Common Errors Made By Goalies

by Darren Hersh The Goalie Academy staff works with hundreds of goalies each year.  And each year, we see many of the same mistakes that are hampering development and increasing goals against averages.  Here we will discuss the most common errors and then we provide tips to help goalies correct the problem:
  • Staying Square
  • Catching Glove
  • Overly Aggressive
  • Stick On Ice
  • Save Selection
  • Recovery
The first problem that the author has seen even at the collegiate level is goalies not STAYING SQUARE to the puck when moving laterally.  It is amazing how many goalies, when moving laterally, skate backward into position with the outside of the pads and the long portion of the skate blade facing the puck. This is a big problem for many reasons:
  1. Feet are not in a good position to react to a shot on goal
  2. Goalie isn't covering as much net as possible
  3. Goalie can't react quickly enough to a shot because he/she must pivot and get toes facing the puck before moving toward a shot, which could take too much time
Staying square takes a little extra work on the goalie's part, since it requires the goalie to shuffle (when a player is carrying the puck) and to T-push (when the puck is passed).  It's harder to move laterally and in these technically appropriate ways, but it will ensure that you cover the most cage and that you are set for a shot, especially an unexpected shot. This problem occurs most often when an opponent skates down the far wing.  This occurs because many goalies  dangerously combine two moves into one, moving laterally and backing into the net.  When the shooter comes down the wing, it is important the goalie continue to stay square with the shooter and follow with the shuffle.  If the shooter then approaches closer to the goal, the goalie must back straight in.  It is incredibly important that goalies realize that they must only back up straight into the net to adjust their angle on breakaways and/or oncoming rushes. If a skater is moving laterally, then the goalie must shuffle in order to remain square to the shooter.  Be very careful not to back up and move laterally (back laterally) at the same time, because doing both will have you backing laterally, which is not staying square.  Goalies need to recognize that they first must shuffle into position and center themselves on the puck, THEN they must back straight in to properly position themselves for close in plays, passes to the slot or an opponent skating behind the goal. Goalies, remember these simple rules to ensure that you are square and moving properly:
  1. When a player carries the puck, SHUFFLE.
  2. When the puck is passed, T-PUSH.
  3. ONLY skate backward, if you are moving STRAIGHT BACK.  NEVER skate backward with C cuts when moving laterally!
A second common problem among goalies young and older alike is that the CATCHING GLOVE IS NOT OPEN.  Many goalie don't take advantage of the huge gloves they have on their hand.  When the glove is held out and open so that the forward can see the palm of your hand, you are A. covering more cage behind you and B. you may be dissuading a shooter to shoot on you, especially on the glove side.  By not showing a shooter any net and therefore making him/her make the decision not to shoot, you stop a scoring chance.  It's a statistic that cannot be recorded, but you can have the satisfaction of knowing that someone didn't even attempt to score because you were in such good position and appeared to be invincible! Keep reminding yourself throughout practices and games to show the shooter the palm of your glove.  Remember to keep the glove:
  1. out
  2. open
  3. in proper position
A third familiar problem we see in goalies is that they often COME OUT TOO FAR ON BREAKAWAYS, AND WHILE ACTION IS DOWN AT THE FAR END. How many times have you seen a goalie stand as far out as the top of the face-off circles or at least past the hash marks in the slot?  I see it way too often.  This strategy does not make rational sense for a couple of reasons:
  • There is no need to come out far only to have to race back into proper position and MAYBE get back in time to stop a breakaway or shot on goal.  You can remain closer to the goal, move less and adequately cut down the angle.
  • Moving less creates less holes and it will also ensure that you do not lose your position in the net.
  • You can cut down the angle too much.  At a certain point, say 6 feet from the goal line, for every foot the goalie moves out, he/she is only taking away another inch from the shooter's view of the net.  This is not efficiency.  Remember that you are the goaltender and must guard the net.  That means that you need to stay relatively close to it in order to do your job.
So remember to come out and cut down the angle, but don't stray more than 6.5 feet or so away from the goal line.  On breakaways when you need to dissuade a player from shooting, you can come out a bit farther, but hash marks are way too far out, especially for novice skaters.  Be aggressive, but also stay at home! A fourth  frequent fault of goalies is that the STICK IS NOT ON THE ICE WHEN MOVING. This problem is easily solved by realizing that you are doing it and then focusing on leading all movements with your stick on the ice.  A little repetition wouldn't hurt either. Perhaps I see this problem occur when goalies move from post to post, especially when moving to the stick side.  Some goalies swing their stick in the opposite direction in which they are moving.  Common sense will tell you that this motion slows you down, and more importantly perhaps, leaves your stick in a very improper technical position. Again, to stop this problem, realize that you are doing it and constantly work on doing your crease movements while leading with your stick on the ice. A fifth  flaw among goalies in general is inappropriate SAVE SELECTION.  This issue is a bit in depth and really needs an entire article dedicated solely to the various components (which we will do in the near future).  However, the basis of this problem is as straight forward as goalies making the wrong technical move in certain situations. Such as:
  • Performing a two-pad stack when a player is too far out.
  • Performing an "extended butterfly" save on tips and screens.
  • Going down in a butterfly when they could have stayed on their feet.
Again, these issues are articles in themselves, but we wanted to at least address them as common errors. It is difficult to do the right thing all the time when you are dealing with split second decisions, but that is why working on doing the right thing in practice trains your mind to do the right thing when the moment arises. Lastly another normal issue among goalie is RECOVERY.  For goalies that have developed a capacity to recover quickly and with solid technical ability, there is one very common mistake that is made: some goalies do not understand that in many situations, they have more time to recover to their feet than they think. Try as much as possible to get to your feet after a save, especially on saves where the rebound has not gone into the corner, but remains in front of the goal line.  It is these situations where you often see goalies sprawling and "swimming" to get into position for the rebound save attempt, because they do not get to their skate blade.  In order to move into any effective position on the ice, the goalie must be on the skate blade.  Often in the situations where the net is left wide open, the goalie, if they work hard in practice and makes themselves quick at recovery, has enough time to get to their feet and push into a better position for the rebound save, even if the goalie doesn't fully recover. For some goalies, not recovering isn't as much a mistake as it is an inability to recover to the feet in split seconds.  If a goalie has trouble recovering due to a lack of skill, the best way to overcome this deficiency is to
  1. get proper instruction on how to recover
  2. work on conditioning, so recovering from an initial save isn't such a chore
  3. work on recovery EVERY day so it becomes easier (conditioning) and you get better at it (develop skill)!
Hope this helps goalies realize some of the common errors that are out there.  If you are doing any of these things, take our tips to try to improve and stop as many pucks as you can!  As always, if you have any questions, contact us at