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Controlling the Controllable

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How often have you finished a game and thought “You know, I wish I hadn’t given the puck away on a couple of those plays because I would have had a great game.”? If you look back over the course of a season, you would likely be shocked to see how many routine plays turned into goals. Too often we put our emphasis on stopping those “big plays”. Yes…..a game changing save is huge for your team’s psyche, but making that one pivotal save won’t matter much if you let in some softballs. Let’s look at some seemingly routine plays that can turn into goals.

1) Long Shots

I’ve watched literally thousands goalies in practice and warm-ups over the past 30 years. Most goalies take warming up and long shot drills for granted. They “get in the way” but don’t bear down on what they are doing with the rebounds. If you rush from shot to shot in these types of drills, you haven’t given much thought about where the rebound is going. If the shots are coming from the blue line, there should be NO rebounds in the slot. However, if you watch most goalies in these drills, there are many that go back out into play. These routine shots may wind up as beautiful goals because the goalie did not control the easily controllable open point shot. If you’re not able to freeze the puck in drills, at least turn into the save and watch to make sure it deflects safely to the corner.

2) Freezing Pucks

This is a basic skill that is not practiced seriously. Many times I see goalies have a chance to kill a play by freezing a loose puck yet they smack it back into play where the opposing team wins it back and scores. Some goalies always whack a loose puck to the same place. If a team plays you more than once it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that all loose pucks are swept to the same place. All the other team has to do is place a forward in the general area of your swept rebounds and he or she will have an open net to shoot at when you give the puck your “auto pilot” smack. Unless you get commission for the amount of saves you make, it would be far wiser to freeze loose pucks than to give the other team additional scoring chances.

3) High Shots

Thanks to modern technology, goalies have some amazing catching gloves to work with. Despite these modern marvels, many goalies are still very sloppy with their catching technique so pucks that should be caught are sent back out into play. If you can’t keep pucks in your glove, there are several reasons why this may be happening. The glove may be facing towards your chest instead of the puck, you may twist your hand at the point of contact which will spin the puck back out into play, you may not be turning your head and back shoulder into the save which means the puck will glance off the heel or side of the glove instead of nestling into the pocket or you may drop your hand and whip it up quick. If you drop your hand and whip it up, the glove will not be in the lane the puck is rising in and it will go right over your elbow and into the net. So, long story shot….if you can’t control routine high shots you must correct your technique so you aren’t giving easy rebounds back to the opposing shooters!

4) Straight On Shots to stick and 5 Hole

If you are too firm on your stick grip or you like to push your goalie stick forward into an on-ice shot, you will give pucks back to the other team. Although you want a firm grip with your hand on the paddle, you still need to “give” with it a bit so the puck can deaden at your feet where it can be frozen. Many times I do a simple drill to see if a goalie can cushion and freeze a puck or cleanly deflect the puck to a corner and the goalie has a difficult time. This situation happens a lot so you shouldn’t be giving these pucks back! If someone shoots into your 5 Hole, can you create a nice soft “body pocket” or “bread basket” where the puck settles nicely into your body with no rebound? If you have trouble, your upper body lean may not be timing right with your butterfly so the puck deflects back into play.

5) Bad Sets for Your D

If you never stop dumped pucks correctly for your defensemen or communicate with them on loose pucks, don’t be surprised when the opposing forecheckers win the puck, zip a pass to a slot shooter who pulls the trigger and scores. Fans may say “what a great shot”, but the shooter never would have gotten the puck if you had a good hand-off with your D on the original loose puck!

Summary: These are merely 5 examples of controllable shots that are left uncontrollable by a sloppy goalie. Pay attention to details so 100% of the controllable shots are really controlled. If you don’t give away sloppy plays, you may be amazed at how much better your goals against average and save percentage is!

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


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