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Coaches Tips: What's Really Important About My Saves?

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Coaches Tips: What's Really Important About My Saves?

Goalies of all ages and abilities must be instinctively aware of what their bodies are doing during the course of a save attempt. One can't consciously be thinking about the technique being executed because the game is played by reaction. A goalie can't have a cup of tea or take out a slide-rule to figure out an angle because there simply isn't time in a game to make a well-thought out decision. The thinking process should occur in practice where there isn't as much on the line with each save. The goalie can practice different techniques to see what is effective an what isn't without costing his or her team a loss. Through practice a goalie can develop an innate sense of what he or she can or cannot do when faced with one-on-ones, two-on-ones, three-on-twos, breakaways, or power plays. If a goalie practices responsibly, games merely become an extension of what they have learned and fine-tuned during practice.

There are a lot of "little things" that separate the elite goalies from the mediocre masses. How well are you aware of these seemingly insignificant, but, extremely important aspects of great goaltending?


Are you caught retreating a lot when faced with approaching shooters? Do you glide backwards while the player is in the act of shooting and get caught flat-footed as the puck enters the far corner? On cross-ice passes, do you retreat towards the post, thereby giving the shooter four to five extra feet to shoot at? Are you smart enough to attack to the shooter's blade to take away space, or do you line up on the shooter's body? Do you fill space on the angle before a player approaches with the puck so they have nothing to look at when they pick their head up?


Do you extend your glove or blocker behind your body and out of your field of vision? Do you always turn your head and back shoulder in the direction of the save so you have a foot of extra reach? Does your blocker make contact with the puck in front of the body with a good wrist snap so the puck doesn't rebound into the slot? Do you fall back on your rear every time you must make a half-split glove or blocker save?


Do you maintain a close gap between the release of the puck and your pads when making a butterfly or Ed Belfour-type save? When making a stack or butterfly, do you move into the save or are you retreating to give the shooter more time and space to score? On butterflys, do you keep your hands ahead of the body so your body weight leans forward enough to minimize the five-hole and armpits? Can you spread the leg pad wide enough on a half-butterfly to cover the low corner, or does the leg sit straight under your body?


Can you make a half-split skate/stick save combo with the puck deflecting to the corner without falling on your rear? On straight on shots, do you give the rebound back to the shooter or are you able to freeze the puck under extreme pressure? How active are you with handling the puck? Do you ignore chances to help your defense with a breakout pass? Are you adept at pokechecking and pass blocking so the opposition is forced to set up farther away from the net than they want?


Are you explosive in all of your movements around the crease or do you glide? The more gliding you do the more off-balance you will be on quickly developing plays because you will never be set in the stance. Do you move with your hand leading the way? If the hands move first, your body will follow. If you try to move a leg first, your upper body will trail and throw you off-balance. Do you move with a pass, or do you wait to move until the receiver gets the puck for a shot?


Are you a mental vegetable who waits for a shot to come before reacting? Are you smart enough to read the approaching play to see whether a shooter is a left shot or right shot, and determine the player's options? You can see whether the player will shoot or pass based on where the forehand is facing and how much pressure your defense is applying. When you know offensive options both five-on-five and man-down, it is easier to play goal because you can see what type of play the opponents are attempting to set up. Look to deny scoring chances instead of waiting to make a save. An aggressive angle or a well-placed pokecheck can deny scoring chances.

Think about these factors in your saves to see if you are playing to the best of your ability, or if you are taking shortcuts that are a barrier to reaching your fullest potential.

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



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