When the New York Rangers’ Erik Christensen fired a laser of a short-side, short-angle shot over Michal Neuvirth’s left shoulder shot at 14:30 of the second period, many Caps fans and members of the media immediately jumped on the ‘he should have stopped that’ bandwagon. But how hard is it to stop that shot? Or, more importantly, how hard is it to make that shot?
When Christensen first receives the puck, he along the boards near the bottom of the near faceoff dot. With one Ranger directly in front of the net and another bearing through the slot from the point, Neuvirth must be concerned with the possibilities of either a redirection in front or a one-timer from the faceoff circle-area. Neuvirth is in a slightly stooped position with his left leg bent, ready to explode laterally to his right in case either occurs. With the Caps in the middle of a penalty kill, Neuvy gave up a small opening in favor of giving himself the ability to stop a higher-percentage shot. NHL goaltenders make these decisions every game: “If you can hit that spot, you deserve to score.”
Unfortunately, Christensen did. And how.
From the spot where the puck is released, just above the bottom of the near faceoff circle approximately 14 degrees from the goal line, the shot must rise just under four feet at a distance of nearly 29 feet. It must miss Neuvy’s left shoulder and glove, which are slightly forward of the post thus sharpening the angle even more. The shot must also miss both the post to its right and the crossbar above it. Essentially, the puck needs to be fit into a hole just larger than its own profile. Oh yeah, while moving and with NHL players all around you.
No pressure or anything.
So yes. Michal Neuvirth probably should have remembered that in the NHL, players can actually make that shot. But just ask snipers like Alexander Semin (actually, you should probably just ask the crossbar) how hard it is to see a hole that small, much less put the puck there. The odds were in Neuvy’s favor and he took them.
It was a great shot. Period.