Edmonton Oilers

Stuart Skinner’s post play details and how it has affected the Oilers–Kings series

Rookie goaltender Stuart Skinner has been saddled with the tall task of backstopping a team with championship aspirations. Through four games, Skinner has largely been fine, but being a difference maker either way. However, when contrasted with Joonas Korpisalo’s strong play, particularly in Game 1 and 2, the Oilers have been on the wrong side of the goaltending battle overall.

Of the first nine goals that the Los Angeles Kings have scored in the series, four have come off of post play, where Skinner is either on, or moving in and out of the posts as part of the play. This has been one of the strong points of the Edmonton-born goalie’s game this year, so it definitely stands out as an anomaly.

Skinner’s main technique

Skinner primarily use reverse vertical horizontal (RVH) as his post set up technique of choice. RVH is the position where the pad on the post is sealed along the ice in the traditional butterfly position while the weak side leg is more vertical, with the far side skate engaged to the ice to aid in sealing the post and elevating into shots that go to the upper portions of the net.

It’s also important to note that RVH itself is not an effective save selection as it leaves too many targetable holes. In order to be effective, a goalie will still need to react to shots from this position, working more like an alternative stance than a save.

RVH was popularized in the NHL by Jonathan Quick’s usage of the technique during the 2011–12 Kings’ Cup run, but it has evolved since then, Today, there are three main variations of RVH that depend on where the skate is positioned and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Pad/shin on post RVH

Shin-on-post RVH see the goalie’s point of contact with the most come somewhere on the pad above the boot break. By having the point of contact be closer to the knee, this variation pulls the goalie closer to the post, making it easier to seal the short side without extra pressure from leaning back over the pad, which can often reduce holes on the short side. Shin-on-post RVH is also easier to move into, as the pad provides a larger target to hit the post with compared to the other alternatives.

The drawbacks to this iteration of RVH are two fold. Because the goalie is closer to the short side post, it makes far side shots more dangerous as the goalie has to react further. It also makes moving out of the post more difficult, as there’s less of a fixed point to push off for how hard the push would be and as there is no fixed point on the post, rotation to set of that angle is also a challenge. This is likely the main reason shin-on-post RVH is rarely used in the NHL today, with Tuukka Rask being the last goaltender to user it regularly.

Toe-box-on-post RVH

The toe box of the pad is the section at the bottom of the boot break where the skate is tied into the pad, as shown below.

Traditionally this tie would be a skate lace, but the lack of elasticity and flexion left goalies looking for new solutions. Some still use the skate lace but with extra slack, allowing for the skate to move somewhat independently from the pad, while others have opted for bungee or elastic options that will stretch then recoil back into position. Ultimately, the goal of these options is to provide some extra space for the toe box to hit the post within post-play, while lessening the stress on the goaltender’s joints while moving in and out of these positions.

Toe-box-on-post RVH is the most common version of RVH used today, and is Stuart Skinner’s go-to post play technique. The benefits are many when executed properly, as the fixed point of contact creates a pivot point to set angle for the next play. The skate is free to move to grab an edge for a push or the pad can be used as the leverage for said push and the end of the pad seals seamlessly with the post, reducing the likelihood of a shot bouncing in between the pad and the post.

The drawbacks for this variation include the fact that by placing the toe on the post, the goaltender’s upper body has to lean back and towards the post (as shown in the picture of Frederik Andersen below), putting extra stress on the knee, ankle, and hip.

This lean also lowers the shoulder, which makes it essential to engage the back leg to elevate into shots along with being willing to use the head to make saves. While this option seems to present the best risk-reward profile when executed properly, it is tougher to get into, particularly during rushed plays as even with opening up the toe ties, this option provides the smallest target to hit when engaging the post.

Skate-on-post RVH

The third variation of RVH sees the skate as the primary contact with the post. This variation is most commonly used when back in off rush chances when the attacker opts for a jam play and when moving from standing on the post directly into RVH.

As Sergei Bobrovsky shows in the video below, the fixed pivot point can allow for easy rotations around the post, along with clean pushes from the position. The skate is also the first potential point of contact when sliding to the post, meaning that a change of direction or seal up can first be achieved when using skate-on-post RVH compared to it’s alternatives.

