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Five Seconds……

By Fred Quistgard

Five seconds. Doesn’t seem like much time in a daily setting, but in goaltending terms it can be an eternity. Many goalies make decisions based on obvious cues like the lifting of the shooter’s stick so they know they need to be ready to make a save. As I’ve mentioned in the past, goalies that always wait for shots are more like puck receptacles than goaltenders. If you don’t take advantage of time and space BEFORE a shot is actually released, you are missing the boat. Preventing scoring opportunities takes more than saves alone.

When you watch an NHL or high level college game, watch how the goalies set up their saves. Are they really active about filling space and lanes with their body or stick so they can influence what the other team chooses to do with the puck? Although some people may not be a fan of Tim Thomas’ style when he plays for the Boston Bruins, he is actually a wonderful example of a goalie who uses time and space to perfection. He may not have the technical style that makes some people go “ooh and ah”, but he mentally and physically reads plays extremely quickly.

Five seconds is a very long time if shots, rebounds and dekes are occurring near the crease. A goalie who is “one and done” because they wipe out making the first save, cannot be effective on rebounds. To really dominate shooters, you need to read what is going on around you. Can you take a step out on the angle that will make a shooter rush a shot, pass off or shoot into your belly? If you make a save and the rebound moves away from you, how long does it take for you to process the new location and get there? I’m betting that it takes you seconds longer to move to the new angle than you realize.

Here is a homework assignment for you: At your next practice, try to focus on quicker movement to each and every puck that comes off your body. Try and see how fast you can flow into the new angle. You may need to have a quicker planting of your back foot. You may have to make sure your hands and back shoulder are immediately turning in the direction of the rebound. When recovering from a butterfly, you may want to rotate the hips in the direction of the rebound before you get up or try to slide so you save time. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you are a lot slower at responding to rebounds than you’d care to admit. How quickly you can process what you have to do next may make all the difference between a rebound save and goal. Going back to the Tim Thomas example, watch how quickly he goes from spot to spot after each save. He almost instantaneously processes what is going to happen next and moves well before the shooter is able to take advantage of time and space.

Another key point when dealing with a chaotic five seconds of action is the ability to stay calm amid the fury of activity. If you can be patient enough to hold your ground until the opposing player carries the puck across your midpoint (logo on your jersey), you will be able to move in the direction of the play with a close enough gap to minimize rebound chances. Often a goalie will guess on close-in plays and move laterally before the puck gets committed across his or her body. When you guess, the shooter can quickly cut back the other way and force you to make a very off-balanced save attempt.

So, the moral of this story is that five seconds of battles near the crease are an eternity. Goalies must be able to be patient, well-balanced on the initial play, but quickly process where they need to go to next if they are able to keep the pressure on the shooter. If you find yourself watching rebounds for an extra couple of seconds before you move, you’ve got to practice a greater sense of urgency if you are to be successful. To quote the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, “Be quick, but don’t hurry!”

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training

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