Stopping the Unstoppable
(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Hockey Player Magazine - www.HockeyPlayer.com)
Speak softly, and carry a big stick. That’s what Theodore Roosevelt said about how to run his presidential office. Even though he may not have had any opinions about goaltenders, when it comes to the playoff hockey, his saying was right on!
Carrying the big stick means that a goaltender is playing hot! How hot? No more than 2 goals a game. Better than a 90% save percentage. And a couple of shutouts to keep everyone wondering how they can beat the goaltender. That is what you have seen from NHL goaltenders like Hasek, Osgood, and Belfour and the International Inline goaltenders like Bonvie and Gauthier.
Since goaltending is one of the keys to playoff success, how do goaltenders carry the big stick? Five fundamental goaltending techniques that you will see these pro goaltenders use include an effective stance, knowing where you are in net, efficient crease movement, playing the angles, and controlling rebounds. Anticipation is another skill that is critical to be at the highest level, and I will cover that topic in a later article.
1. Stance refers to the way a goaltender positions his body in preparation for a shot. An effective stance allows the goaltender to maintain proper balance, cover the maximum net area, move as efficiently as possible, and feel comfortable. The last item shows us why former NHL goaltenders’ Hasek was Hasek and Roy was Wah.
2. Knowing where you are in net is important because a goaltender rarely has time to look behind to see where the net is and where he is in relation to it. Awareness of their position near the net must become second nature for the goaltender, and is the kind of skill that is only developed through constant practice. There are two methods a goaltender can use to determine where he or she is in relation to the net without turning their head; tapping the posts and using reference points on-and-around the playing surface; such as the face-off dots/circles, the far net, or locations along the boards.
3. Efficient Crease Movement requires quickness, efficiency, agility, and the discipline to maintain all of this while remaining in a proper stance. Goaltenders are constantly starting, moving, and stopping when the play is in their end in an effort to maintain proper positioning. Being a good (and strong) skater is one of the biggest assets for efficient crease movement.
4. Playing the angles is a technique used to position a goaltender in the correct shooting line to cover the largest area of the net. The angles being referred to are the surface angle and the aerial angle. The surface angle is created by drawing a line from the center of the goal line to the puck (see Figure 1) and the aerial angle is created by drawing a line from the crossbar to the puck (Figure 2). By drawing these lines, angles are created with respect to the net that are used by the goaltender to guide his or her body and glove/blocker to the most effective position. The goaltender's alley is the area formed by drawing lines from each goal post to the puck (Figure 3). The puck must remain inside the alley to be on goal (barring a redirection of the puck).
Figure 1 - Surface Angles
Figure 3 - Goaltender's Alley
5. Controlling rebounds requires the goaltender to have a plan, and that plan involves effectively reading the play. The rule is, if the team is under pressure, the goaltender should stop play. Active rebounds are used to clear pucks into corners or to the side boards after a shot when an attacker is rapidly approaching the net.
Drill - Saves D' Jour. This drill provides the goaltender the opportunity to practice making saves using the five fundamental techniques. In addition, it provides the goaltender with the opportunity to improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and movement time. Position five shooters in a semi-circle about 15 feet from the net. At the whistle, player X1 shoots. At the next whistle, player X2 shoots. Continue until all five players have shot. Repeat the drill executing shots at the blocker, pads, skates, upper body, and stick.
Drill - Saves D' Jour
If you are a goaltender and want to carry the big stick, then work to improve your five fundamental techniques and increase your playoff success.
Greg Siller, founder of Pro Learning Systems (www.ProLearning.com), has put his 25 years of ice and roller hockey experience into authoring several hockey articles as well as two highly acclaimed hockey books;