However, a few of this versions drawbacks has made goalies opt for different alternatives. Due to the height of the blade holder on the bottom of the boot, a gap is created between the post and the pad where the puck can find it’s way in. This position also places the goalie’s body furthest from the post, making the lean the most extensive, often leaving holes in the top corner even when fully shifted towards the net.

Post play goals in the first three games

OT winner in Game 1

This is an extremely well executed set play by the Kings on the power play, in part due to a defensive breakdown by the Oilers penalty kill which leaves Alex Iafallo wide open in the slot. When Anze Kopitar’s pass goes down to Viktor Arvidsson, Skinner opts for toe-box-on-post RVH. In my opinion, this is the right move, as Arvidsson is above the goal line and has the option to spin and jam the short side, in which case Skinner would likely not have time to get into a butterfly from standing.

However, Skinner’s a fair late picking up the pass in the first place, meaning he’s late getting into the post, and by the time his weight has transferred into and subsequently out of the post, the puck is already in the net after the one touch pass and one timer shot. There’s nothing technically wrong with what was executed here, but rather just being late on a well drawn up play.

Goal 1 in Game 2

This goal is actually an example of some of the big benefits of using RVH for the first two saves on the sequence, with an execution problem on the final shot. Phillip Danault gets the puck unmarked at the side of the net, attacking from a dead angle, making it a perfect opportunity to use RVH. Skinner slides to the middle from his toe-box-on-post position, making the first and second saves with his pad.

He ends up with his skate on the post on his glove side well before the third attempt, so Skinner would have time to reset here. Adjusting his contact point with the post is asking to get beat on the short side with the proximity to the puck, but Skinner does have time to re-engage his blocker side leg to move his upper body towards the post and seal off that side rather than reaching with his glove, which results in the puck going in off the underside of the trapper.

Goal 2 in Game 2

Neutral zone turnover aside, this is the weakest goal Skinner has given up in the series to this point. Gabriel Vilardi looks like he has the angle to cut to the middle on Vincent Desharnais, but instead opts to drive below the goal line. Skinner’s initial move to react to the fake cut to the middle ends up with his skate on the post, which is the position he stays in as Vilardi instead drives wide. However, the attacking King is smart enough to realize there is an exploitable hole in this position, and ends up banking it off the boot of Skinner’s skate and into the net.

OT winner in Game 3

The only goal that has come off Skinner’s glove side RVH. Vilardi comes out of the scrum and looks to circle the net, so flattens out along the goal line in case he needs to beat him to the far post. However, when the puck is passed to Moore on the short side, Skinner has to square up.

One thing that is challenging about the glove side in particular is the activation of the stick. Skinner opts to have his stick leading towards the goal line to help eliminate pass options to the net front and protect against jam plays. However, this pulls his blocker across his body. As a result, when Skinner squares up to Trevor Moore, he has to reset his blocker to it’s more typical neutral position, but actually ends up extending past that point, opening the hole for the puck to go under his arm. It’s particularly unfortunate because due to the location Moore is shooting from, it looks like the actual space that the blocker covers is in the corner at this point. The Kings had maintained zone pressure throughout the entire penalty to this point despite multiple clear attempts, so fatigue during a long kill could have played a part here.


Reverse VH is a modern goaltending technique that is used by NHLers on a regular basis. There are different variations, each with their own pros and cons, but goalies should be able to use them all effectively as their usage is all situational and they may end up positions in which they are not used to.

Through the first games in their first round matchup, the Kings have scored four of their nine goals on Skinner through attacking his post play. The first goal they scored in this fashion was the overtime winner in the first game, but was more of a well executed play and defensive breakdown than a goaltender error. In Game 2, the Kings scored twice by putting Skinner in a position he does not normally play from and taking advantage of execution errors, but it ended up not mattering as the Oilers won 4–2. Game 3 ended up with another play attacking from dead angles, with Skinner’s urgency on the play and fatigue playing a part in an execution error that ended in a Kings’ win.

This shouldn’t be an issue moving forward, as tactically, post play has been one of Skinner’s strong points throughout the season. This shows up in the numbers too, with Hockey Viz’s Chart showing that Skinner was particularly good this season in tight. Provided Skinner gets back to approaching his post play the way he typically does, he should see success in this area of his game.

Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire

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