Get Your Hands in the Game

I want to offer some tips on having your gloves ready, especially during butterfly recoveries and lateral moves, and provide some tips to take into consideration when making saves with your hands or body to maximize rebound control.

The first thing to understand is the distance of the puck in relation to the direction and distance you are recovering. Put yourself in the puck’s position and ask the following question: How much room is there for the puck to travel and reach above 11 inches off the ice (roughly the height of your pad)?

Once you determine the answer, the next thing you should consider is how likely are you to make the save with your pad, body or gloves.

Choosing which one ­to use – the body or gloves – is all about being smart with your save selection. This happens with proper tracking of the puck. If the puck is headed towards an area outside of your shoulder, this will typically mean that you will need to extend your hand to make the save. How you angle your glove once you start your recovery from the down position is important. I recently wrote about this topic for InGoal Magazine and pinpoint a specific example on a save Jonathan Quick made in a recent game.

Simply put, by bringing your glove or blocker forward and angling it down towards the puck, you increase your vertical coverage of the net, which is also known as taking away the aerial angle. Ideally, you want to get your entire body behind the puck, but the game is too fast for every save to be ideal. Even in situations where you’re forced to reach, how you reach makes a big difference, as I explain in the InGoal article.

Now, if the puck is shot more towards your body, within your shoulders, or in that awkward area between your hip and elbow (commonly referred to as the six and seven holes), you may have to perform a ‘tuck and lean’ – you tuck your elbow into your hip and lean your chest towards the puck to create a tight seal in that area, creating a pocket for the puck to stick and control the rebound.

We can all agree that one of the most important goaltending skills to have is the ability to react – to have that mindset to use a certain part of our body to make a save rather than “hope and pray” contact is made with the puck.

Once you find your comfort level, it’s important to maintain it consistently so that you prepare yourself before the puck is shot, reducing any unnecessary movements or adjustments along the way to making a save.

Now that we have covered some of the basics about save selections, let’s go over the process of executing butterfly recoveries, and why hand position during these movements is so important.

First, and perhaps most important, is to understand the basics of how your body works together when performing a recovery. In order to combine power and speed during a recovery movement, everything must move in the direction you’re going.

A simple step-by-step breakdown of each body part will help you understand how important it is for your body to work together and generate momentum in the direction that you’re moving. Here is the sequence of movements that we typically see when goaltenders perform a butterfly recovery: 1) Look and find the puck. This will help you find the puck and identify how close or far away it is from your body.

2) Rotate your hands and hips (pivot) so that your shoulders square up to the puck. As you do this, open your lead hand so that it takes space away from the shooter.

3) Keep your lead leg along the ice so that it seals that portion of the net. Raise your back leg so that enough of the skate blade is on the ice (roughly 80 degrees), and snap into the ice, covering your five-hole and allowing you to push into the direction you want to go.

How you position your glove or blocker will depend on where the puck is. I like to keep things simple and offer the following advice:

  • For any puck positioned outside your shoulder area, you will require more arm extension and forward lean with your torso so that your glove opens up and takes away even more space from the puck.

  • If the puck is closer towards the middle of your body (or simply in between your shoulders), you do not necessarily have to extend your arm as much to make the save, but rather have your hands ready to react if the puck is shot towards the top corner or under your arms towards those pesky six and seven holes. This will make it easier to tuck your elbow into your side or hip area and lean into the shot, allowing you to absorb the puck and lower your chance of giving up any rebounds.

  • Finally, to really give you as much coverage as possible and control rebounds, angle the frame of your body slightly forward (again, that will depend on your comfort level and hip flexibility). This will provide more balance overall during movements.

Sometimes, you will notice that goalies turn their glove or blocker hand inwards, or in the opposite direction, that they want to move.

This does two things: (1) It shifts your weight and momentum in the opposite direction that you want to go, making your recovery slower and less powerful and (2) it’s a form of “double-coverage” and gives the shooter more net to shoot at.

What was once simply a matter of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible has evolved into a masterful technical skill combining strength, speed and positioning.

Recoveries have been broken down and analyzed so much that today goalies as young as eight years old understand the basic concepts of using the proper leg when recovering left or right, pushing along the ice so smoothly it even impresses some pros.

Unfortunately, the hands sometimes get lost amid all this leg work. But make no mistake, the placement and use of active hands during butterfly recoveries is important.

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