When you dissect goaltending down to the least common denominator, there are basically two (2) categories of saves, reaction and percentage (or blocking). Of course, there are many individual types of saves such as skate saves, kick saves, glove saves, two pad stacks and butterflies, etc that fall into to one of these categories. Of all the saves, however, goalies use the butterfly save in both reaction and percentage situations. It is important that goalies understand the detailed differences between percentage and reaction butterflies and that they learn to use them at the appropriate time.
Reaction saves are those saves in which goalies react to a shot by putting in front of the puck the piece of equipment that is closest to where the puck is shot. On reaction saves, the goalie reads the shot and moves to stop the shot. Reaction saves are usually made on one-on-one types of confrontations between the goalie and the shooter, where the shooter carries the puck and then fires on net and the goalie reacts to the shot with the proper save technique.
There are several reaction-type butterflies used to stop the puck (and control rebounds). Each of these butterflies are used under different circumstances.
The full butterfly is reserved for low shots along the ice or just above the ice that are headed for the goalie's "5-hole" or close to the "5-hole." The full butterfly as a reaction save is performed by the goalie quickly snapping both knees to the ice, closing the "5-hole." Both legs are fanned to the best of the goalie's ability and the hands and gloves basically stay in the same position as they had in the goalie's basic stance.
For shots along the ice, the goalie should use the stick to make the save on a full butterfly whenever possible because the stick is a better tool to control rebounds than are the leg pads. For shots along the ice, the full butterfly backs up the stick in case the stick misses the puck or the puck jumps over the stick. A goalie should always try to get as much equipment in front of the puck as often as possible.
Below are pictures of Belfour, Billington and Graham going down into the full butterfly as they react to low shots close to the five-hole. They are all snapping down to close the five-hole and making the save with the stick to control the rebound.
Full Butterflies with Body and Glove Saves
On reaction saves, goalies often also use the full butterfly when shots are taken from closer to the goal (say inside the tops of the circles) and are higher and to the body or to the gloves. This isn't a bad move, of course, if it stops the puck! Reacting in the butterfly on these types of shots also makes sense because it is more difficult to move the feet than to move the hands and therefore the goalie is covering low with the knowledge that on shots taken in close, it will be very difficult to stop the shot unless he/she anticipates the low shot. However, the goalie must always be careful not to go down in the full butterfly BEFORE the shot is taken. The goalie can go into the full butterfly AS the shot is taken but not BEFORE! It is extremely important that goalies react to shots and not guess as to where they are going. So, although going down in the butterfly to react to shots that may even be saved by the gloves, it is advisable to learn to read shots off the shooters' sticks and stay up on higher shots and go down on low shots.
Below are pictures of Biron, Barrasso and Kolzig going down on both knees into the full butterfly as they react to mid range shots to the body and gloves. They are going down to cover the low portion of the net and to get as much of the equipment as possible behind the puck.
Another reaction save goalies make on low shots is the half butterfly. The half butterfly save is used for shots that are close to the body, but are a bit to the left or right of the "5-hole." Once the goalie quickly identifies that the puck is coming close to the body, yet to one side, the goalie snaps down to both knees and "fans" the leg closest to the puck. Fanning the leg means that the goalie's leg pad is slightly extended and the inside of the pad fully flush to the ice, showing the front face of the pad. The opposite leg's pad is placed face down. This technique puts more leg pad behind the puck to ensure that the net is covered.
Again, the goalie tries to make the save with the stick to better control rebounds. Some key details of the half butterfly save is that the goalie keeps his/her eyes on the puck, places the glove hand on top of the pad (on the appropriate side) to get it closer to the puck and when the puck is closer to the five-hole, both of the goalie's knees are together completely closing the five-hole.
Below are pictures of Burke, Dunham and Irbe going down on both knees and fanning the leg closest to the puck to make a half butterfly save. To the best of their ability, they are making the save with the stick to control rebounds and they are getting the glove on top of the pad in case of deflections and to get as much equipment as possible close to or behind the puck.
Extended Half Butterflies
For low shots that are sent to the low corners, the goalie can also use the extended half butterfly save. Once the shot is taken and the goalie identifies where the shot is going, the goalie drops to one knee and fully extends the leg closest to the puck. The difference between the extended half butterfly and the regular half butterfly is that the extended leg pad is not fully flush to the ice. Only the toe portion of the pad is flush to the ice and the goalie's knee is off the ice allowing space in the five-hole area.
It is very difficult to control rebounds with this save, so it is extremely important that the goalie, once again, makes these saves with the stick to steer rebounds to the corners. The leg pad is placed behind the stick to be sure to cover the net should the shot avoid the goal stick.
