Heading into March, it looked like Cory Schneider was the #1 goaltender for the New Jersey Devils without question. By the end, it was like the first half of the season all over again as he started six games out of seven appearances in a busy month. The Devils were still fighting for fading playoff hopes at the time. So why was Schneider shunted? Simply, Schneider got lit up.
Schneider posted up a heinous 86.5% save percentage across his seven appearances in March. That's not a typo. That's not the result of going to a time machine back to the 1970s or 1980s where. Schneider was beaten a lot - and early in March. On March 2, Schneider conceded four goals out of 22 shots by San Jose. Less than a week later, the Red Wings tallied seven past #35. A week later, Schneider got back onto the ice and conceded four goals at Florida, who only put 21 shots on net. It's a results-oriented business and those are the kinds of games that sends goaltenders to the bench - especially when the other guy wasn't getting beaten as much. Later in the month, Schneider did better, but the damage from those three games could not be undone.
We know now that Schneider was the superior goaltender throughout the season and so those three games were just that: three games. But I can't say I don't fully understand the decision to cut his usage after successfully leaning on him for several weeks. I can say we can look at the 21 goals Schneider gave up in those seven appearances to see what happened. Was Schneider particularly awful? Was it just bad breaks and bad play by the skaters? Were they just games where the opposition just found the perfect spot a few more times than we would have liked? Let's review them all and find out.
About the Review
For those of you who are unaware of what I'm doing, this is part of my annual month-by-month review of the goals against each Devils goaltender in each game - no shootouts - they played in.
I am focusing on identifying the "soft goals." Those goals against that should have been stopped by the goaltender. Here's how I am defining a soft goal: The goalie must have seen the shot coming; the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion; the goalie was in position to actually make the stop; and/or the goaltender made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal. If the goal allowed qualifies, then I deemed the goal as "soft." In fact, the very last trait alone can make the difference in what is and is not a soft goal. Breakaways are done on a case-by-case basis; there I usually look to see whether the goalie has at least made an effort.
In addition to that, I look for other events on the goal allowed. I identify where Schneider was beaten on the goal, relative to Schneider's location. I note the game situation: even strength, power play, and shorthanded. I record whether the goal-scoring shot was a scoring chance. Any shot - not a deflection - from the crease out to the dots up to the top of the circles counts as a chance; anything outside of that does not. If I'm not certain, I will go against calling it a chance. Lastly, I denote any particular skater errors by a Devil on the goal allowed. I assign a skater error by name under "Errors" if the player did something significantly wrong that led to the goal such as a turnover or not covering their man. It's arguable that all goals allowed have an error or some kind; these are for the egregious mistakes that are made. I'm going to be more strict in calling them out. It also doesn't absolve the goaltender for a soft goal against.
Lastly, I have provided links to the video I looked at for each goal from NHL.com. This way if you want to see these for yourself and come to your own conclusion, then you can. These links will auto-play the video, so be forewarned when you click on them.
