Down Goes Brown: Goaltender goal reaction Power Rankings

Mike Smith made a whopping 59 saves but still lost to the Blue Jackets, so naturally he wanted to take out his frustration on his stick. He decided not to.

Being a goalie is a tough life. When your team scores, you’re standing all by yourself 200 feet away from the action. When your team gives up a goal, you’re right there in the middle of it. Your entire job revolves around preventing bad things, and no matter how well you play, those bad things will happen eventually. A lot. And when they do, you’ve suddenly got 18,000 fans and who knows how many TV viewers staring at you.

It can all be pretty stressful. Which is why it’s always been vaguely fascinating to see how goalies react when they allow a goal. It’s an important decision because there’s a wide range of options available and not all of them are positive.

In an effort to help out my goaltending friends, I figured we should break this down in more detail. So here are the official power rankings of goaltender reactions, based on a rigid, scientific methodology of this is my post so I can make it up as I go along.

10. The Water Bottle Chug
A timeless classic, the water bottle chug has been the go-to move of sad goalies for decades. It’s just about the most clichéd thing a goalie can do, to the point where longtime fans barely even notice it anymore. I guess red lights just make these guys really thirsty.

While it seems like a relatively sportsmanlike gesture, at its heart, the water bottle chug is actually a solid bit of passive aggressive posturing. It’s the goalie’s way of saying “So what, you scored, who even cares. I’m more interested in my tasty beverage.”

It also has the added advantage of being just about impossible to screw up. Well, almost. Luckily, the NHL has been working on enhancing water bottle security.

Fun historical note: The Flyers were the first team to introduce water bottles on top of the net, back during the 1985 Stanley Cup Final. In response, the Oilers threatened to boycott the series, and Glen Sather suggested putting hamburgers on the nets in case the goalies got hungry.

Honorable Mention: The Puck Fish-out
Another classic. It’s 50 per cent helpful, and 50 per cent “get this stupid thing away from me.” Bonus point if the goalie wings the puck all the way down the ice, into the stands, or directly at the other team’s celebration pile.

9. The Corner Skate
Almost as common as the water bottle chug, the Corner Skate is the default move of choice for the more active goaltender. It goes something like this:

1. Skate purposefully towards a corner.

2. Arrive at corner; pivot confidently.

3. Watch the inevitable fan flip out and start two-fisting the glass because they realize they might be on TV.

4. Realize you’re not actually sure what to do next; wander around aimlessly for a few seconds like someone who just stumbled into the wrong restroom.

5. Sheepishly retreat to the net and execute the Water Bottle Chug.

By the way, the corner can be to the left or the right but it’s always in the goalie’s own end. I’d like to see a guy mix it up and start corner-skating into the other team’s zone after every goal, just to confuse people. This feels like something Dominik Hasek would have done if he’d ever given up a goal.

Honorable Mention: The Post Tap
This is another one that just about every goaltender has mastered and involves an intricate series of behind-the-back taps to his posts and crossbars. It’s the goalie’s way of informing his best friends that he forgives them, even though they’ve just utterly failed him. There’s at least a 90 per cent chance that he’s also talking to them, by the way. Hell, he probably has names for them. “Chin up, Posty. We’ll get ‘em next time, Big Red.”

The Post Tap is often executed in combination with the Water Bottle Chug. Sometimes the water comes first. Sometimes it’s the posts. Sometimes a goalie will go back and forth between the two and get caught in an endless loop that only ends when the trainer comes out and hits CTRL+ALT+DEL to reset them. Goalies are weird.

8. The Stick Smash
This one’s lots of fun but exceedingly rare, unless you’re playing a mid-90s video game, in which case it happens on every goal. In the real world, you’ll probably only get a glimpse of the Stick Smash a few times each season. It will usually follow a goal against a goaltender who was already really mad about something – a bad game, a missed call, an unlucky bounce, the realization that they’re a New York Islander, etc.

My favorite part of the Stick Smash is how it’s almost never an immediate reaction. Instead, it seems to take the goaltender a few seconds to boil over, which makes it look like they’re rationally weighing the pros and cons before deciding “Yes, yes I think it would be a good idea to show everyone my impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.”

Just be careful when trying this one, boys. That ice can be slippery.

7. The Teammate Stare-Down
This one’s always fun since the message being sent is pretty unambiguous: “That goal was your fault. Not mine. Yours.” You’ll usually see it after an otherwise harmless looking shot has been deflected by a defender’s stick, which you can then look forward to seeing replayed on a loop during every Coach’s Corner until the end of time. Bonus points if the goalie can also work in a disgusted head shake.

It’s worth pointing out that not everyone is a fan of moves like the Stick Smash and the Teammate Stare-Down. Poor sportsmanship, and all that. But hey, these are professional athletes playing at the highest level, and they’ve just failed to do their job. We should want them to be upset, right?

Honorable Mention: Quitting The Team

Hmm. OK, maybe not quite that upset.

6. Hold That Pose
The shooter winds up, the goalie sets, the puck hits the back of the net, and then… nothing. The goalie just freezes.

I’ve never been completely sure what they’re trying to communicate here. Is it disbelief? Frustration? Are they trying to demonstrate to the world that there’s no physical way that the puck could have got past them without some sort of system glitch which should result in the goal being disallowed?

I have no idea, but Hold That Pose makes me laugh every single time a goalie does it because I can’t help hearing the theme music to Police Squad.

