New Jersey Devils: Analysis Of Cory Schneider This Year Versus Last

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 22: Cory Schneider
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 22: Cory Schneider /

I spent some time over the past few weeks paying special attention to the play of Devils netminder Cory Schneider. I also watched tape of his play through his first 18 games of this season versus his first 17 games of last season and reviewed the split stats. Several things stand out both in his stats and overall play.

Although Schneider’s save percentage numbers and win/loss record are almost identical. His save percentage was .917 last year versus .918 this year, and wins and losses are 8-6-3 last year and 9-5-3 this year. The stats truly do not tell the tale of how much he has improved his overall play.

While Schneids has always been in the upper echelon of goaltenders in the league, last year was not the standard for his overall body of work. If you look at the splits, his play severely dipped as the season went on. When I went back and looked at tape of some of the games, I took a sampling of highlights from a few games per month. Over the course of the 2016-17 season, I saw some very stark technical flaws. Namely, playing too far back in the net, dropping to the butterfly too early and leaving lots of juicy rebounds in front of his net.

As a former goalie, coach, and scout, I speak from experience when I tell you that when a goalie is “on” he is playing his position aggressively. Let me explain, goaltending itself is by and large a position that is best played by anticipating angles (think geometry) and by using your agility to move side to side. A good goalie knows where he is in his crease by instinct, the same way you would be able to find the kitchen in your house in the dark. Some goalies, like myself admittedly may “cheat” a bit, by using their glove hand to feel for the post. However, the truly great ones (which I clearly was not) are able to know their positioning without even thinking about it.

What I observed in comparing Schneider’s play this year versus last year is his aggressiveness in challenging shooters and his limiting long rebounds. Clearly, his confidence in his defense appears to be stronger so far this year.

Interestingly, I noticed that he appears to be coming out to challenge shooters more than he did last year. Combine that with better overall play of the angles, he is clearly playing at a higher level.

Several games this season stand out to me. While clearly he was dominant in the two games against Vancouver, there were several games where he allowed more than two goals, but still managed to either lead the Devils to victory or managed to keep them in the game, despite them being horribly outplayed.

I will start with the most recent games, a 3-2 loss to Florida, which should not have been nearly as close as it was. Schneider faced 38 shots, stopping 35 of them. At one point in the game, Florida had a 30-9 advantage in shots, yet somehow the Devils were only trailing by a goal. I watched the game, but because of some of the incredible saves I saw from Schneider, I had to go back and look at the tape.

Being a goalie aficionado, I was in absolute awe of some the shots he stopped. No matter a screen or a deflection, Schneider’s anticipation and uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time kept the Devils in the game. It is games like this that differentiate an average goalie, versus a goalie who can single handedly effect the outcome of a game.

We can actually contrast Schneider’s performance in Newark in a loss to Florida against a win in Ottawa over the Senators, 5-4 in OT. Schneider faced 24 shots, stopping 20, yet the Devils still managed to win despite a subpar performance from their goaltender. In going back to watch tape of that game, I noticed that he reverted to some of his bad habits. On Ottawa’s first goal, Schneider drops early to the butterfly position, thereby putting himself at a disadvantage from seeing the puck clearly. The result is a goal that goes through the pads, a shot Schneider clearly did not see.

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If you look closely at the goals that Schneider allows you will see a pattern. He tends to drop into the butterfly too early, which puts him at a disadvantage two ways.

  1. He gives the shooter a much larger portion of the net to shoot at.
  2. He limits his sightlines and ability to anticipate.

Overall, I have noticed an increase in stand up play by Schneider and a tendency to not drop to the butterfly as quickly. While comparing last year’s stats to this year’s stats, there is very little difference. If you look at Schneider’s overall body of work, he has elevated his play to, once again, elite status. As I mentioned earlier, his play dropped off last year as the season went on. However, I am confident that because he is technically and fundamentally more sound. He will continue to play at an elite level, perhaps leading the Devils to a playoff spot.