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The Short Side Theory of the Angles

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The Short Side Theory of the Angles

By Fred Quistgard

For the 30+ years that I’ve been coaching goaltenders, I have subscribed to teaching the “Short Side Theory of the Angles”. The nugget that started me on this theory was something from an old Ken Dryden (Hall of Fame goalie for the Montreal Canadiens for you youngsters) video where he mentioned a tip for finding the correct place to be when the puck is on a wide angle. >From there I just expanded the concept through trial and error, observations and chats with other goalie coaches. I think this is a common sense approach, but it may not work for everyone.

Why Protect the Short Side? The reason I teach protecting the short side first is because shooters are lazy and want to score with less work. Going across the goalie’s body to the far side of the net requires effort so the short side is the first place the shooter looks. It’s also a lot easier to cover the short side and then have to move in the direction of a far side shot then to get caught moving to the long side and have to come back against the grain. Another key reason for protecting the short side is that it makes YOUR life easier. If you know the short side is closed off, you know the shooter can only score 5 Hole or long side. It narrows the choices of the shooter.

Are You Sure you are Lined Up Correctly on a Wide Angle Shot? I see youth, high school and college goalies struggle with the concept of being all the way over on the short side angle. Often when a goalie pushes off with the post-side foot they wind up moving more toward the center angle than the wide angle. If the approaching wide angle shooter is on the forehand, he or she will lean their body to the middle angle to get the goalie to lean with them so the short side opens up even more. A rule of thumb for me is to make sure your back shoulder or back foot is lined up with a puck that is between the face-off dot and the wide boards. This allows you to cover the short side completely with only a few extra inches of the long-side angle exposed. Once the puck (not the shooter’s body) crosses your mid-point towards the center angle, you then center your body on the puck like you normally would. Lining up your back foot or back shoulder on wide angles creates a visual delay on what the shooter sees on the short side and should convince them to move across your body for a better angle.

Stepping to the Wide Angle at the Right Time: How and when you challenge an approaching wide angle puck carrier plays a big role into what the shooter will decide to do with the puck. If a player is approaching the blue line or taking their first step off the side wall, that is when you need to step out to the top of the crease or just beyond it to establish your angle. When the shooter approaches your blueline or takes the first step off the side wall, that is when they peek at you to see what you are doing. If you have done a quick step and set (without immediately retreating deep into the crease), it forces the shooter to think. If you never challenge them or if you were way out of the crease before they peeked at you and you are now furiously retreating to the crease, you are not a threat to the shooter.

How do you step out? Well, if there is no threat of an immediate shot because the shooter is still approaching the blueline or is taking their first step of the side wall, use your back foot to push off and stop with in an explosive half-snowplow. This will keep your post-side leg straight to the wide angle and keep you from drifting to the middle angle. If a play happens quickly in the near circle, you would use your post-side foot to push off with since that will be your plant foot if you have to quickly move to the middle with the shooter. If you use the post foot, make sure you go to the wide angle and not towards the center angle!

Midpoint Rule: As I mentioned earlier, you need to try not to move laterally with a player attacking from a wide angle until the puck (not the body) crosses the midpoint of your body. Once the puck passes your jersey logo, you can move with the puck because the short side is not readily available to the shooter any more.


This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training


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