NHL coaches like to use their entire roster. Even though a coach can only play 19 players at a time, there are 20 players suited up each game when you include the backup goaltender. Former coaches have fessed up to seeking regular advice from their backups. Hoping the sitting goalie notices something different that they can relay to the players, coaches, but more importantly the starter.
There’s a lot of validity to that because we see things so differently. To me actually, that’s a mark of a really inquisitive coach doing all of his homework. -Mike McKenna, Retired NHL goaltender and VGK TV analyst
Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury was a spectator last week when Malcolm Subban got the nod against St. Louis. It was a wild, multiple lead changing game that the Golden Knights came from behind to win. With the night off, Fleury was able to watch the 6-5 goal fest from a chair, wearing his snapback hat.
I think you get a different perspective when you sit there and see the whole play develop. It’s different when you’re just watching the puck when you’re in net. You think ‘I should’ve had that one, and that one’ but other times guys get good chances with some time, or on the back door. So, it’s good to have a better view of the game. -Marc Andre Fleury
The conversation goes both ways in Vegas. When he’s in net, Fleury often chats with Subban and goalie coach Dave Prior about certain plays, goals or saves. The open discussion offers the starting goaltender a view outside of himself, and from people they trust.
Yeah, we talk a little bit. Even when I play too we usually always have a little talk about goals, little plays, weird plays. Stuff like that. -Fleury
McKenna spent plenty of time viewing the game from the bench. He felt offering information to the starter was an important part of his job, being part confidante, coach, and shrink.
By the time I was in my late 20’s I realized I was in a role that realistically I was being a goalie coach in some ways too. They would bounce things off of me a lot but I would never cross that line of providing information the player was thinking or feeling. -McKenna
That was an area that McKenna stressed over and over. The advice or information needs to be asked for and accepted. Since most goalies are rare birds, it was important to recognize early on how each individual goaltender felt about discussions in between periods. McKenna was overly careful making sure his insight was wanted.
In terms of the actual goalie wanting help, it’s very personal. It depended on the individual. I had goalie partners who I just knew just wanted to be on their own. I would have to learn that line early in the season where they wanted to go with it. Especially, as I got older. -McKenna
The veteran goaltender turned TV analyst was mindful of his teammates’ mentality, but personally he was open to all information. Fleury alluded to the same approach as well. When he’s in net, there’s an open line of communication.
No I don’t mind it. I actually like it. It’s good because sometimes you have questions or you don’t always see what happens. It’s good to get different ideas, and wondering if you played it right or should’ve done something different. Between Dave and Malcolm, I’m able to talk with them and get some feedback. -Fleury
Just because one goalie is in net, doesn’t mean the other isn’t working. While the starter is making saves on the ice his partner is analyzing and watching the play develop from the bench. When there are breakdowns, perhaps the backup can offer insight that will fix problems later in a game.
I loved getting every bit of information I could have. I’d want it from my goalie partner, from my goalie coach. I wanted feedback just like all of the other players get. I didn’t always want to do it myself because I thought group-thinking is the best way to accomplish team goals. -McKenna
Sure, sometimes it may look like a backup goaltender is focused more on the crowd or the big screen instead of on a game but in reality, it’s the opposite. They’re an additional pair of eyes that watch the game differently, potentially helping his partner, coach, and team.
Just make sure the starter wants the advice first.