The 21 Goals Against Cory Schneider in March 2014
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?||Sit.|
|3/2||62||Past the left side||Schneider stops a deflected shot from Demers; Couture cleans up rebound past a still-reacting Schneider||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/2||63||Under the diving glove||Greene turnover leads to Torres getting puck in a 2-on-1 in the NZ. One pass, two pass, easy finish for Torres on the flank.||No||Link||
|3/2||64||Above the blocker||3-on-2 rush yields Pavelski passing it to his right to Nieto. Nieto unloads a one-timer that beats Schneider blocker-side.||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/2||65||Between glove and body||Gelinas tosses puck back from boards in own end. Marleau takes it, drives in, and beats Schneider to his left.||Yes||Link||Gelinas||Yes||ES|
|3/7||66||Past the right shoulder||Franzen curls in the left corner, finds Red Wings joining attack from bench. He sets up Smith, who hammers a slapshot through a triple-screen.||No||Link||Jagr||No||ES|
|3/7||67||Over the left shoulder||Legwand drops it to a skating Nyquist at the right point. Nyquist fires and Franzen deflects it up and over Schneider in front.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/7||68||Over the left shoulder||Bertuzzi goes down right wall, passes it back to Franzen in high slot. One-timer goes past Elias and Schneider's left shoulder.||No||Link||Elias||Yes||PP|
|3/7||69||Through the legs||3-on-2 rush, Nyquist gains zone, cuts across from right to middle (between Zajac and Jagr) to draw traffic. Fired one that found it's way 5-hole.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/7||70||Above the glove||Gelinas gets torched by Sheahan. Sheahan throws it back diagonally to Quincey, who slams a one-timer to the top corner.||No||Link||Gelinas||Yes||ES|
|3/7||71||Around the stick of the fallen goalie||Ryder turns Zidlicky's pass in DZ to Legwand. Puck bounces to Franzen for a hard shot. Legwand collects rebound and goes around fallen Schneider.||No||Link||
|3/7||72||Above the blocker||Schneider stops a shot shortly after a faceoff. Miller beats Zidlicky to rebound and lifts it past Schneider shortside.||No||Link||Zidlicky||Yes||ES|
|3/14||73||Above the stacked pads||Elias turns it over to Hayes, who skates into slot for a shot. Huberdeau jams, Campbell jumps up and raises the puck over the goalie.||No||Link||Elias||Yes||ES|
|3/14||74||On the goalie's right flank||Gomez takes into the zone and takes a low shot. Schneider stops it, Gomez gets rebound, and throws it to Howden in slot. Howden one-times it in on Schneider's right flank.||No||Link||Ryder||Yes||ES|
|3/14||75||Through the legs||Fayne unwisely moves puck up middle of ice. Boyes intercepts it, skates in, and slides one that trickles through Schneider's legs.||Yes||Link||Fayne||Yes||ES|
|3/14||76||Through the legs||Boyes gets puck up boards to Upshall. Upshall skates closer to dot, fires a low shot, goes right through the legs||Yes||Link||Merrill||Yes||ES|
|3/20||77||Over the glove, past the shoulder||Suter fired a shot from the center point. Parise deflected it in front to have puck suddenly get up and over the glove.||No||Link||--||No||PP|
|3/20||78||Between the glove arm and body||Granlund recovers puck in right corner, fires a shot from just above the goalline. Sneaks through Schneider's left||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/20||79||Past the right side||Scandella gets puck in stride and hammers a low shot. Cooke deflects it up and to the left in slot.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/23||80||On the goalie's right flank||Reilly fires from the left point towards the right side of the slot. Bozak gets on it and re-directs it up past Schneider||No||Link||--||No||PP|
|3/23||81||Through the legs||Zidlicky stepped up to try and deny long pass and missed. It goes to Kessel, who charges in and beats Schneider close before crashing into the net.||Yes||Link||Zidlicky||Yes||56|
|3/29||82||Past the left skate||Nielsen heads to net but loses puck due to Elias backchecking. Harrold sweeps at puck, puck goes off Elias' leg, and past Schneider's left skate.||No||Link||Harrold||No||ES|
As usual, the location isn't listed in the first chart. So here's the summary of where Schneider was beaten on the goals against. Locations are relative to Schneider himself. The shots came in high, especially over his glove and left shoulder.
I'm not surprised that Schneider gave up more soft goals in March, the same month where he gave up the most goals by month all season. I am surprised that I didn't find anything from that 3/7 game in Detroit. That's the one where Schneider was beaten seven times. I saw plenty of errors. Jaromir Jagr making the turnover in the neutral zone and not being aware of what was going on behind him helped GA #66 happen. Patrik Elias, normally a solid defensive forward as one can ask for, standing in the slot like a deer in front of Johan Franzen's headlights was bad prior to GA #68. Eric Gelinas got torched on GA #70; Marek Zidlicky had an error each on GAs #71 (bad pass to Michael Ryder, who conceded the puck) and #72 (getting beaten). The goals against themselves were, in order: a shot through a triple-screen, a deflection in front, a shot from the high slot past a screen, a shot through traffic that got through (GA #69 was the closest to soft but not quite), a one-timer in the slot, and two goals off rebounds. That's not abhorrent goaltending. It's akin to what the Devils did to St. Louis in January - it all went right for Detroit and the Devils "helped" them. So, no, I didn't count anything from that 7-GA performance as soft.
