Blocking Shots: The Double-Edged Sword

The logic behind blocking a shot is simple, if the shot doesn’t get to the net, then it can’t go in. If the puck can’t go in, then the other team doesn’t score. If the other team doesn’t score, then you will win the game. It makes perfect sense, and it takes a special kind of player to recklessly give up his body for the sake of the team. The problem lies with the reckless abandon with that the Rangers are currently blocking shots. There is an art to shot blocking, which generally leads to less bruises, breaks, and limps. It is an art that few have perfected.

The closer the proximity to an opponent when blocking a shot, the better off the defender is (generally). It allows the defender to cut off the angle of the shot significantly, and more importantly, can block the shot standing up. These shots generally go off shin pads and thigh pads. There is an occasional cup shot (insert cringe here; those things hurt no matter how much protection you have), but it’s not going to result in a broken bone and weeks of sitting in the press box. The further back a defender is, the more likely the block hits above these "safer" areas (Note: the cup is never a safe place to block a shot). This is simply because to effectively block a shot from further away, more surface area needs to be exposed to ensure a piece of the puck hits you. The more surface area exposed, the more likely a shot hits an less-protected part of the body. It’s Geometry 101. It’s why old school goalies challenged shooters by moving out of the net, cutting off the angle and giving the shooter less to shoot at. The same theory applies to shot blocking. Using your hand to block a shot is, well, dumb.

There comes a point in time when players realize that the only way to block a shot is to crouch, turn sideways, and pray to whoever they pray to that it doesn’t catch them in the face. When that point is reached, does it do the team any harm to let the shot go through? The Rangers have a top-three goalie in the league who is fully capable of stopping a slap shot from the point. At what point does blocking shots actually detract from a players value? I lost count of how many times I’ve seen Dan Girardi get up slowly or limp to the bench, ditto Marc Staal. Ryan Callahan is out with a broken hand this season, and Chris Drury broke his hand in preseason blocking a shot. Brandon Dubinsky missed time last season when he blocked a Jay Bouwmeester shot with his hand. Most recently, Ruslan Fedotenko gave the Rangers a scare when he blocked a shot with his hand.

I’m not saying that the Rangers should run and hide every time someone winds up to shoot. I’m saying that there comes a point where allowing Lundqvist to make the save is the better option to blocking a shot with your hands, ribs, or face. Blocking a shot standing up protects you, your bones, and your well being. It also gives the potential for a break the other way with a proper bounce. If diving is necessary, then the old school philosophy of "lead with the stick and legs" shouldn’t be forgotten. Blocking shots is great, but blocking shots with reckless abandon hurts (literally) while helping. With the Rangers, it’s starting to have an adverse affect on their roster. Significant time has been missed by key players on the roster, which cannot continue for a team with limited depth. Maybe the Rangers need to re-evaluate when they block shots.

Of course, none of this matters if it’s Zdeno Chara taking a shot. At that point, just run away.