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Goaltending is a lot like The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man all had to keep their focus on the Yellow Brick Road as they fought off the Wicked Witch’s distractions of flying monkeys, angry trees and the witches spells. Keeping their focus they eventually made it to Oz. Goalies face their own collection of distractions every time they play a game. The goalie’s position has the simple goal of stopping the puck. Sounds easy enough. Well, when you throw in all the distractions that occur each and every game you play, it isn’t always easy to simply “stop the puck”. The ability of a goalie to concentrate on the job at hand while processing everything that is going on around the ice will determine the goalie’s success or lack thereof. Let’s look at some different distractions.

Rebounds: Rebounds are a fact of life. How you control them or respond to them will determine how good of a goalie you are. You should always expect to make the original save and at least 2 rebound saves on the same play. Why should you expect this? If you expect to make multiple saves, mentally you stay with the puck no matter where it goes. If you put “all of your eggs in one basket” by just concentrating on the initial shot, you will mentally relax for a moment after the save when you should have already been flowing into the new lane where the puck has gone. I spend a lot of time reminding goalies about turning their head, hands and back shoulder in the direction of their initial save. Why is that important? Well, if your body does not move squarely into the first save, you will be off-balance and out of position for a rebound shot. Having great body control and economy of movement will allow you to stay with the play and not be out of position. When you practice, do you actually pay attention to where you are putting your rebounds? If you don’t pay attention to those details in practice are you surprised you have lousy rebound control in games?

Screens: Opposing teams will generally try to put big bodies in front of the goalie to distract him or her from getting a clean look at the puck. Some goalies get so preoccupied with clearing out the screen that they lose focus on stopping the puck. It’s important to put your focus on the puck first and the screen second while deciding how best to handle the situation. Now, you may only have a few seconds to make your choice so you must read the play to see what’s best. For example, if you were late moving to the top of the crease, the opposing team’s screening player may already be planted there and it is hard to move them away. If you establish your ground early, at least you will be at your best angle for a shot. Can you find little seams in the collection of bodies that are in front of you that you can fill so you get a better look at the puck? Should you stand taller to see the puck at the point and then aggressively move into a butterfly or paddle down play once you see where the shot is coming from? You almost need to mentally take in the big picture of what’s going on around you while staying focused on the puck.

Deflections: Deflections are tricky because you must respect where the shot is coming from but also be aware if you see sticks or legs that the puck may hit before it gets to you. Try to avoid being flat-footed or gliding backwards on shots that are coming through traffic. Gliding backwards or being flat-footed will make it difficult to react to a last second tip and your 5 Hole will be very hard to shut down because your weight is on your heels. Be ready to explosively move towards the puck as it gets closer to you to not only stop it if it’s not tipped, but also to take away more space should someone get their stick on it. If you are closer to the tip, it is less dangerous.

Lastly, remember that you must be able to stay mentally calm no matter how much chaos is going on around you!

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


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