Meltzer: Reverse VH, Penner and Malone Invite Rumors, Quick Hits

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REVERSE VH GROWING IN POPULARITY

Within goaltending circles, there has been a growing buzz over the last couple years about the use of technique called the post lean or reverse VH. It has only started to gain wider popularity in North America — and within the NHL — in recent years but it has been used in Europe for awhile longer, particularly in Sweden.

VH refers to the traditional vertical and horizontal positioning of a goaltender’s pads as he seals off the short-side post on sharp-angle attempts by the opposition. The “V” pad is usually up against the post and the trailing “h” pad is laid horizontally across the goal line.

In a reverse VH, the lead pad is down with the skate against the post and the goaltender’s shoulder leaning hard against the post to seal off the angle. If the goalie has to come off the post, he can push hard off the post to move the other way. Meanwhile, the trailing pad is at a 45-degree angle, with the skate ready to help push in the other direction to increase momentum to make a second save if the puck goes toward the other side of the net.

In the NHL, nothing succeeds like success. Los Angeles Kings star Jonathan Quick has been one of the North American pioneers of this technique, which is also used by his former LA teammate Jonathan Bernier (now with Toronto). A handful of other NHL goaltenders use it, too, including Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky and Dallas Stars starter Kari Lehtonen.

Naturally, when a two-time Stanley Cup winner and a former Vezina Trophy winner are among those making use of a certain “new” technique (although it’s not actually all that new in Europe), there is going to be a copycat effect at all levels of hockey. Goaltending coaches are not going to force this technique on anyone who is comfortable with the traditional method but there is ever-increasing interest in its use. In particular, the reverse VH is starting to be taught more and more in North America to young goaltenders who want to emulate Quick.

Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese said it best: It is up to each goalie to find what works for himself.

“All goalies have their own style and stop the puck their own way,” said Reese. “Perhaps you will see more young goalies trying to play like Quick.”

On Sunday, Boston Globe beat writer Fluto Shinzawa authored an in-depth article looking at the increasing use of technique in the NHL and within North America. He pointed out goalies who incorporate the reverse VH successfully give up fewer rebounds off bank shots aimed at the trail pad while also making smooth transitions to make a second save because he’s not going from an up to down position.

Ultimately, however, it comes down to a goaltender’s comfort level and what works right for him. The traditional VH still works just fine, especially for goaltenders with good recovery who are fast in moving off the post. The increasing emergence of the reverse VH presents an alternative technique for the goaltender’s toolbox, and it has obviously been used to strong effect by some of its most prominent proponents.

A save is a save. All that ultimately matters is whether the puck gets stopped and not how. The next time you are watching a game, however, one of the more interesting nuances is seeing which goalies use the reverse VH and post lean versus the ones who still prefer the traditional method.

*********** FLYERS MUM ON CAMP INVITE RUMOR

Internet rumors swirled yesterday that the Flyers have extended training camp invitations to veteran unrestricted free agent wingers Dustin Penner and Ryan Malone. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall declined to comment on the speculation, refusing to either confirm or deny that the club hopes to bring one or both of the unsigned players on a tryout basis.

Bottom line: Nothing is official at this point. It is still feasible that one or both players could be waiting on a firm contract offer from another club, similar to the one-year, $750,000 deal that Devin Setoguchi signed this weekend with the Calgary Flames. They may also have tryout invites pending from one or more other clubs. As we saw last year with Daniel Cleary, no NHL camp invite is ever “official” until the player actually shows up at the team’s training camp. Until then, there is no obligation on either side.

Although the Flyers could still use additional depth on their wings and there is a vacant spot to be won on Claude Giroux’s line, it is debatable whether either Penner or Malone would be beneficial to the team’s needs right now because of the baggage each brings.

Penner, 31, is a former 30-goal scorer (back in the 2009-10 season while a member of the Edmonton Oilers) but has struggled with conditioning and injury issues in recent years. Penner scored 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games with Anaheim last season, while playing part of the season on a line with Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf and former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. However, he struggled down the stretch after a trade to the Washington Capitals, producing just one goal and three points in 18 games.

At 6-foot-4 and 240-plus pounds, Penner is at his best when he plants himself near the net. He has always been a streaky scorer, prone to lengthy droughts as well as stretches where he scores in bunches. Given Flyers’ head coach Craig Berube strong emphasis on conditioning and skating, a player such as Penner might not suit the direction he wants his team to go.

Malone, 34, had a highly publicized arrest this spring for driving under the influence and possession of cocaine. The final season of his contract, which carried a $4.5 million cap hit, was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the past, Malone was a gritty two-way winger who brought size and physical strength to the lineups of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Lightning. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward is a six-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL. However, even apart from his off-ice issues, Malone has missed a significant amount of time with injuries in recent years. He has missed 12 or more games in each of the last six seasons.

The Flyers are an organization that is known to give second chances to troubled players and reclamation projects. On a tryout basis, the onus would be on Malone to show he’s gotten his off-ice life on track and for either Penner or Malone to show they still can contribute effectively on the ice as they have done in the past.

********** QUICK HITS

* Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds celebrates his 26th birthday today.

* Today in Flyers’ History: On this date in 1987, the Flyers made one of the most ill-fated trades in franchise history. Allowing a personal grudge and a $25,000 financial dispute to cloud his better judgement, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke traded top-pairing defenseman Brad McCrimmon to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 1989 first-round pick (later traded to Toronto along with an additional first-rounder for goaltender Ken Wregget) and a 1988 third-round pick (with which the Flyers selected goalie Dominic Roussel). The McCrimmon trade left a big hole in the Flyers’ blueline and was a contributing factor in the team’s steady demise after the 1986-87 season.

* Yesterday, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms signed 26-year-old right winger Brett Hextall to an AHL contract for the 2014-15 season. The Delaware Valley native is the son of Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.

Originally a sixth-round draft pick of the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in the 2008 NHL Draft, Brett Hextall has played the past three seasons for the Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate. He played three seasons collegiate hockey for the University of North Dakota, where he was a teammate of current Phantoms/Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde.

This past season, the feisty Hextall posted 11 goals, 12 assists, 23 points and 83 penalty minutes in 59 games played for Portland. For his AHL career to date, Hextall has scored 27 goals, 26 assists and 53 points while compiling 221 penalty minutes in 197 games. Although a bit undersized at 5-foot-10, he packs 190 solid pounds on his frame and “plays big.”

Hextall is now the ninth player and fifth forward the Phantoms have signed to a minor league contract for next season. The others forwards are Darroll Powe, Matt Hatch, Kevin Goumas and Austin Fyten (two-way AHL/ECHL contract). The club has also signed goaltenders Connor Knapp and Martin Oullete for depth as well as defensemen Steven Delisle and Brett Flemming. The rest of the Lehigh Valley roster is comprised of players on two-way NHL contracts who are property of the Flyers.

The Hextalls are a fourth generation pro hockey family. Brett’s grandfather Bryan Hextall Jr., great uncle Dennis Hextall and great grandfather Bryan Hextall Sr. all preceded Ron (the only goaltender in the clan) to the NHL. Interestingly, the late Bryan Sr. played for the AHL’s Philadelphia Ramblers in 1936-37 before embarking on his Hall of Fame NHL career as a right winger with the New York Rangers

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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