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Top Ten Technical Goalie Mistakes

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Top Ten Technical Goalie Mistakes

Over the past 20 years of working with goalies I have seen certain errors that turn up in all levels of hockey from mite to pro. These errors are concepts that must be adhered to no matter what style of play a goalie chooses to play. I strongly believe in teaching via concepts so the goalie can instinctively understand what he or she must do to be successful. I hope the following categories are helpful.


Many problems in net are a result of the goalie failing to get good footing. Most goalies have a case of "Happy Feet". Their feet are gliding slowly backwards as a play enters the defensive zone so the weight moves to the heels. If a quick shot is taken, the weight on the heels prevents the goalie from getting good extension to the corners of the net since he or she is leaning backwards. The other problem with gliding is that the goalie winds up moving farther away from the puck and will have to reach farther to get to a well-placed shot. Obviously with the weight on the heels a goalie cannot reach a shot easily if he or she is gliding backwards away form the shooting angle.


Almost every goalie fails to keep the hands in front of the body. All goalies look great in their stances until they have to move to the puck. The reason you want to keep the hands ahead of you is that you can meet the puck earlier where it is not too far away from the body. If you try to catch or deflect a puck that has already passed behind you, as you know, it is very hard to do. There is so much wasted energy by goalies who move their hands around from where they should have been in the first place. If the hands can stay ahead of you, you can see where they are with your peripheral vision. This means you can watch the puck all the way into the glove or blocker without taking your eyes off the puck to find your hands. A lot of goalies also rest their hands on the tops of their leg pads. The catching glove is not in the lane of a puck headed to a top corner when it rests on the pad and the blocker on the pad will prevent the goalie from protecting the top stick-side corner. When a goalie has the blocker thumb resting on the pad, the blocker arm will roll backwards as the goalie turns to play a shot on that side. The blocker must be moved to the puck, not rolled backwards away from the shooting angle. The hands must be independent of the lower body in order to catch and deflect well. In tight, the hands must stay ahead of the body when butterflying or playing paddle-down. If you drop the hands straight down and you try to make a close-in pad save, the upper corners will be wide open since the hands are not protecting the top shelf.


When you fail to turn your head and back shoulders in the direction of your save attempt, you lose a foot or reach for extension. This habit begins in practice when you do a lot of rapid fire drills where you can't fully follow the shot because another play is right behind the first shooters. Goalies start making saves out of the corner of their eyes because they are worried about the next play. This is a really bad habit. Learn to turn your head and fully see the save you are attempting to make. The back shoulder must also turn in the direction of the save in order to get the most extension from the body. The turn of the back shoulder also allows you to gain a full field of vision since your head will turn at the same time the back shoulder does. By learning to turn the head and really watch the puck, you will have more controlled saves. It should be obvious to watch the puck, but this is not done all the time. Goalies "assume" they are looking the puck into the glove or pads, but they are already thinking ahead to their next play so they fail to concentrate completely. How many errors do you see in baseball because a fielder is thinking about the throw before they catch the ball? Goalies do the same thing.


Too many goalies are in a hurry to back into the net. A shooter approaches the blue line and the goalie panics and retreats to the net. If the goalie is a few feet beyond the top of the crease initially, it should only take a stride or two to get to the top of the crease where he or she wants to make the save. When goalies retreat before the puck arrives at the hashmarks or the bottom of the face-off circle, the shooter gains more shooting angle. Be patient and stay your ground.


Don't get me wrong here, I think pad saves are very important in hockey today since many scoring chances are near the goalmouth where coverage down low is important. That being said, most goalies commit to the butterfly or paddle-down too early. These save techniques are most effective when the puck is being released close to the goalie's body. When the goalie drops and the puck is more than a few feet away, the shooter has space to go top shelf or to make a quick deke around the goalie's prone body. Make the shooter get close and then attack into the shooter's stick so holes in your body are minimized.


It is obviously important to make saves. If you are able to make saves 90% of the time, that's terrific, but are you controlling the puck? There are many goalies who get in the way of the puck, but if they always let pucks lie around in the front of the net or direct rebounds to the opposing players or fail to tie up loose pucks when possible, goals will go in that don't have to. These mistakes are not always obvious. For example, a goalie may knock out a rebound off a routine blocker save and the other team may gain control of the puck and score off a great slot play. People say the goalie couldn't stop the slot shot and forget that if the goalie didn't cough up the routine shot in the first place, there would not have been a scoring play in the slot. Don't be sloppy because you never know when a mistake will come back to haunt you.


Each and every goalie must know where they are standing and why. I won't go into the science of the angles here, but the goalie should have a plan. If the goalie doesn't know why or where he or she is standing, concentration on the shot is affected. If a goalie is having an internal conversation about where to stand, he or she will not be relaxed enough to make the save. The goalie should understand the shooter's options based on whether the puckcarrier is a right hand shot or left hand shot. This knowledge makes save attempts easier since the goalie knows what choices the shooter has to make and simply takes away the option the opponent goes with.


This shouldn't be an issue but it is. Many goalies are too technical. While I know the importance of good goalie coaching, the intangible that has to be there for every goalie is effort. The goalie must not like being scored upon and be desperate to stop the puck. If the goalie gets faked out, all the rules get thrown out the window and the goalie must get to the puck whatever way possible. Dominik Hasek is a great example of controlled desperation. Sure he is unorthodox, but he is crazy like a fox. Even when scrambling around he still uses goalie techniques of attacking space, knowing the shooters options and reading what the shooter will likely do. He can make a great technical save or make a great athletic desperation save. He adapts to the situation and refuses to accept a goal going in until the red light proves otherwise.


Just because you are a goalie doesn't mean you don't learn all about team systems in all three zones. A smart goalie can recognize breakdowns long before a shot on goal occurs. If the goalie sees there is no backchecker on a three on two, the smart goalie knows a pass to the trailer is likely. If the goalie sees all three of his forwards get caught deep in the offensive zone, he or she knows a three on two break is likely. If the goalie sees a breakdown in his team's break out, he or she can plan for a giveaway and opposition scoring chance. Pay attention to all details of the game because it will make you a better goalie.


Here is my favorite concept when it comes to evaluating goalies. How does the goalie carry him or herself on the ice? Does the goalie exude confidence? Does it appear that the goalie is a leader? Is the goalie poised in adverse situations? Does the goalie like to compete or does he or she look scared, hesitant or shaky? When I see a goalie who has confidence and some athletic ability to go with it, I am impressed. There are plenty of goalies who look like they should be good, but aren't. There are many goalies who look like they shouldn't be good, but are. Presence is important. Not being afraid to compete to make the saves that need to be made is important. Do you have presence?

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard


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