Cam Talbot erased any lingering questions about his ability to be a No. 1 goaltender with a workhorse season for the Edmonton Oilers, setting an Oilers record with 42 wins, and finishing with a .919 save percentage in an NHL-high 73 starts. Martin Jones did the same thing last season for the San Jose Sharks, helping them reach the Stanley Cup Final, and he backed that up with another solid season in 2016-17. Jones was third behind Talbot with 65 starts, but the likenesses don't end there for two goalies with a similarly balanced technical style.
Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers
Talbot plays a controlled game, staying in touch with the edges of his crease and beating plays on his skates with efficient inside-out movements that prioritize angle before adding depth. With good size at 6-foot-3 and active hands he doesn't overuse by reaching; Talbot doesn't open up, forcing shooters to beat him with good shots around the edges of the net.
Five-hole open?: If there's one exception, it's between the legs, where Talbot gave up 26 goals this season. Some of that can be tied to a bit of an upright stance and narrow butterfly but it's also a function of the lateral scoring chances that force him to get across the crease, which opens up goalies as they move. Seventy-one of his 171 goals (41.5 percent) came on plays across the slot line, an imaginary line splitting the zone below the top of the faceoff circles, and 81 of his goals (47.4 percent) were one-timers that didn't let him set after a lateral play.
Low-high and quick shots: Talbot was beaten 36 times on low-high plays, or passes from below the goal line. While there is sometimes a slight delay moving off the post when he places his pad inside it, this high number is mostly due to defensive coverage issues, especially early in the season. Of the 36 low-high goals, 29 involved one-time shots, 13 also went across the slot line, and eight had a same-side lateral element, all plays that make it tough for the goaltender to gain any depth or often even rotate into angle because they start on the goal line.
On the ice blocker side? Don't make too much of that high total near Talbot's right skate. Of those 22 goals, 15 involved a play across the slot line, and 12 of those were one-touches on the other end of a pass, indicative of a backdoor tap-in. That's not easy to do against Talbot and even when you create a great chance like that, it's still important to elevate the puck because Talbot's conservative positioning and efficient movements mean he's going to at least cover the bottom with his pads more often than not, even on quick lateral plays and shots.
Work for rebounds: Of the 43 rebound goals Talbot gave up, only seven came off clean shots, so the Sharks are going to have to work for second chances by creating tougher first ones.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
Jones style and positioning match the calm demeanor he's praised for. Like Talbot, he plays a patient, controlled game, wandering only slightly past the top of his crease on rush chances but usually staying inside the blue ice and challenging only when he reads a clean chance.
Sharp angles: Jones uses a variety of post-integration techniques depending on the type of attack and its proximity to the goal line, hasn't traditionally lingered in any of them too long, and only got beat twice from during his run to the Cup Final. But he gave up 11 goals from near or below the goal line this season, and 33 goals on low-high plays, so it will be interesting to see if the Oilers try to attack.
Under the arms: Jones showed terrific hands in this past playoffs but relies more on positioning and good defense that forces opponents to make perfect shots under pressure. So, while some may be drawn to the 26 high-glove goals, which included 13 on clean chances where he had time to get set and could see the shot, the more surprising number was the 10 goals that went under each arm. Many of those were included in the 33 screen and 39 deflection goals, reinforcing the notion it often takes a great shot to beat Jones clean so you better take away his sight lines because he rarely opens up except to look over or around screens.
Left to right: Most goalies have one direction that they move better in. For most, including Jones, it's to the glove side. His movement to the blocker lacked the same early rotation to the post in last year's playoff run, which creates flat pushes parallel to the goal line and sometimes left him chasing plays past his right post and stranded outside his crease. His numbers are balanced between left and right this season, though 4.7 percent of the goals from outside the home plate area came from his blocker side compared to 2.7 percent on the glove but watch to see if the Oilers don't try attack in this direction, particularly on their power play.
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