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Creativity in Goaltending

In the past 10 years what are considered normal (if normal can be used to describe anything about goalies...) operating procedures for goalies have changed drastically due to goalies like Dominik Hasek, Marty Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Mike Richter and Eddie Belfour. Save techniques used to be a lot more black and white--stay on your feet for most plays and use a butterfly or stack of the pads for more desperate scoring chances. However, the pro goalies I mentioned have taken the goalie position to a higher level by refining those norms and shattering previous stereotypes as to how to stop the puck. It used to be uncool to flop around like a flounder because it meant you were way out of position. Now, goalies have learned to use some unorthodox moves to stop pucks consistently. I would like to review some save techniques which when used in the proper occasions, can result in some pretty amazing saves. They key point to remember is that these saves are used occasionally, not on a regular basis. The pro goalies are keenly aware of the situations to use these more athletic saves and when to be more conservative. So, it is okay to borrow moves from your favorite goalies, but know when, why and how to execute them in order to have their success with them.

Here are some of the saves you see on NHL Tonight on ESPN:

1) Dominik Hasek Crawl: There are many instances where a goalie makes a kick save, stick save or pad save that results in them leaving their feet. Often times the rebound will still be in play and the goalie does not have time to get back on his or her feet. In this situation, what Hasek does is move to a paddle down position and use the leg that is not on the ice (usually the glove side) to push the goalie closer to the puck before an opponent can whack at it. The inside edge of the glove side foot pushes off so the goalies body can crawl closer to the puck. When the paddle of the stick is combined with the goalie's body in the paddle down position, there is little if no low space to shoot at. The goalie takes the time it would have taken to get up to instead crawl/push-off into the path of the rebound so no opponent can get a lucky whack at the puck.

If there is no longer a threat of a shot, the goalie then springs back up into the stance position. What the Hasek Crawl does is allow the goalie a one-two punch with the initial shot and the rebound whack. If the goalie makes any type of extension kick or stick save and immediately protects low with a push into the Hasek Crawl, there is little chance of a quick close-in rebound getting by. Often times goalies get beat between the legs while trying to get back on their feet when there really wasn't time to get up. This explosive technique is terrific for plays around the crease.

2) Brodeur Paddle Sweep: This is a nifty little sweep check that Martin Brodeur has down to a science. When you watch him play a puckcarrier cruising across the crease with a puck, observe how he attacks the shooter's space, first with the paddle down move and then with a strong, but compact sweep of his goal stick paddle. Used primarily when the deke is coming from your glove side towards the stick side, the key to this move is in attacking the shooter's space. No paddle down can be effective unless you are moving into the deking space of the shooter. If you allow the shooter to have good peripheral vision, he or she can avoid the goalie at the last second. If you take away the shooter's time and space then the shooter will panic and lose the puck. Once the goalie gets a good push into the paddle down move, the obvious move for the shooter is to try and make a last second deke to avoid losing the puck. As the shooter shifts the puck from forehand to backhand or backhand to forward (depending on which way he or she shoots) the goalie (holding the paddle in a normal grip) makes a quick but forceful sweep of the paddle while extending the stick arm and lunging with the chest. This lunging sweep as the shooter tries to avoid the goalie totally takes the space away and should deflect the puck to the far corner. The momentum of the paddle sweep will get your body moving forward where it is easy to spring back up into a stance to get ready for the next play. This is a move to be used only in tight by the goal and must be very explosive for it to work. If you are able to watch Marty Brodeur on a regular basis, you can see how effective this move can be.