I did count two each from the other two bad games early in March. Both third period goals against Schneider on 3/2 against San Jose were pretty bad. I normally don't count one-timers against goalies, but GA #64 was different. Schneider was able to read the play to know the shot was coming from Matt Nieto. There was no screen. Nieto wasn't even in the scoring chance area, he was a good distance away. Five feet or so closer, I wouldn't have counted it. But considering all those factors, I did. While Gelinas' turnover created GA #65, it was another case of Schneider in a one-on-one situation and not making it difficult for the shooter. I sympathize with Schneider on that one given how it happened but it was rough seeing Patrick Marleau beating him straight up.
That type of goal against happened again on 3/14. What's worse than giving up two soft goals in a 4-2 loss in the third period? Doing it a game where the Devils led 3-0 initially. GA #75 features arguably the worst skater error I've reviewed this season: Mark Fayne's give away in his own end of the rink. It's a perfect example to show any budding player or any fan why one should not clear the defensive zone by throwing the puck up the middle. The puck went right to Brad Boyes, who proceeded to freeze Schneider for a game-tying goal. GA #76 was a bit tricky. It featured Jon Merrill leaving his spot unnecessarily, which helped Scottie Upshall get to where he got for a goal through the legs. Even in the NHL.com recap, Schneider admitted it was a bad goal. He was right.
Between the three games, where Schneider gave up 15 out of 21 goals all month, it was the 3/2 and 3/14 that were the real stinkers. He gave up two soft goals in each; four out of a combined eight. That's pretty bad. The one in the middle, well, that was just an errant game in general by the eighteen guys playing in front of him.
Again, the month would get better for Schneider: six goals allowed in four more appearances and only two soft ones. GA #78 was a particularly ugly one. Schneider gave up a weird, sharp-angled shot from Mikael Granlund, who was right along the goal line. It was just a tiny hole in Schneider's form, somehow Grandlund found it perfectly. That was a bad one. The other two from March 20 weren't so bad; each were deflections (and GA #79 was an annoying equalizer). Improvement would come with only three goals allowed after that one. Of those three, GA #81 was another Phil Kessel-charging-through-like-the-angriest-of-bulls-breakaway where Zidlicky got torched and Schneider just got beaten easily five-hole. It was soft when GA #17 happened in November, it was soft again in March. Fortunately, it was a 5-on-6 goal that wasn't a wall-punch-inducing equalizer. The other two were re-directions, one intentional (GA #80) and one not (GA #82, a good example of a fluke).
Here are some results of other findings from this month's review. 13 of the 21 goals allowed came from that scoring chance area. It would have been higher if one includes deflections, but I don't so close to two-thirds of all goals allowed came from that zone. Over a third of the goals allowed went in high, just under a third were high and to Schneider's left. That part of the net was just for the taking on some plays, others was just where the re-directed puck went. I think that's coincidence, though I'd love to know what the season summary shows in light of that. (That will be in two weeks, incidentally.) The majority of March's goals against were at even strength. Only four were not: the 5-on-6 goal by Kessel (GA #81) and three power play goals (GAs #68, 77, 80). Schneider's final appearance of the month featured no goals against, but he didn't get credit for the win on 3/31 as the Devils did not score the winning goal with him in net. Hence, he finished the month at 2-3-1 with 21 goals against and a 86.5% save percentage.
There was unfortunately a lot to look at from this past March. Once you've gone through it, I want to know what you think. I counted six goals that were soft, were there any others that you felt Schneider should have stopped? Would you agree that there weren't any goals Schneider should have had back from that 3/7 game at Detroit? Would you also agree that 3/2 and 3/14 were worse nights? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Schneider's March in the comments. The final month in review will be next week, followed by the summary in the following week.