the puck skipped to the slot. Biron raced back to the crease and with a headlong dive, somehow stopped Andy Delmore's shot.
"Call a cop! He robbed Delmore blind! Call a cop, I don't believe it," announcer Rick Jeanneret shouted.
"What did I learn?" Biron asked. "That only bad things can happen when you go play the puck there."
Hamilton's big night a hit with McDonagh
After the morning skate before Game 6 in Washington, defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was one of the top high school baseball players in Minnesota history, had this insight on a different Ranger: Josh Hamilton of Texas, who hit four homers and a double the previous evening. "Saw the highlights. He hit them in all different spots in the outfield. And not easy pitches at all. Great swing," said McDonagh, imitating it in the hallway.
Whale of a chance for chosen few
The Rangers' AHL team, the Connecticut Whale, was ousted from the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Norfolk Admirals Friday night. If the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Finals, some callups/prospects were expected as spares and for practice, including defenseman Tim Erixon, who played 18 games with the Blueshirts this season. Other possibilities: Forwards Casey Wellman, who played 41 games with the Wild over three seasons and Ryan Bourque, and goaltender Cam Talbot, who made 44 saves in Friday's loss.