The Stanley Cup Finals are heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 thanks to some stellar play in goal by Henrik Lundqvist Wednesday night.
With the Rangers facing the possibility of being swept, Lundqvist turned in an impressive 40-save performance in a 2-1 win.
Lundqvist absolutely stole the show in Game 4 and the Rangers got just enough offense at the other end to extend the series for at least one more game.
For a team that has largely been unable to buy a bounce in the series, they twice benefited from magic pucks failing to cross the line behind Lundqvist.
Anton Stralman saved the day in the first period when a shot from Alec Martinez got through Lundqvist. The puck trickled toward the goal line, but Stralman swept it away just in time.
The second time prompted a small amount of controversy.
With about 1:15 left in the third period, the Kings were buzzing in the offensive zone. Again, Martinez fired a puck on goal, but it was deflected by Tanner Pearson.
The puck got through Lundqvist and came to a screeching halt on the goal line. Derek Stepan swept it off the line with his glove before a Kings’ stick could jam it home.
This prompted the Kings to plead to the officials to claim Stepan had covered the puck in the crease with his hand. The referee was in perfect position and replays confirmed that Stepan never did so. All in all, it was a great play by Stepan and it saved the game.
However, how did the puck just magically stop on the goal line?
Many have suggested snow that had built up in the crease was to blame.
This is only partially true.
The goal camera behind Lundqvist shows exactly what happened.
As the deflected puck goes through Lundqvist’s legs, it appears to have enough momentum to easily cross the goal line. However, it dramatically slows down after hitting what appears to be a patch of water. From there, the built up snow in the crease was just enough to stop the puck on the line.
Lundqvist does not appear to ever get even a piece of the puck to slow it down enough for this to happen.
So, the question is – how did the small puddle get there in the first place?
Allow me to preface this by saying, the following is not meant to be a conspiracy theory of any sort.
Here’s a couple of ideas:
First, it could just simply be a little bit of snow melt. As the goal camera angle shows, there are other parts of the crease that appear to have some water spots as well.
The Kings had spent the better part of the third period in and around Lundqvist’s net. As a result, it shouldn’t be any coincidence that there would be some excess snow built up around the net. Ice crews even remove these excess snow piles around the net several times a period during commercial breaks.
However, several minutes had passed since the last commercial break. Again, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that excess snow built up, started to melt in the crease and formed a small patch of water that stopped the puck.
(Fast Forward To The 35 Second Mark)
Another theory revolves around one of the oldest goalie tricks in the book.
Until recently, goaltenders left their water bottles on top of the net. The old trick involved leaving the nozzle part down to create a slow drip of water on the goal line.
Simple fact – pucks don’t glide on wet ice.
Now, the NHL has placed convenient water bottle holders on the back of the net to give the overhead cameras a clear angle for replays.
These holder also prevent the above trick right?
How often do you see a goalie take a drink and squirt their face to get the sweat out of their eyes? Where do you think the excess water ends up?
Do it enough times in quick succession and the crease could easily turn into a bog.
Now, go back and watch the replay again and focus on the patch of ice between Lundqvist’s legs.
Watch how the puck’s speed is drastically slowed down by a glossy, wet-looking area.
As for the snow stopping the puck, no snow collects on the puck until well after it hits that patch of ice in question.
I’m not saying Lundqvist intentionally did anything wrong. It could all be coincidence or combination of the above.
There’s no proof of anything sinister here at all.
It just struck me as odd that the crease appeared to be slushy at that exact moment.
Like I said, the Rangers haven’t been able to catch a break in this series and probably didn’t deserve to be in a 3-0 hole.
After all, they never trailed through the first two games of the series in Los Angeles.
If this was their first big break in the series, so be it. It just means more exciting hockey for the rest of us.
These playoffs have been incredible and a sweep would have been an anti-climactic ending.
Plus, this sets up the possibility for a home-ice Stanley Cup celebration Friday night.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice