Goaltenders tend to be a territorial bunch. It's the nature of their vocation. That blue paint in front of the net is their crease and any trespassing tends not to be appreciated.
As a net-front presence, Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist usually draws the ire of many goaltenders.
Earlier this season, Arizona's Mike Smith got into it with Hornqvist after the Penguins persistent power forward he barged into Smith's personal space one-too-many times. Smith finally had enough and upward chopped Hornqvist's stick out out of his hands.
Last week, after Penguins center Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal in a 4-3 win against the Wild Tuesday, the Wild initiated a coaching challenge claiming Hornqvist had interfered with WIld goaltender Devan Dubnyk. A review upheld the call on the ice.
After the game, Dubnyk, who had been whacking Hornqvist's legs throughout the game with his stick, let loose in the visiting dressing room with a composed but furious rant on the officials and Hornqvist's tactics:
“[The official] tells me I'm on my stomach not knowing where the puck was which was true until Hornqvist just started to digging underneath me even though it was no where to be found, which he had been doing all night. Turned me on my side, eventually my back and the puck ends up in the net. I've seen calls where a guy gets his hand touched and they call it no goal. And I've had two now where the explanations don't make sense. I don't understand it. And it changes the game.
It's frustrating how they can watch the play over and over and over again. Again, I think if you watch Hornqvist, he just starts digging. The puck's not there. He did it all night and he turns me over. That's the main call in the first place because I can't get to the puck because I'm on my back. Even the explanation of the first one because it was interference but it was a direct result of the goal. So it makes no sense. …
It doesn't make sense because that was a direct result of the puck entering the net. It started it all. I mean, Hornqvist is an effective player as is. If they're going to let him do what he wants, he's going to be even more effective. That's exactly what he wants.”
When Dubnyk's words were brought to Hornqvist's attention a few days later, Hornqvist snorted a slight laugh but claimed innocence when asked if he intentionally tries to get under the skin of Dubnyk or other goaltenders.
“I don't try to get them off their game,” Hornqvist said. “I just try to be there and give [any goaltender] a hard time seeing the puck. Obviously, sometimes I hit him and he hit me. But whenever the puck there, I try to get the loose puck. That was on the side of [Dubnyk] so I tried to reach under. When I saw the puck at the point, I just kind took my stick out there and he turned the other way. That's what happened on the goal. I just think I tried to play the puck and I didn't do anything wrong.
I didn't try to poke him or anything. I tried to be in his face and tried to get those loose pucks and make him mad that way.”
While he vehemently denies annoying goaltenders isn't a specific goal he has, Hornqvist admits it is a helpful byproduct of his playing style.
“Yeah, I think so,” Hornqvist said. “I like those battles in front of the net. It's fun.”
Regardless of what Hornqvist does or doesn't do intentionally to a goaltender, his coach approves of his effectiveness.
“That's Hornqvist's game as everybody knows here,” said Penguins head coach Mike Johnston. “Hornqvist's game is to be in the front of net to get those loose pucks in the net. If you look at it, he was right in the lip of the crease. He's right within his territory and for a goaltender it's uncomfortable for sure. We want our guys making goaltenders uncomfortable for sure. I want to hear that after games."
(Photo: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)