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Reflecting Back on Your Season

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It’s the latter part of winter when we all have a bit of cabin fever, the sun is starting to feel brighter and thoughts turn to Spring. The regular hockey season is winding down and it’s time to take a step back and reflect on what went right and wrong during the past six months or so. I’ve always believed that it’s important to critique your game without letting emotions get involved. As I’ve stated many times, goalies that get easily frustrated and mad when goals get scored on them have a tough time breaking down the plays into “smaller bites” that can be better evaluated. In other words, each goalie must look at goals as opportunities to improve them. A goal is merely a symptom of an issue. Now, many times a goal is simply a great shot or play. All goalies should be able to live with that. Maybe he or she could have done something a bit better to change the outcome, but sometimes you just tip your hat to the shooter and say “great play”. Now when you get beat over and over by similar shots or plays that is a pattern that needs to be addressed. If you are constantly being scored on in the Five Hole, there is a reason for it. You can get mad and throw fits, but that is not going to change what keeps happening to you. You must strive to logically walk through what you have been doing to correct the “little things” that are often the culprit. Let’s look at some examples.

ANGLES

Oooooohhhhh…..here is that vague term that affects virtually all save opportunities. Most goalies do not instinctively know why they stand where they do or how their choice of positioning will affect the outcome of the approaching play. I can’t tell you how many times I see a youth, high school or college goalie retreat unnecessarily into the crease long before they need to. Retreating early puts a TON of pressure on the goalie to make a big save. An ounce of patience is worth a pound of athleticism. Where do you find yourself at the point of contact with the puck? Is your momentum causing you to fly back onto the goal line as you make the save? If so, you have very little margin for error when making the save attempt and, even if you do, you will have given up a ton or real estate for the rebound.

Are you lining up on the puck or the shooter’s body? This happens WAY more than you may think and at levels you wouldn’t expect (like high school, college and pros). Your eyes tend to lock in on large objects like the shooter’s body instead of a small object like the puck. Lining up on the body will really cost you a lot of goals around the slot area and goalmouth because the puck will be three feet away from the body you are lined up on.

Do you move laterally on dekes before the puck is carried past your midpoint (the logo on your chest)? If so, the short side will be an issue for you on a regular basis. Once you learn to hold your ground until the puck comes midway across your body you will find that short side and Five Hole shots will be easier to handle because you will be moving into the puck at the correct time.

Do you understand left hand and right hand passing/shooting options of the approaching players? If you are blindly waiting for a shot and ignore the visual cues right in front of you, then you are playing from the neck down(in other words, you aren’t using your brain!). For example if a lefty coming down your left side is passing to a righty coming down the slot, you have a narrower distance to cover on the pass. If a lefty was receiving a pass, you have farther to move to get to the correct angle. Reading the play when it approaches your blue line allows you to make the correct choice on where you challenge the puck.

SAVE TECHNIQUES

If you are always getting beat glove side high, where do you hold your glove? Is it behind your body at an incorrect angle? If you get beat blocker side a lot, is it glued to your hip so it’s not even protecting the lane to the stick side? On Five Hole butterfly saves, does your chest lean slightly forward so you have a tight seal between the knees or do you have a straight back with your hands hanging at your sides? On butterfly slides, do you maintain a close gap to the puck or are you sliding away from it? If you can’t handle quick dekes across your crease from wide angles, have you thought about learning to pokecheck so you can keep the player from walking around you? If you give out a ton of rebounds, do you have problems cushioning, freezing or steering pucks effectively? Do you move a step closer to rebounds or do you retreat away from them?

Do you have different “tools” you can pull from your “tool bag” to counter what the shooters are doing or do you use the same technique all the time? If you are predictable and always play shots the same way or clear rebounds to the same spot, other teams notice! So, when it comes to reflecting on your save techniques watch some video, ask your teammates and coaches about what they see and then come up with a game plan to tweak or overhaul your weak areas. After all, the better-rounded you are and the more open to constructive criticism you are can only make you a better goaltender! If you don’t take the time to improve your game, the game will pass you by! Knowledge is power and can keep you at the top of your game! Don’t be unfairly harsh on yourself, just learn to recognize and understand the choices you make!

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

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