The Little Things for Goalies

by Darren Hersh A lot is said about “the little things” in hockey.  When spoken about, the little things usually refer to the defensemen and forwards being strong and getting the puck out of the zone, finishing checks, etc.  Well, there are also little things to which goalies need to pay attention in order to be effective and to be sure they don’t allow a soft goal. Keep your eye on the puck!  The goalie doesn’t need to put blinders on and watch only the puck while not being aware of anything else going on in front of him/her.  However, when the opponent has the puck and can shoot at anytime or when a shot is taken, the goalie must watch the puck all the way into the equipment for the save.  Do not rely on split or peripheral vision.  Get into this good habit in warm up and practice! Be aggressive with bloopers.  Go out toward a high, end-over-end dump in and get as close as possible to the point of the bounce to cut down the angle.  Also get as much equipment behind the puck as possible in case it takes an unexpected bounce. Get your glove behind the stick on slow rollers and long dump-ins on net.  When playing very long (outside the zone), low shots and dump-ins, bend down and get the catching glove behind the stick to cushion the puck for control and to be sure the stick is strong behind the force of the puck.  This will help avoid the possible embarrassment of having those shots sneak under the stick and into the goal. Stay square to every puck.  Some may say that this is overkill, but by shuffling and T-pushing and therefore staying square to EVERY puck (even when your defense has the puck alone in the corner), goalies get in the important habit of always taking up as much of the net as possible. Stop pucks rung around the boards directly behind the goal cage.  Goalies can avoid another embarrassing moment of mistakenly directing the puck in front of the net with the goal wide open by stopping the puck against the boards on ring-around dump-ins directly behind the goal cage.  By doing this, any misplayed pucks have a good chance of hitting the back of the goal and staying behind the net, rather than having them skip into the slot, while the goalie’s behind the cage. Cut down the angle, but do not over-challenge the shooter.  Many goalies come out way too far to cut down the angle.  There are a number of things wrong with this.  Here are a few:  a. When a goalie gets 6 or 7 feet away from the goal line, coming out farther to cut the angle only takes away a few inches of net from the shooter’s view, b. the farther a goalie gets from the net, the harder it is to cover the net on dekes, passes and rebounds, c. goalies who come out too far sometimes lose the net behind them and find themselves out of position, and d. goalies who come out too far are forced to move a lot (too much) to get into position and therefore are not often set for shots, making life difficult for themselves.  Stay at home and make life in goal easier. Get set early for oncoming rushes. Sometimes younger goalies do not get into the ready stance until the shooter is in the process of shooting.  The problem here is that they me be moving into their stance as the shot comes and therefore they may not have time to move into the save. Goalies need to get set as soon as the opponent gets toward the red line.  It is at the red line where the opponent can send the puck into the zone without being called for icing.  Therefore the goalie must be in the stance and ready to corral a dump in or to go behind the net to stop a ring around or to cushion a long shot directly on the net or to prepare for an oncoming rush.  Getting set early will also avoid the problem of the goalie not being ready for unexpected shots and will allow goalies to use what little time they have to move in front of the shot instead of trying to move into position and then into the shot. Hold your position; do not move too much.  Although goalies should back into the net along with the forward on breakaways when forwards are deking, many, many goalies back into the net on almost every situation that forwards are approaching the net.  When the forward is likely to shoot or actually shooting, goalies need to hold their ground.  Goalies do not want to back into the net after effectively cutting down the angle only to give the shooter more net at which to shoot.  Keep the shooting angle cut down and get set for the shot.  Only back in on pure breakaways when the shooter is showing deke all the way. Fill the net first and then cut down the angle.  Especially on pass plays where forwards may one-time the shot on goal, goalies need to move in straight lines and to get centered in the net and centered on the puck.  This is even more important than cutting down the angle, because it forces the shooter to pick a corner on a bang-bang play, which is extremely difficult to do.  If the goalie has time to cut down the angle, than, of course, he/she should.  But if there is no time to cut the angle, then just get centered and make the shooter beat you with a fantastic shot.  (See diagram.) Odd Man Rush Positioning
  • On a 2 on 0 as shown, if the puck carrier, X1, passes to a teammate, X2, the goalie must play the puck carrier untile that actual pass is made.
  • Over anticipating and moving too soon at this moment would give the puck carrier an easy goal should he/she read the play and hold the puck as the goalie makes the first move.
  • If the player does pass the puck, then the goalie must move in a straight line to the new center of the pu ck (indicated in the drawing by the dashed line).  In this situation, the goalie moves in the shortest distance between the new center and his/her former position, which in all cases is a straight line and in this particular case is perpendicular to the new center line.
  • If the goalie has time to come out and cut down the angle after he/she first fills the net, then it is advisable to do so.
Do not over anticipate and do not make the first move.  Make sure that you play the shooter, especially on odd man rushes.  Although anticipation is an important part of goaltending, goalies need to play the puck carrier (the most dangerous player).  Many goalies over anticipate the pass to the open skater and by doing so they can give up some easy goals.  Make the puck carrier make a decision and a great pass.  The goalie certainly wants to know that the pass is an option. If the pass is made, the goalie has to do whatever is necessary to make a desperation save.  But whatever you do, don’t give them the easy one.