Just as the goalie does with the other reaction butterfly saves, the goalies keep their eyes on the puck and they place the glove hand on top of the pad (on the appropriate side) to get it closer to the puck should tips or other unexpected bounces of the puck occur.
Below are pictures of Barrasso, Cloutier and Brodeur going down on one knee and extending the leg closest to the puck as they react to make an extended half butterfly save. Again, they are making the save with the stick to control the rebound! Also the eyes follow the puck into the equipment.
Percentage saves are those saves where the goalie gets into position before the shot or deflection is made. With percentage or blocking saves, the goalie's job is to fill as much of the net as possible by "building a wall" with the body. The goalie tries to get into a position that covers the most net possible forcing the opposing forward to score on a low percentage shot. Percentage techniques are used for bang-bang pass plays, screen situations and deflection situations. One of the more difficult aspects of percentage saves is for goalies to identify these situations.
Percentage (Blocking) Butterflies
There are basically four types of blocking saves, paddle down, two-pad stack, full butterfly and full butterfly slide. For the purposes of this article, we will only cover the two types of butterfly saves.
Full Butterfly Slide on Passes
The full butterfly slide is used mostly on pass plays where the threat of a shooter using a one-time shot is prevalent. The full butterfly slide is also used on very tight to the net pass plays or on dekes during breakaway situations.
As with all percentage saves, the purpose of the full butterfly slide is for the goalie to cover the area of the net that is easiest for the shooter to hit. In a sense the goalie "builds a wall" and forces the shooter to be as accurate as possible in situations where the opposing forward does not have time to "pick corners."
In the full butterfly slide, the goalie basically slides on two knees with five-hole completely sealed and with the arms straight to his/her side sealing off the "funnel" area under each arm. The goalie must also be sure to keep the torso as upright as possible by having the upper body remain perpendicular to the ice. This allows the goalie to more effectively cover the top portion of the net where he/she is most vulnerable. The goalie's stick remains on the ice covering the five-hole area, but can be slanted due to the fact that the blocker arm is straightened and tight to the side of the goalie's torso. Goalies need to be careful, however, when straightening the stick side arm that he/she shoots the stick straight forward and not to the side, which will leave the five-hole uncovered by the stick.
Below are pictures of Khabibulan, Luongo and Roy performing nearly perfect butterfly slides by keeping a very compact butterfly and "building a wall." As you can tell, the goalies are not reacting to the puck, but rather they are in position and are simply allowing the puck to hit them. Net is showing behind them, but it is net in areas that are most difficult for attacking forwards to hit given the short amount of time they have to make a play.
Full Butterfly on Screens and Tips or Butterfly Slide on Tips
The full butterfly percentage save for tips and screen situations is very similar to the full butterfly slide without the slide. The goalie again wishes to cover those more vulnerable areas of the net and to leave open those areas of the cage that are the most difficult for forwards to place the puck. Like the butterfly slide, the goalie gets into the position in those situations where he/she understands that there will not be enough time to react because the puck will either not be seen at all or it will be shot, tipped or deflected from too close to the net leaving only fractions of split seconds for movement. It is an intelligent and realistic goalie that understands his/her limitations with these plays and who compensates with percentage style saves to make up for the disadvantage they have on plays like those described.
Again, in the full butterfly percentage save, the goalie snaps down on two knees with five-hole completely sealed and with the arms straight to his/her side sealing off the "funnel" area under each arm. The goalie must also be sure to keep the torso as upright as possible by having the upper body remain perpendicular to the ice and the goalie's stick remains on the ice covering the five-hole area.
Below are pictures of Potvin, Tugnutt and Kidd performing textbook percentage full butterflies by keeping that very compact butterfly and "building a wall." As you can tell, the goalies are not reacting to the puck, but rather they are in position and are simply allowing the puck to hit them. They are covering the largets percentage of the net in a situation where too much movement may create holes. It is these screen and tip situations also, where the best goalies know that they do not have time to react to make the save, thus they use the blocking full butterfly.
There are two categories of saves, reaction and percentage, and different types of butterfly saves are used in both categories. For the reactions saves, goalies use full, half and extended half butterflies. For percentage save, goalie use blocking full butterflies and blocking full butterfly slides. To become an expert goaltender it is extremely important that goalies 1. be able to identify reaction versus percentage situations and 2. be able to make the appropriate save when the situation demands. Keep working on perfecting each butterfly technique and also work on using the right butterfly in the right situation.