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Coaches' Tips: Habits of Successful Goaltenders

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Coaches' Tips: Habits of Successful Goaltenders

While goaltending styles may ebb and flow like the daily tides, certain concepts must always be followed in order to be successful at stopping the puck. The following concepts are applicable whether a goalie butterflies, stands up, or plays a combination of the two styles. When these concepts are performed consistently in games and practices, the goalie will have a high success ratio.

1. Have a Tough On-Ice Presence

This doesn't mean that you need to wield your stick like a Samurai warrior, but, simply have a confident aura about you. Do you move around the crease like you expect to stop the puck or do you look like you hope you can stop it? Your body language says a lot about you. Think about a public speaker. Does she look confident speaking about her subject, using plenty of eye contact, voice inflections, and gestures to convey excitement? Does she speak in a dull, monotone voice without eye contact so you fall asleep? Your body language in the crease works the same way. It will dictate the amount of respect you will have from both the opposition and your own teammates. It's like the anti-perspirant commercial says, "Never let 'em see you sweat." No matter how good or bad your performance is, you should exude a confidence bordering on cockiness. Stand tall, don't shrug your shoulders after a goal and never criticize your teammates.

2. Play Inside-Out

This continues the concept of on-ice presence. Many goalies move out from the crease before the puck moves past the center red line and retreat before the puck passes the blue line. When the opposing puckcarrier looks up and sees the goalie retreating, there is no pressure to make a hasty decision with the puck. If the shooter doesn't feel the pressure from the goalies, the pressure is on the goalie's shoulders to make a big save.

3. Challenge the Shooter

The correct way to challenge the shooter is inside-out, where the goalie steps from the top of the crease arc to a point two to three feet outside the crease. Once there, the goalie sets in the stance and holds her ground to force the shooter into a shooting or deking decision. The goalie doesn't need to move backwards for momentum unless the puckcarrier skates below the hash marks or the bottom of the face-off circle. Once the puckcarrier moves in close, the goalie needs patience to minimize the gap between the puck and the goalie's body. A close gap eliminates most of the shooter's peripheral vision and makes it difficult for the shooter to find holes to score.

4. Square off to all Rebounds

When goalies make off-balance saves on a regular basis, it is difficult to make the rebound save. When the head and back shoulder turn in the direction of the save, the goalie gains a foot of reach and also keeps the body's momentum flowing in the area of the rebound. The simple matter of keeping the shoulders square to the puck keeps the goalie in the same lane as the puck being shot. As long as the goalie is in the same lane, there is always a realistic chance to make the save. There is economy of movement in a balanced save because the goalie will not have to reach that far to make contact with the puck.

5. Eliminate Unnecessary Rebounds

Sometimes the goalie is her own worst enemy. I can't tell you how many times I've cringed when goalies give away goals to the opposition without even realizing they have done so. As in tennis, goalies can be guilty of unforced errors. If you don't freeze the puck when you had the opportunity, you have no one but yourself to blame if the play stayed alive and resulted in a goal. When you could have deflected a puck safely to the corner, but put it in the slot, who is to blame? When you could have stopped the puck behind the net for your defenseman, but blew it off and the opponents stole the puck and scored, who again is to blame? If you are lazy, the mistakes can be found in your high goals against average and low save percentage. Christmas comes once a year and that day is enough for charitable gifts.

6. Make an Effort

Goalies live a life of controlled desperation. If you play too complacently, opposing shooters take advantage of your perceived laziness. Even when you get caught totally out of position, dive, scream, or do a handstand, but, don't let them take an uncontested shot on net. Shooters have been known to miss open nets, so try. The best goalies never give up on a play without a fight. Attitude is everything and if you battle for your saves, whether in practice or games, you will be successful.


These six concepts are applicable to all styles of goaltending. These concepts are more about attitude and work habits than they are about specific goaltending techniques. Evaluate your game to see if you are taking the necessary steps to reach your fullest potential.

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training


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