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Knowing When To Go Down

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By Fred Quistgard

Even though the hockey headlines have been full of butterfly goalies for the past decade or more, there are still many goalies that are reluctant to go down. There are also a lot of goalies who look like they are auditioning for a Nestea plunge commercial because they dive so much. As with many things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Goalies need to learn how to read what is going on around them and then make the right choice for that situation. What works on one play may not work again if the variables of the play changes. Letís look at two common scenarios that require the correct use of the pads.


A lot of young goalies do not skate all that well laterally and try to make up for it by diving head-first or reaching out with the stick. Invariably, the goalie winds up looking like a tri-pod or cone as the player makes a quick fake and shoots or dekes for the corners. Some goalies tell me that they are not butterfly goalies. Thatís all well and good, but to be successful in todayís hockey goalies must play some type of hybrid style where they go down when the situation calls for it, but not if it doesnít.
When a player makes a hard deke from close range and the puck gets pulled across the goalieís mid-point , the goalie must quickly move the feet and get ready to take away low. If the goalie can maintain a close gap, it is very hard for the shooter to go top shelf because it requires more follow-through than there is space. The prime scoring space will be low. Once the puck gets pulled across your body and the shooter begins to release the puck, a half-butterfly or paddle-down will be effective at taking away the low corner he or she is shooting at. Protect the upper corners by keeping the catching glove, stick and blocker ahead of your body to meet a rising puck early. If you are not a fast lateral skater, try taking some short steps (stutter-steps) instead of a long stride so you can stay closer to the deking player. Once you commit to a butterfly or paddle down save, make sure you turn your head, hands, stick and back shoulder in the direction of the save so you get the best extension and a balanced recovery. Stutter steps are very effective against deking players because the shorter steps allow you to 1) stay close to the puck and 2) minimize the amount of 5 Hole that shows when taking longer strides.
If you find yourself diving at deking players on a regular basis and canít get your pads down, itís a skating issue. When a player dekes across your body and cuts around you, you have to make a quick push with the inside edge of the back skate so you can get your momentum going with the shooter. If you stop skating when the shooter makes the hard deke, you can only dive. It takes too long for your upper body to get coverage on the ice and thatís why you will get beat more times than not on close in dekes. You need to learn how to take a quick push to get across the crease while getting the lead pad down to cover low.


You made a stand-up save and the puck has gone right out in front of you to a waiting opponent. You cannot just stay locked in your stance and expect to save a well-placed rebound shot to the low corners. You will have to leave your feet! Recognize when the initial shot gets away from you and take a quick step towards the rebound and then butterfly or paddle-down explosively toward the puck so the shooter gets jammed on the rebound. When rebounds happen right on top of you, there isnít a lot of reaction time so you need to act fast. If itís a ďbang-bangĒ play where the rebounder is going to whack at the rebound to try and score quickly, you want to attack with the pads to take away the scoring chance. If youíve made a full butterfly save and the puck gets away from you, there may not be time to get back on your feet or even to get your plant foot ready for a butterfly slide. If you donít have time to get up or plant for a slide because the rebound is being whacked right back, consider going from the butterfly save directly into a paddle-down save so you can attack the low scoring space. This ďone-two punchĒ of a butterfly followed by paddle-down can really take away a lot of space and also smother the rebound chance so the other team doesnít get the puck back.
Remember to avoid locking in your stance when having to make saves against dekes and rebounds. Try to use quick steps to set up your pad saves so you can easily regain your balance for rebounds.

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