Setting Up The Play: Henrik Karlsson, Unfortunate Giant



I am going to say this, and you will probably laugh at me for it:

The reason Henrik Karlsson struggles as a goaltender is because he’s so tall.

I realize that sounds absolutely insane, but I’m convinced that his size paired with his goaltending style (butterfly) put quite a hamper on his goaltending ability – to the point where he probably won’t be with the team next year.

The two biggest issues Karlsson has are protecting the top cheds and limiting rebounds. The guy can make some highlight-reel saves, but I’m convinced that that’s merely a function of his athletic ability since most of the time he’s out of position. How many times have you seen Karlsson in a game standing straight up when the action is near him? I’m going to bet it’s not a lot.

The Butterfly Effect

The temptation for butterfly goalies to stay in the butterfly position is quite strong – most goals are scored when the puck is on the ice or just barely off the ice. Obviously, when a goaltender is in the butterfly, his pads are covering that “on-the-ice-and-right-above-the-ice” area pretty well. However, that also means you’re not going to be able to control rebounds as well. In the words of one goaltender that I talked to, when a puck bounces off the pad of a goalie in the butterfly “you’re pretty much boned.”

What makes Karlsson different from other goalies is that his height – or rather, his leg length – is enough to pretty much fully cover the entire bottom of the net. He knows that, and to me it’s apparent that his play is basically dictated by that fact. That means his rebound control takes a big hit, which creates problems for him and the rest of the team. The length of his torso has a lot to do with it as well – a net is only 4 feet tall. When you’re 6’5 and you’re covering 80% of the net as it is in a butterfly position, it’s not terribly tempting to change your positioning.

Of course, being on your knees the entire game creates problems with the top half of the net. Karlsson hasn’t been able to demonstrate that he has the reflexes necessary to cover that part, though. As we’ve discussed, the top half of the net is really the only place that you can score on him when he’s in the butterfly. Most of the shots that come towards Karlsson are shots that are going to be above ice level – and you can connect the dots from there.

So, am I crazy? Leave your opinions in the comments.

  • loudogYYC

    I really don’t agree just on the fact that there are so many tall goalies out there that have found a way to cover the bottom and still stop other pucks coming their way. Heck, one of em got traded today.

    I think the difference between Karlsson and Burke/Luongo/Rinne/Lindback is technique, and their ability to stick to technique. Karlssons not so icy veins always get him in trouble. That and he seems to give up on the puck too soon.

  • Hank’s a weird one.

    On one hand, he should be better than he is. He’s got the pro experience and he’s got the size to be an NHL-level goalie.

    On the other hand, he’s always fired up, but that verges on downright nervous. His teammates seem shaky around him because they’re worried about rebounds. It was like night and day seeing how the players reacted when Leland Irving was between the pipes compared with Karlsson.


  • everton fc

    He’s simply not NHL-caliber. Irving may be.

    I’d take Taylor over Karlsson in Abby, as well. Same reason: he, and Irving, never seem to get rattled emotionally.

    We need to cut Karlsson loose…

  • Stockley

    I seriously doubt Karlsson will be with the Flames next year. I imagine there’s an above average chance he is loaned to a European team which allows him to become UFA in the summer of 2013. They need a backup the team feel comfortable playing in front of. They’re too jittery with Hank in net, as if they’re just waiting for the other shoe to fall. I’m really curious to see what the Flames have in Ramo. Success in the KHL and/or Europe does not always equate success in the NHL but he’s paid his dues.

  • RexLibris

    Dubnyk was interviewed a while ago about the same thing. That his height carried with it a disadvantage in that the size of his body meant that it took fractionally longer for those limbs to get to their destination.

    He credited Fred Chabot (Oilers goalie coach) with helping him adjust his butterfly style so that he could use his height to its natural advantage but also compensate for its disadvantages.

    Reading over this, it sounds like Karlsson lack actual goaltending talent and has made it this far on physical attributes rather than abiltity.

    Is this an example of the difficulty in breaking down what makes a good goaltender?

  • RexLibris

    I think the article and your guys comments are half right, I am a Flames season ticket holder the past 12 years so I have watched all the backup goalies closely since I play play goal myself.

    I don’t think the team gets “jittery” with him in net, it just comes down to Hank not providing the team with the big saves along with stopping the basic scoring chances on a consistent basis to lift the team and provide confidence. Hanks inconsistent performances reduces the teams chances of winning as compared to Kipper, so of course the team acts differently as they know the game could be slipping away, or they have to play even harder or protect Hank to get the win. The big difference between Hank and Kipper (putting technique aside) is fight for the puck from crossing the line, reading the play, and leadership on the ice aka: win the game for the team just like if Iggy gets a hat trick. Hank does not provide this type of play game after game, or even for 3 periods in a row.

    We haven’t had a back up goalie that can play at this level, the only guy I remember having that “fight” was actually Freddy Brathwaite (hence how else can a 5’7″ goalie get so many wins). Turek would be a good example to compare with Hank, but Turek learned to utilize his size better to provide a more consistent game, thus more wins. The day we get a goalie that has that fight and winning leadership in the pipes is the day we forget about Kipper, which could be a long time coming, as this type of pedigree is not found in every goalie drafted.

    This is why I always shake my head when people say “Trade Kipper, he is declining, he is getting too old” I say sign him for another 3 years and use him until his days are done as you won’t find that type of goalie again for the next 10 years, as the last winning goalie we had was Vernon, and how long ago was that! One day hopefully we will draft or trade for the next Kipper, Hank will never be Kipper so the team is better off giving the next guy a chance, they have nothing to lose as all our previous backups have basically lost anyways.

    Just my 2 cents

  • BobB


    First, Height has nothing to do with rebound control. You either control rebounds well, or you don’t.

    Technique has to do with rebound control. That’s why goalies practice controlling and directing rebounds.

    Why would height influence that? A shot 8 inches off the ice is still 8 inches off the ice whether you’re 4’0″ or 6’8″. You still have to save it or it’s a goal against, and if it’s 8 inches off the ice, 99% of the time you’re saving it with a pad.

    Also, this: “when a puck bounces off the pad of a goalie in the butterfly “you’re pretty much boned.” is totally untrue.

    Pucks always bounce off pads (they don’t go inside pads or stick to pads), but HOW they bounce off pads is the distinction between an AHL goalie and an NHL goalie. That’s technique, not size.

    Also, unfortunately, very large goalies can “play” small. Think Trevor Kidd. Think Henrik Karlsson. Karlsson lacks ability tracking the puck. He’s moving out of the way of shots. There is no reason for him to butterfly on a high shot he can see…. none. He should stand there and catch it. But he drops early, everytime. That’s tracking. That’s what he needs to work on. When you throw a ball glove high at a baseball player, does he drop to his knees to catch it?

    If you have sound technique and size you’ll be a very good goalie.

    If you have poor technique and size, you’ll be Henrik Karlsson or Jonas Gustavsson…. or Trevor Kidd.