Attend any goalie camp or training facility and you are bound to find coaches and athletes working diligently in small areas. Statistics have told us that a vast majority of goals are scored off of rebounds and/or shots within say a 10 foot radius from the net. As a result the majority of training focus has been on reducing the number of these goals by mastering techniques ranging from stick work and butterfly (including blocking, reactive and hybrid variations) to power slides, recoveries, “VH”, “Reverse VH” and other sorts of post play applications. My point is not to undermine any of these techniques nor the importance of being able to apply these techniques when and where required, but all of these are based on a puck being loose in close proximity to the goal and/or a shot coming from within tight to the goalie. To initiate these drills quite often a goalie must drop into a butterfly position and then apply the given technique to make the secondary save. As a result, many goalies have developed an almost Pavlovian response to drop the moment a shot is taken or even in anticipation of said shot. Even at the NHL level one can witness players slapping their sticks on the ice with hopes of getting a goalie to commit to a perceived shot… I’m looking at you Erik Karlsson.
In doing so I feel that many goalies are now losing their proficiency in making the save on the long shot or perhaps more specifically catching and/or controlling these shots and thus eliminating the aforementioned rebounds.
STAY ON YOUR FEET
I will often encourage goalies to stay on their feet whenever possible. Not only does this allow goalies to better engage their hands/gloves, but this also maximizes one’s ability to move and react by keeping ones skates in contact with the ice as possible. All goalies must be in tune with their abilities and reflexes and/or quickness. Goalies must know how far or close a shooter can before they can no longer rely on their ability to read and react, or more specifically their ability to reamain on their feet or execute a butterfly.
TRACK THE PUCK
Although the concept has been around for years, the term “puck tracking” is very much en vogue right now and staying on one’s feet allows goalies to better track high shots by keeping their head and eyes above the puck and literally staring it down. This also allows goalies to keep the puck in front of them engaging their complete binocular gifts lending to more consistent blocker and trapper saves when compared to catching the puck behind them which limits the use of one eye over the other.
More specifically, when a goalie drops they are taught to hold their hands in a consistent position with respect to the rest of their upper body. For a high shot, this means that the gloves are being moved further away from the path the puck will take on route to the goal. To compensate for this goalies often have to stab up and back to “catch up” with these shots such that saves are now occurring behind the goalie sore more specifically the plan established by their upper body. For shorter goalies this may result in being beat cleanly over the shoulder.
CHANGING THE WAY YOU TRAIN
Perhaps this may be the most important part of this article in that I actually attempt to provide some sort of solution. As simple as it may seem, I would encourage goalie coaches to incorporate long shots whenever possible. This is a great way to end a drill wherein a goalie can focus of let’s say some sort of post play and once satisfied the coach introduces one final puck into the drill that simply consists of a shooter taking a long shot on goal and allowing all of your other shooters to play out any rebounds. A word to the wise… it is often a good idea to have a coach or an experienced shooter take this shot as nothing can hurt a session more than seeing a goalie or shooter hit with a shot because someone wasn’t ready or paying attention.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that a regulation net is 4 feet high and that the blue line in a standard rink is 64 feet from the goal line? This means that a shot from the blue line needs less that 4-degrees of upward trajectory to hit the cross bar! This same shot taken from the 10 foot mark discussed earlier will only rise 0.625 feet (7.5 inches), which won’t even clear the height of your pads when in your butterfly!