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The Edge Goes To Vokoun

Thursday, 02.7.2008 / 3:29 PM ET / Features
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The Edge Goes To Vokoun
Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun. (Getty Images)
By Adam Schwartz for nhl.com

Here is a hockey fact you might not have thought about. Only seven NHL goalies catch with their right hand.

To Tomas Vokoun, one of the lefties, the difference gives him an edge, a slight one to be sure, but an edge nonetheless. And we all know how goalies love those advantages, however small.

“It's a little bit easier for me to stop left-handed shots and most of the players in the NHL have left-handed shots,” said Vokoun, the Florida Panthers’ top goalie. “Although, I don't think it's a significant advantage. I don’t think a goalie that catches with his right hand has a significant advantage.”

Right-handed catching goalies do have more trouble with players that have right-handed shots because that leaves their stick side susceptible to a shot from the player’s strong side.

"Righties are a little bit tougher for me because a goalie's natural weak side is his blocker or his stick side and that is what the righties are facing against me,” Vokoun said. “It's tougher to make a save on the stick side, but fortunately, most of the players in the NHL are left-handed (shots), even though there are more and more right-handed shots in the League.”

Confusion plays a part in all this. When a player is shooting against a right-handed catching goalie, the sight appears backwards to them, sparking that sliver of hesitation.
"It's a total flip for what you're used to seeing,” said New Jersey Devils winger Jamie Langenbrunner, a right-handed shot who scored 23 goals last season. “It changes what angles you are coming from and what your eyes see."

Players try to prepare for the change as best as they can.

”You make a note of it (facing a right-catching goalie) so you know what you're looking at when you take the shot,” Langenbrunner said. “But a lot of times things happen so quickly in a game you are picking certain spots to shoot at as far as what you don't see with the goalie as opposed to what you do see.”

Here is another interesting fact. Vokoun and fellow right-handed catching netminder Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders made up two-thirds of the Eastern Conference goaltending corps at the 2008 NHL All-Star Game.

While opposition shooters notice a difference with a right-handed catching goalie, the goalie’s best friend -- other than the goal post -- their defensemen don’t notice much of a difference.

“I didn’t have to adjust my play this year with Vokoun in net,” Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen said. “To be honest, I didn’t even really notice that he was opposite.”

"I don’t think a goalie that catches with his right hand has a significant advantage." 

Vokoun agrees with Allen, who didn’t even notice what hand the goalie caught with.

"There wasn't much of an adjustment with the defensemen,” Vokoun said. “Before the season, we played exhibition games and guys get used to it. I don't think there's a big adjustment period just because a guy holds his stick in a different hand.”

While some teammates may not notice the difference, it affected Vokoun when he was growing up in the Czech Republic trying to obtain left-handed equipment.

"I used to have trouble getting equipment when I was really young in the Czech Republic,” Vokoun said. “Everything had to be custom made back then because there were almost no goalies that caught with their right hand. Since everything was custom made, it was really expensive for my parents to get me equipment.”

With over 400 NHL regular-season games on his resume, Vokoun has noticed that his advantage is dissipating over time as the League’s better shooters will score regardless of what hand a goalie catches with.

“More and more guys in the League have right-handed shots,” Vokoun said. “So, whatever advantage I had is becoming less. If there is a good, smart player he knows where to shoot regardless of what hand you catch with.”




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

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