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Iím Stinking The Joint Out, What Do I Do?

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Iím Stinking The Joint Out, What Do I Do?

There are days in every goaltenderís life that things simply donít go well. Some games you canít stop a beach ball or you keep getting beat in the same spot (top shelf, 5 Hole etc.). Knowing that these days will occasionally rear their ugly head, the question is ĎWhat are you going to do about it?í Too often, I see goalies have major meltdowns that take their team out of their game and get the opposition excited because they see the goalie losing his or her cool. Now Iím not going to say you should enjoy stinking the joint out, but how you handle it says a lot about your character. Whether itís your teammates, your coaches, the opposing team, fans or scouts, everyone is watching how you react when things arenít going well. What can you do to minimize the damage when you are clearly not on your ďAĒ game?

Here is some ďfood for thoughtĒ when you are faced with a tough night in the crease:

*Breathe! Yeah, I know this should be obvious, but when you get stressed-out, you tend to shorten your breaths and thatís simply not good for you physically or mentally. In the NHL, you often see goalies grab a water bottle or take a little stroll. Being scored upon doesnít immediately make them thirsty or desiring a trip to the corner of the rink, but it gives them a chance to relax their mind for a moment while the crowd is going crazy. This drink or stroll quiets the mind so the goalie can re-focus and move on mentally from the goal that just went in. Remember, the goal is now history and you canít change it. You have to be ready for the next series of offensive attacks. A distracted mind is the enemy of every goalie. Post-game you can analyze what happened, but not in-game!

*Make Needed Adjustments. Even though you donít want to analyze each goal while you are playing, you still need to be aware as to why certain shots or plays are giving you difficulty. You must be a good enough student of the game to sense what adjustments you need to make. For example, in a Stanley Cup playoff game I saw Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings get sniped on a top shelf glove shot from a Phoenix Coyote at the bottom of the left face-off circle. Moments later another Coyote took the same shot from the same spot daring Jimmy Howard to make the save. Howard made an adjustment by positioning his glove a little more ahead of his body than the play before and he turned his wrist slightly downward to match the trajectory of the sharply rising puck. This resulted in a nice, clean glove save. This adjustment prevented another similar goal from happening. Often times I observed similar scenarios at the youth, high school and college levels but the goalies donít make an adjustment. They get mad when a couple of similar goals go in, but fail to do anything in their decision making or techniques to change future results. Itís okay to be mad for a moment, but you also need awareness skills to understand what you need to do to prevent future goals from happening in the game. You must remain objective during a game even if your emotions may get in the way.

*Break the Game Down Into Smaller Segments. When you are not playing well, the play clock moves excruciatingly slow. When youíre playing well, the game flies by. When you are not playing well, you get easily distracted. When you are playing well, you have tunnel vision and see the game in slow motion in front of you. A fifteen or twenty minute period can be an eternity so try concentrating for 5 minutes at a time. This is more manageable and makes the game easier to focus on.

*Communicate! When you are verbally active with your teammates, you are mentally active as well. Good concentration is a natural byproduct of being verbally active. If you are silent, you tend to be a spectator. Being active verbally and with a positive body language can sometimes turn around your game on a night when you are not on. Keeping your brain active makes you physically active. When you are mentally quiet, you tend to play more passively.

*Be Consistent With Details! If you always challenge shooters, maintain a good stance and are consistent with your save techniques, you wonít have many bad games, just bad moments. When a goalie isnít playing well, it often comes down to sloppiness in techniques and decision making. Every time you step between the pipes try to maintain good habits so your game doesnít experience highs and lows. Eliminate unnecessary scoring chances by freezing loose pucks or clearing them away. Slumps usually begin when goalies stop paying attention to the little things! I canít tell you how many sloppy practice goalies tell me that they are ďgame goaliesĒ and can turn their game on when they need to. Yeah, rightÖÖ (insert major eye roll here!!!)

*Donít Force Saves. What worked on one breakaway wonít necessarily work on the next one. When faced with one on ones, two on ones and three on twos one type of save wonít fit all. If you read plays correctly you will have a good chance to stop the puck. If you make poor choices or donít pay any attention to key details (like left shot/right shot options, where your D are positioned or the speed of the opposition), you may guess on saves and look really bad doing it.

*Know What You Can Control and What You Canít! If you have challenged a shooter well and the player makes a great move and beats you with a pin-point accurate shot, sometimes you just have to tip your hat and say ďNice GoalĒ and let it go. Thatís hockey! However, if you went down first, got caught with your glove resting on your pad or sat your butt on your legs while making a butterfly, those are details you can control. Being sloppy can be corrected. Having a great head to head battle with a shooter and occasionally losing one to a talented player is what makes the position so much fun. Donít beat yourself up if a great player makes a great play. Make adjustments when you get sloppy and give a goal away. There is a difference between the two situations and you need to know the game well enough to tell the difference.

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

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