5. Charge The Referee
I think we can all agree that hockey referees are to blame for everything that’s ever gone wrong in the world, so it’s only natural to blame them for the goal you just let in. And since everyone appreciates some constructive feedback, most goalies won’t hesitate to sprint over to the referee to let him know exactly how badly he screwed up.

Honorable Mention: Charge The Referee, Then Wipe Out And Accidentally Tackle Him

Maybe taking this one a little too far there, Cujo.

4. The Angry Toddler
This one’s related to the Charge The Referee, only without all that pesky charging. Instead, the goaltender remains seated while looking around angrily, flailing their arms and pounding the ground in hopeless frustration.

The Angry Toddler is most often seen immediately following a missed interference call, as demonstrated here by Henrik Lundqvist.

Very rarely, a goalie may be able to transition seamlessly from The Angry Toddler to the Charge The Referee. This is an extremely advanced maneuver and should only be attempted by the most experienced of crazy goaltenders.

3. The Sudden Death Sprint
In any other sport, members of the losing team are expected to hang around for a bit when the game ends, even if they were responsible for the game-ending moment. A cornerback who gets beat on a deep ball in overtime doesn’t just keep sprinting up the tunnel, Bo Jackson-style. A pitcher who gives up a walkoff home run doesn’t bolt off the mound and end up in the shower by the time the batter crosses home plate.

But NHL goalies are special snowflakes, and that means that when they give up a goal in overtime, they get to leave. Immediately. They basically scream “WELP, MY WORK HERE IS DONE” and head for the nearest exit.

These days, some of these guys have their post-overtime goal disappearance down to a science. You watch three replays of the goal at the sports bar and then realize the losing goalie is already halfway through a pint and in the seat next to you.

It wasn’t always this way. Goalies used to have to stick around a look sad with the rest of their teammates. But at some point, somebody – and I’m just going to go ahead and give the credit to Ed Belfour, because he was the master of this move – decided that once the red light went on, the goalie could just put his head down and bulldoze his way off the ice.

Extra fun: Watch all the guy’s teammates awkwardly try to get out of his way. Even the head coach will defer to an angry goalie who just lost in overtime.

Honorable Mention: Trying to Attack The Guy Who Scored

Why not, right? If he didn’t want to get punched in the head, he shouldn’t have tried to score on you.

2. The Sad Goalie Slump

One of the unwritten rules of sports is that you never show any signs of despair, no matter how hopeless the situation has become. Stay calm if you can. Get angry if you must. But never let your opponent know that they’ve hurt you, because once that happens, you’re done.

It’s a nice theory. But sometimes a goaltender just can’t keep all that pain bottled up inside, and the façade will crack for a second or two, as expertly demonstrated by Patrick Lalime during this game seven from the 2004 playoffs.

The first goal is bad, and he knows it, but he mostly keeps it together. After taking a few seconds to collect himself, he executes a quick Post Tap followed by a Corner Skate. Under the circumstances, it’s a courageous performance.

But then comes the second goal, which is even worse, and it breaks him. He tries for a Hold That Pose, but a combination of gravity and the realization of what he’s done takes him down. He falls, then slumps over, then cries out in frustration. The whole thing lasts a second or two at most, but any hockey fan knows that he’s done. Lalime finished the last few seconds of the period, then never played another shift for the Senators.

Some goalies go even further and just sprawl out, face down, a la Jonas Hiller. You can even try the more dramatic “head in hands” move, as demonstrated by Evgeni Nabokov.

Maybe the greatest Sad Goalie Slump in recent history: Ryan Miller, after Sidney Crosby’s “Golden Goal”. In fact, let’s take a few minutes to watch that one repeatedly.

1. The Despondent Goalie Slump

The Sad Goalie Slump’s more extreme cousin is reserved for only the most critical circumstances, but when you see one, you know it. Sad Goalie Slumps make you want to point and laugh. The Despondent Goalie Slump makes you want to organize an intervention.

Until recently, the classic example of the Despondent Goalie Slump was the Boston Bruins’ Gilles Gilbert reacting to Guy Lafleur’s tying goal during the infamous “Too Many Men” game in 1979. It’s a three-part move, which starts with a Matrix-style, slow-motion fall, followed by a few moments of lying flat on his back that made you think he might be dead, and then wrapped up neatly with the world’s saddest little sit-up, during which he seems to be questioning every life decision he ever made.

It’s just about perfect, and I wasn’t sure it could ever be topped. But then came Henrik Lundqvist’s reaction to the Kings’ Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime in 2014, which may give Gilbert a run for his money. I was there that night, and even in the immediate aftermath of witnessing a Cup-winning overtime goal, my most pressing thought was “I think they may have just murdered Henrik Lundqvist’s soul”.

Note the way he waves off his teammates at about the 1:40 mark because he’s not done suffering yet. Are we sure he’s OK? Do we know that the Rangers aren’t using his twin brother now? Has anyone checked the Staples Center to make sure an emaciated Lundqvist isn’t still lying in that same spot, while the L.A. Sparks use him to set up pick-and-rolls?

Poor Hank. Cheer up, good sir, there are better days to come. Many, many days, filled with many, many more goals, with many, many more people watching to see how you and all your fellow goalies will react to failing on hockey’s biggest stage. Honestly, I have no idea how you guys all deal with this job every day.
Hey, wait a second… what exactly is in those water bottles?

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