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Yes, I know onions may make you cry when you peel them and certainly a bad goal may give you the same reaction, but the reason goaltending is like an onion is that there are layers to everything you do. If you think your job as a goalie ends after you make one play, you are sadly mistaken. Although you must play “in the moment” and give the puck your full attention when it’s time to stop it, you have to be aware of how to prepare for your save and how to anticipate what may come next. Here’s another analogy. Say you love ice cream. Well, some days you may love something simple like Vanilla. Other days you may want something more elaborate like Moose Tracks. Goaltending choices can be viewed the same way. You see one on ones, two on ones, three on twos, breakaways and power plays pretty much every time you strap on the pads. Do  you play every single situation the exact same way every time? Of course not!! You’ve got to break down the options of what you see in front of you and make the best choice of save attempt based on the information you process. A different flavor(save technique) can be chosen to handle situation so you don’t look predictable.

Common Situation #1: Dump-In from the opposing team

Your D has done a good job of not backing up into your zone so the opposing team’s rush must dump the puck in. Once they dump it in, do you handle it for your D? Do you tell them to play it and alert them to the forecheckers that are coming at them? If the opposing forechecker beats your D to the puck and looks to pass to the slot, can you block the pass attempt? If you can’t block the pass attempt do you know where the slot shooter is positioned? Are they a lefty or righty because that will determine where you have to move to cut down the angle? If you’ve made the save, have you properly planted your back foot to move you in the direction of the rebound? Can you control the rebound shot so the opposing players standing near you can’t touch the puck? Did you know all these decisions and reads in this example will occur in about 10-30 seconds? If you’ve made poor choices or reads in those 10-30 seconds, you may be fishing the puck out of your net.

Common Situation #2: One on One

An opposing forward approaching from a wide angle is trying to shoot the gap of space between your D and you. Have you already established your angle to discourage a shot or are you late moving out? Can you judge the amount of time and space the shooter has against your sliding D and you? If you have taken the shooting option away and the player dekes across your body, can you poke him or her or should you move laterally into a butterfly slide or paddle down stop? Have you read the shooter as to whether they are a left shot or right shot? If the shooter’s forehand is facing the short side and you cheat laterally before the puck crosses the midpoint of your body, you will give up a short side goal. If you choose to pokecheck and miss, do you have a back-up plan of a lateral pad save or did you gamble with all of your eggs in one basket(the missed pokecheck)? If you made the save, but a rebound is created, have you instinctively already moved towards it or do you hesitate and miss the chance to get closer to the loose puck?

In both of these situations, your choice will either work or fail. You have multiple decisions to make and that is why every scoring situation is like an onion. There are layers to the play. If the play stays simple, a simple choice will work. If there is a lot going on with the play, you may have to make quick, aggressive decisions to stop the puck. That is why having a lot of tools in your “tool bag” for similar situations will give you more ways to stop the puck and will keep you from being predictable.

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

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