Eddie Belfour, the two time Vezina trophy winner, would be an excellent role model for young Juuse Saros as he improves with the Nashville Predators.
First, I’d like to say that Juuse Saros has been impressive. The Nashville Predators, who have a history of finding top goaltender talent, picked a hard-working and intelligent player. The only thing is, his role model just can’t teach him the style that he needs to play.
Juuse Saros has won four games this season in ten starts. Not bad. The thing is, his potential is through the roof. Perhaps he should take a look at some tapes from when he was a toddler to see a goaltender whose methods would make Saros great.
The Life & Times of Ed Belfour
Let’s begin with a quick history about Eddie Belfour for all you young or newer hockey fans. Belfour, a 5’11 Carman, Manitoba native, came to national prominence when he helped the University of North Dakota win a NCAA National Championship in 1987. His aggressive and acrobatic style of play, coupled with his face mask, led to his nickname: The Eagle.
Eddie The Eagle, despite winning a national title, went undrafted in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. However, Chicago took a chance on the young goaltender and signed him to an entry deal that summer. After playing some games as a backup Chicago in 1988-89, Belfour got his first chance as a starter.
The 1990-91 season was, by many opinions, one of the best rookie seasons by a starting goaltender. Belfour won 43 games and ended with a .910 Save Percentage and 2.47 Goals Against Average. He won the Calder Trophy that season as the NHL’s best rookie and also won the William M. Jennings trophy for fewest goals against. Oh, and to top it all off, he won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. An unbelievable start to a career.
After playing for the San Jose Sharks, Belfour arrived in Dallas. He would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999. His play against his former backup goalie Dominik Hasek would go down in history as the stuff of legends.
Belfour’s style was quite distinct. For a smaller goaltender, he did not allow many open corners. He aggressively moved post to post and took away angles superbly. While not quite as dynamic as Hasek, Belfour made his fair share of incredible saves (Click Here to watch a tribute the NHL did on Belfour. It has some good video of the Eagle).
What Saros Can Learn
Juuse Saros is a 5’11 goaltender trying to emulate a 6’5 goaltender. It’s not his fault that the best goaltender in Nashville Predators history (and a fellow Fin) makes you want to play like him. But Pekka’s butterfly style just doesn’t suit Saros.
Take a look at the following pictures:
The butterfly style teaches goaltenders to cover the post as you see above. Take a look at the amount of room Saros has above his shoulder. Now look at the amount of room Rinne has above his shoulder. There is a big difference.
Rinne’s flexible, butterfly style is the choice of most NHL goaltenders today. We have also seen a decrease in the amount of NHL goaltenders less than six feet tall. Coincidence?
Saros tries to play a style that really only works for big goalies (6’2 and up). Perhaps he should be playing more of a stand-up style similar to Ed Belfour. Ed would only go down if the shot required he be on the ground. He had such quick reflexes that he could respond to those quickly. That way, the top shelf was protected. Juuse Saros has those reflexes.
He could also learn from Belfour’s ability to cut down the angle and situate more to the top of the crease. Saros tends to shrink back a little bit and that allows for top-shelf shots. Playing more aggressive could help the smaller goaltender cut down angles.
Overall, Juuse is progressing very quickly and many fans are content with his progress. But taking some of these ideas and working them into what he excels in will ensure he is ready sooner rather than later. Let’s not kid ourselves. Pekka Rinne can’t be himself forever. The Nashville Predators need a solid netminder as the young group continues to be one of the best. Why not Saros?