Recently, I was fortunate enough to coach at the U17 World Championships and was exposed to goalies from across the globe.
In todays NHL, we see goalies and players finding their way to the NHL from all over the world. I was excited to be exposed, first hand, to other goalies outside North America, especially at a younger age and at a critical time of positional development.
Part of my responsibility as the goalie coach for team Canada was to scout each opposing goalie and supply a scouting report for our players. Many goalies had similarities, but they also had some different strengths that were apparent and had been a focus while training.
Below I have listed the valuable insight that I learned about the development traits pertaining to each goalie from other countries.
Hands/Glove and Blocker
The Fins have great hands, some of you may have heard rumblings and read articles about how well the fins use their hands, I have seen it live, it's true.
It starts from the stance, they always have great hand positioning. Blocker and trapper are always in front of the body, while moving on their feet or sliding laterally to make a save, their hands are always in front of the body. This allows them to get at the puck early, take away the upward trajectory of the puck and track into the save properly. When your hands are in front of your body you don't have to turn your head as much to get a clean sight line to the puck. In addition they, they had the ability to catch pucks all around their body, not just specifically on the glove side with limited rage.
Good luck trying to get a rebound from a point shot, they caught everything. Great hands are a game maker.
Russia only really played one goalie through out the tournament, but he was pretty special. I was very impressed with his ability to read the play and shooter; remember the name Max Zhukov!
To say a goalie is good at reading a play may mean different things to ifferent people, but the main reason the Russian goalie was excellent in this department was his patience and ability to slow things down in his mind. In one game I counted 3 times a shooter shot from a high scoring area and he made a save on his feet, I'm talking full out one timers and slap shots, and he wasn't guessing. One play was a pass from the corner, he shoulder checked for options and saw that the only pass was the D man who slipped in from the point to the high circle. As the pass came out he read the play and patiently came off his post in his stance and made a glove save on his feet. He knew exactly when to slide and when to arrive in his stance.
He was extremely discipline and needless to say he was goalie of the tournament.
The Swedish goalies were on point with how they managed their crease and angles. Out of all the goalies in the tournament they got hit with pucks in the middle of the body and shoulders the most!
Consistency in crease movement allowed them to play a predetermined systematic game and were more of a blocking style goalie. When the puck was in a areas in the defensive zone, they made the same save every time. It may sound boring or easy but in order for them to be successful, their positioning and how they manage depth, lateral position and body angle must be precise. When you chose to make a blocking save you better be sure you are confident and certain of your positioning. It was frustrating playing the Sweds because we hit them in the shoulders and chest with so many pucks, I was thinking why don't the players just pick corners. Trust me they were trying and the goalie was so spot on with the angle you had to shoot a perfect shot to beat them.
Sweden won bronze and the goalie was player of the game in the final.
Czech goalies showed that they were athletic in all areas of the game. They consistently made big save after big save. In addition it didn't hurt that they were both over 6"2.
I'm not sure if it's the off ice training or maybe the on ice training they do with the goalie coaches, but both goalies were extremely athletic. There were times where I thought we had the goalie flat out beat but then out of nowhere came a leg or a glove to steal one away. Sometimes when you see a goalie make an athletic save it may mean they were out of position, but when they consistently steal sure goals, it means they are a good athlete. It's not like they didn't make everyday routine saves because they did, but when it called for an athletic save they had the answer. Some goalies struggle to find the athlete in their game. When you need to abandon the technical part of your game to make a save many struggle. To add to the athleticism they were extremely fast.
Its obvious, being a good athlete and speed go hand and hand.
Each goalie had many strengths and also had weakness like any athlete, It was interesting to see the obvious focuses from other countries training methods and individual tendencies. As stated, I chose not to talk about the US and the 3 Canadian teams only because we see and read about North American goalies all the time. Believe me i would love to talk about Canadian goalies but as a goalie coach I love being a student of the game, it makes you a better coach.
Lastly if your wondering what I think of Canadian goalies, I believe we're the best in the world. We did win GOLD!