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GOALTENDING...."Heal Thyself"

Now I know with the current state of the economy having a private goalie coach at your disposal is not as high on the priority list as paying the mortgage. With that in mind, you may have to figure some things out on your own when it comes to correcting some weaknesses in your game. I’ve exchanged some emails with goalies who’ve had some issues with their techniques. Granted, I’ve been doing this for 30 years so it’s pretty easy with my vivid imagination to “see” what’s going on no matter what part of the world they are playing in. It got me thinking about how few goalies really break down their problems into correctable bites. Here are a few examples of typical goaltending issues and things to look for as you work your way through your problems. 

“I keep getting beat in the 5 Hole!” 

For starters, you will have to honestly look at how much gap you give to shooters in the slot area. If you are slowly drifting backwards into the crease when a shooter is releasing the puck, your weight is on your heels and your hands are probably by your hips(if not behind them). This backward weight distribution and motion will prevent you from making a tight seal of your 5 Hole. If your hands and arms are dropping like salamis in the deli window, your 5 Hole will also be difficult to close even if you’re moving into the save.

Another possible cause of 5 Hole issues may be when you over-commit laterally in the crease. When you move to the puck, it’s easier to seal off the 5 Hole. If you move straight to your side instead of slightly forward, the shooter has more time and space to move the puck in that space since you are more opened up making the lateral stride. 

“My glove is weak!”

Modern technology alone cannot allow you to catch a puck cleanly. If your form is incorrect, the puck will either beat you cleanly or it will sloppily deflect off the cuff or lip of the glove.  Understand that a rising puck from the slot area will  follow a certain plane or track. If you learn to turn your upper body to that plane with the help of your back(stick) shoulder, your glove will meet the puck ahead of your body. There should be a slight front diagonal angle from your eyes to your glove if you want the puck to stick in your pocket on a consistent basis. When your back shoulder, head and eyes do not fully turn into the save, the puck is behind you and making a clean catch is not likely. It’s not that you can’t catch the puck when it’s behind you, it’s just that it won’t always be a clean catch. You can see enough highlight video glove saves to see that some body positioning things are always a big part of the big save. If your glove does a “bob and weave” where you drop it and then raise it back up, the puck will generally beat you over the elbow. If you have the glove too high, some lower shots may handcuff you. If you twist your glove wrist as if you’re squeezing an orange, the puck will pop out of your glove. If your glove is held as if you’re checking for rain, the pucks may go over your arm and under the crossbar. Again, a good turn of the body with the glove at a slight forward diagonal to your eyes will give you the best chance for a clean catch.

“My angles stink” 

Often I will ask a goalie, “Why are you standing there?” or “Do you know what you’re giving the shooter right now?” The response is, “I don’t know”.

That’s not a good answer…. You must instinctively know the options of the offensive players and how your positioning can convince the shooters to do what you want them to do. If you don’t know why you’re standing where you are and if you don’t know how to read the options of right handed or left handed shooters and passers, you are merely a puck receptacle waiting for the obvious clues of a shot instead of the subtle clues that will make your save choice easier.

I have subscribed to the short side theory of the angles where you force the shooter to go across your body where you are naturally leaning to. If you start cheating or leaning to the middle angle before the shooter gets there, you will get burned short side. Also, many goalies commit laterally before the puck moves across the midpoint of the body. If you can wait till the puck passes the midpoint, it’s difficult for the shooter to go back to the short side. Shooters are lazy so if they see you cheating from the short side, they will sucker you to keep going so they can score short side.

You must also window shop as the situation approaches your defensive blue line. Whether it’s a three on two, two on one or one on one, what way does the puckcarrier and his support carry their sticks? Why does that matter? Well, passing and shooting lanes are affected. For example, on a two on one, if a righty is coming down your left side and is passing to a lefty, you’ve got a long way to move if that pass goes through. Now if the lefty is crashing the net too fast and you hold your angle at the top of the crease, that lefty can’t receive a pass because you are in the way. That means you can focus on the shooter since that righty cannot receive a pass. If you learn to read plays like this, you’ll know why you  are standing where you are!

“I can’t stop a breakaway!”

You’ve got to be patient with breakaways and not have a pre-conceived notion as to what move you’re going to make before the shooter tips his or her hand. By that I mean, you can’t decide that you’ll do a butterfly slide before the player is close enough to deke. If you’re cheating to your favorite move and the player rips the puck before he or she is on top of you, you’ll be dead in the water. Again, lets see how your decision making process is. Do you explosively challenge the shooter or are you flat-footed? If you’re flat-footed, you won’t catch up to a well-placed, hard shot or a quick-handed deke. Are you comfortable keeping a close gap to the shooter on a deke so they run out of room or do you retreat too early and allow the shooter to move to open space at the last second?  Do you move laterally before the player has deked past your midpoint?

Do you keep backing up even though the player has cut laterally? All of these habits will limit your breakaway success. Remember, the more doubt you create in the shooter’s mind, the more they will screw up.

Analyze your breakaway habits to see if you really are telegraphing your choices to the shooter. If you are giving away what you’re thinking, then

you are helping the shooter to score.

Follow the symptoms to get the cure!

The preceding examples show that there are some habits that will result in issues with angles, glove, breakaways or 5 Hole. Try not to get so frustrated with the results that you don’t notice the simple bad habits that are the symptoms of the larger issue at hand. If the same type of goal keeps happening, dont just get mad, start paying attention to details! Once you recognize why the issue is occurring you can take the basic steps to correcting the sloppy habits that are causing problems. Major slumps are  usually small bad habits that have gotten out of control.  So, when you learn to heal yourself by paying attention to the little things, you can avoid the major surgery of a total style overhaul that may occur when you let good habits go bad!

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

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