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Okay, you are probably wondering how geography has anything to do with goaltending, right? No, I’m not going to ask you to name the goaltending capitals of the world or anything like that. Actually, you deal with geography every time you practice or play. You have offensive plays that come from the north, south, east and west….often times during the same offensive series! How you can mentally process what’s happening around you and then execute the proper goaltending decision will determine whether you are successful or not. Can’t picture what I’m talking about? Here are some examples of the “geographic flow” that happens when you play hockey.

Example #1: A three on two approaches from the left side of center ice and the wing who carries the puck into the zone takes a slap shot to your pads to try and create a rebound. This attack from the North changes to an attack from the West as you accidentally create a sloppy rebound off your pad save in the direction of the face-off circle to your right. The opposing wing takes a rebound shot at you from your “West” and you deflect the puck behind the goal line. Your defenseman picks up that loose puck and tries to skate around the net with it, but is fore-checked hard by the opposing center and loses the puck. The center now creates offense from your “South” and tries to pass to the slot from behind the net. If the pass connects to the slot player, the offensive attack has now moved to the “North”.

Okay, now do you see how you must mentally and physically transition from one place to another as the puck changes location? These transitions are an essential aspect of great goaltending. When you have “mental cramps” and hesitate moving from place to place, you will either get scored upon because you are late or you will make an off-balance save resulting in a juicy rebound for the other team. So, how does one see the “big picture” of an approaching offensive scoring chance as well as take care of the “nitty gritty” of the save itself? Let’s look at both areas:

“The Big Picture”: You always hear hockey announcers talk about a player’s “Hockey IQ”. In other words, they are very good at reading what is going on around them so they can make good decisions on the ice. Goalies must have a great “Hockey IQ”. If you simply hang out waiting to make a save, you’ll make way too much work for yourself because you will be reacting to what others do instead of dictating what YOU want the shooters to do. You may wind up off-balance a lot because you have to scramble to make a save. As a play approaches do you instinctively recognize whether the offensive players are lefties or righties? That info will affect where they shoot or pass the puck. In the 2009 Bruins home opener vs the Caps, Tim Thomas got over-committed to his left and that opened up a passing lane for a Cap standing by the back post. Had Tim been able to keep his balance in the lane the puck was in, the back door player’s ability to receive a pass would have been blocked by Tim’s body and the Caps would have had to do something else. There are many moments each game like this that you can control by where you position yourself, where you move and how you anticipate what will happen next.

“The Nitty Gritty”: Even if you read the play well and realize what my happen next, it won’t matter if you don’t give the save your full attention. Once you are in position to make a save and the puck is on its way, you must play the puck all the way through the save. In other words, don’t forget the follow-through or your recovery just because you are in a hurry to get to where you think you have to be next. When you rush a save technique, you may get sloppy by being so off-balance that you can’t get to a rebound. It’s a fine line, but you have to be aware of the big picture of what’s going on, but be in the moment when you are making the save so you give it your full attention. If you half-heartedly make a save, you will find that you may not get full-extension to the puck, you may take your eyes of the puck for a moment or you may wipe out so you can’t even react to a rebound shot. 

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


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