3) Mike Richter Roll: This is a desperation move that looks really crazy, but is actually very cunning. Every once in a while a goalie gets overcommitted to one side of the crease while making a tough initial save and the rebound deflects or is deked to the other side of the crease where the shooter has what appears to be an empty net. Now ten years ago, most goalies would have just groaned and watch the puck get shot into the empty net. Well, now in the new millennium, goalies will do anything to get to that puck. What Mike Richter does on occasion is do a reverse stack of the pads by rolling his legs over his head so they wind up covering the whole other side of the net. What he has realized is that on a play where there is no time to get completely up and move to the other side of the crease, all he has to do is guesstimate where the shooter is going and fill as much space as possible. So, human nature being what it is, when you have a shooter with a seemingly empty net, will he or she go top shelf or simply slide the puck on the ice and get ready to celebrate? Knowing the latter is more likely, Richter, while lying on the ice, will whip his legs together over the top of his torso and lay them down on the other side of his body, thereby making a stack-of-the-pads wall on what was the empty side of the net. Does this work every time? No. Can this rob a shooter a couple of times a season? Yes. If you can pull one of these saves out of your bag of tricks every once in a while, it could be the type of moment that changes the momentum of a big game. The key is to know where you are and where you need to be quickly in order to fill space. Dominik Hasek is famous for these types of saves as well because he instinctively knows what a shooter's options are and where he needs to dive, crawl or flop to get in the way of the scoring chance.

4) Ed Belfour Screen Strategy: Years ago, goalies were taught to stay low and work hard to find the puck since the shots tend to be low. They were told not to stand too tall as they would not have time to stop a low shot. Well, a year or so ago on ESPN, Darren Pang did a nice little feature on Eddie Belfour's change in approach to screen saves. He was staying low and battling to find the puck, but he found that he was really tiring himself out and his legs were getting fatigued late in games which was costing him some saves. So, in an effort to conserve energy, he started standing tall and looking over shoulders until he saw a shot was about to be taken by a point defensemen. Then, seeing the lane the puck was coming in on, he explosively moved into a paddle down or butterfly save to fill space. He found this more efficient and keeps his legs fresher. This is not as creative as the previously mentioned save techniques, but nonetheless, it is a contrast to what was taught years ago and is very effective in today's game.

5) Roman Cechmanek Headers: This move is definitely not in most goalie's repertoires, but I must mention this one purely for artistic and entertainment value. He has a European soccer background and on high shots above the crossbar, he uses the deflecting ridges on his goalie mask to help him "head" pucks into the stands to get a stoppage of play. While most goalies probably cannot execute this move, I have got to give him credit for stretching the bounds of acceptability in save techniques.

6) Patrick Roy Breadbasket: Do you ever wonder why Patrick Roy, when he is on top of his game, rarely gives out rebounds with his butterfly? When you try to copy him, pucks are squibbing under your arms or through your Five Hole and you just can't figure out why? The next time you watch Roy and he is having a great game, observe his hands and elbows. When he is playing well, his hands are ahead of his body and his elbows are tight to his sides. The positioning of the hands and elbows also keep his chest ahead of his body which will allow pucks to drop down into his midsection or "breadbasket". Think of his body from the Five Hole to his chest as a big bucket. When a puck hits his well-balanced body, his equipment absorbs the impact of the puck and it stays under control since the balance of his body squeezes off the space under the armpits and between the knees. When you drop your hands or hold your hands to wide or behind the body, you cannot have the breadbasket effect so pucks will not be slowed down enough to be cleanly controlled. Watch Roy some time to see how effective he is with simple body control.

7) Dominik Hasek Snow Angels: Most goalies now use this move every once in a while. When you are down on the ice trying to freeze a puck, spread your leg pads wide behind you to protect the low corners should the puck get knocked towards the net. This move can also be moved when you are committed to the ice and the puck is taken away from you. You can throw your arms around on the ice to try and take away low space since, again, shooters are lazy and will slide a puck at an empty net rather than fire it. Every once in a while the Snow Angel arm or leg movements will bail you out.

So, I hope these discussions on the creativity of pro goalies will give your imagination a jolt. Goalies used to have to conform to certain unwritten laws as to how you were supposed to look to make saves. Now, it's not how you look it's how well you get the job done. The one common element you will find with all the seemingly crazy save techniques is that the goalies are making these moves with a purpose. They are attempting to take shooting space or lanes away from an opponent. It may seem like they are flopping around uncontrollably, but nine times out of ten, they know what they are doing because they know the options of the shooter. If you know what space a shooter is limited to on a rebound, shot or deke, you just have to get there as quick as possible no matter how unorthodox the move may seem. Don't limit yourself to moves that are "respectable", just do what works!

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.

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