Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest Goalie of them all?

Yeah, I know your goaltending life isn’t always a fairy tale (sometimes it can turn into a nightmare!), but you have to look in the mirror at times and objectively assess where you are as a goaltender. So whether you are an intro mite, an experienced collegiate/pro or once-a-week adult leaguer, if you want to get better you have to realistically critique yourself. Ignorance is not bliss since you have to know your weaknesses in order to correct them. How do you objectively assess where you are at? Well, your assessment can come from a variety of sources. Do you keep a small notebook in your goalie bag to record your thoughts after practices or games? Many goalies keep journals so they can note trends they observe in practice and games so they can remember to focus on those areas in the future. Ask your teammates what they see when they come in at you during drills. Even if your coaches don’t have a goalie background, ask them to have you explain your choices during drills so you stay focused on the tasks at hand and don’t practice on “auto pilot”. Have someone do a close up video of you in a game so you can see what your angles are like, how balanced you are on your movements and to see if you had better options available on a given play that you did not choose.

What are some of the key areas to be aware of when it comes to trouble-shooting your game? Let’s look at a few:

1) Do You Take Shortcuts?
As you move up the hockey ladder and the talent rises, it comes down to the “little things”. An NHL goalie isn’t slumping because he’s a lousy goalie. Slumps are sneaky. They usually are a result of forgetting the “little things” that are the foundation of goaltending. If you don’t pay attention to details, sloppiness ensues. For example, in practice if you get a little tired and decide you don’t really need to challenge every play, follow a rebound or keep your hands in a ready position, goals will go in. If this occasional laziness becomes routine, your play will suffer. Life is all about details…..

2) Do You Look Like You Are Tough To Beat?
Body language in any field tells a story. From a goaltending perspective, if you look tough, people will assume you are good until you prove otherwise. You can be nervous, but as the old deodorant commercial used to say “Never Let Them See You Sweat!” If you carry yourself with confidence and have an “I dare you to beat me” attitude, your play will reflect that. If your body language is tentative, hesitant and wimpy, other teams will smell blood and your teammates will play defensively because they are worried you can’t stop a beach ball. Practice your acting skills! Look confident!

3) Are You Desperate To Keep The Puck Out Of The Net?
Battle skills in practice carry over into games. If you don’t play hard until the puck actually enters the goal, you will quit on plays too early in games as well. You shouldn’t just shrug off goals in practice without making an effort. If you give 100% of yourself whenever humanly possible, you will make life miserable for your teammates in practice and your opponents in games. If you rationalize your lack of effort by telling yourself you can “turn it on” when you really need to, you are sadly mistaken….

4) No Retreat, No Surrender
Are you aware of how often you make the first move or back into the net too soon? This is very common with goalies. You may say very confidently that “I never back in too early”, but may sing a different tune when you watch a video of yourself. Having the confidence to hold your ground when your emotions are telling you to “do something” is an acquired skill. Opposing shooters are waiting for you to panic and give them something to shoot at. If the shooter hasn’t shot yet, it’s because they don’t know where to shoot and they are waiting for an obvious clue as to what to do. Practice patience. Trust me, it’s not easy to be patient, but it makes your job easier!

5) Do You Have Crease Presence?
Crease presence goes beyond making saves. Do you beat opposing shooters to the angle they want so they mess up? Do you block passes and pokecheck when pucks are passed or carried too close to the crease? How well do you handle the puck? Can you have perfect exchanges with your defensemen on dump-ins? Can you make crisp breakout passes? Do you communicate clearly with easy to understand terms to help your teammates? Do you read approaching plays and take away options? All these aspects equal crease presence. If you sit back waiting to be shot at, you are playing at 10% of your potential.

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard.

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