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Battling 101: Is Your Effort Lacking?

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I can’t tell you how many times I see a goalie who “looks” like they should be really amazing due to their techniques and athleticism, but simply don’t accomplish anything when they play.

How can this happen you might ask? Well, it simply comes down to effort. These “pretty” goalies have smooth moves because they’ve had enough training to look the part, but they don’t get that you must play with passion to have those smooth moves work. Sure, these goalies can get away with it here and there, but when you really analyze their results, they fall far short of their potential. When I run clinics or teach private lessons, the goalies often here me say “way to battle” or “good battle”. This means that I like their competitive fire. Skill alone does not produce results. You can look at 2009 Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas, of the Boston Bruins as the poster child of a battling goalie. Critics may complain about his “style”, but he produces results. He positions himself smartly and controls pucks cleanly whenever possible, but if a situation turns desperate, he immediately attacks the shooter to pressure them to make mistakes.

What are some of the symptoms of a lackluster goalie? Here are a few tell-tale signs:

1) Gliding Around The Crease
Goalies who glide in the crease, locked into a stiff stance are vulnerable to low shots, rebounds and goalmouth scrambles. Why? By playing so passively, these goalies cannot take away the low scoring options of the shooters who are simply whacking the puck into open space. Being locked in a stance hinders lateral movement and prevents the goalies from really battling for those loose pucks around the crease.

2) One and Done
If a goalie bails out after one save and doesn’t have flow to the rebound, they will give up more goals than necessary. Many goalies have what I call a “Wow, I could have had a V-8 moment” after their first save. They hesitate after the save and get caught watching too long when they already should have been moving towards the loose puck to battle for the second save. Hesitation is costly as seconds can make the difference between a rebound goal and a save.

3) Looking Too Smooth
Sometimes all the rules have to be thrown out the window. Yes, in a perfect world you can make a smooth butterfly slide or catching glove save or pad save with perfect form so everyone goes “ooh” and “ahh”. However, the world isn’t perfect and sometimes you have to be able to pull desperate saves out of your tool bag to stop the puck. If you aren’t comfortable just stopping the puck no matter how ugly the save looks, then you probably will lose more goalmouth battles than you will when.

4) Not Having Secondary Save Techniques Ready
Do you block slot passes, pokecheck puckcarriers before they can shoot, step out on your angle to force the opponent to make a choice they don’t want to make? If you are a puck receptacle simply waiting to be shot at, you are way too passive.

5) Gingerly Freezing The Puck
Do you politely and gingerly put your glove down over the puck as if the opponent is going to let you freeze the puck without a fight or do your really aggressively pounce on the puck and battle to get control of it?? Many goalies are WAY TOO NICE when it comes to going after loose pucks. Freeze the puck like your life depends on it!!

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


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