No Red Lights: Hockey: Hand Angles - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

Hand Angles

After talking about the butterfly slide for the last few articles, the last crucial component that has been missing are the hands. They are a goalie's only defense against stopping shots to the top corners (well... short of using your head, which is actually very tough to do). Maintaining hand control is arguably the most difficult during the slide. This is because there are so many angles and forces at play. A person must go down to the ice to slide (which is a downward and unwanted force on the hands); the goalie must rotate left or right (which can or cannot pull the hands too far left or right); and the body weight may not transfer quick enough (to allow for proper positioning). So all of these forces make hand control, while moving, very difficult. Ok, hand control is difficult - that should be a no-brainer. But why is this so important for the butterfly slide? I mean, most of the goals that go in (when moving laterally) are scored on the ice, so protecting the top corners is unnecessary. One of the most common retorts heard from goalies (and I was no different) was, "should it not be more important to get there first and then worry about the high shots (especially since these are more difficult for forwards and are more infrequent)?

Playing the Percentages. This is a very valid argument... it even has a name; this style of goaltending is called "playing the percentages." The idea is to focus on stopping the shots that are percentage-wise, the easiest for the shooters, and more frequently shot at. So yes, it is fine to get there first and then worry about the rest of your body as you come into position. But what I am more worried about are the shots that you are in position to save, but they still go in top corner. Personally, I always felt worse if I was in position to make a save, and it went in, than to let in a goal that you had no chance in saving (for example, you move laterally in a perfect butterfly slide, and the foward finds a hole through an arm, or they go over your glove and hit top corner... You were there and could have made the stop, unlike those shots that the forward has the whole net to shoot at). So protecting the top corner is important when you are in a position to make a save.

Understanding Hand Angles. And how is it possible to stop these shots? Besides having amazing reactions -- by having good hand angles. These are the lesser known and discussed angles of the goalie world. Typically, the squaring-up angles and the depth-in-net angles (coming out of the net to cut off the angles) are discussed, but the hand angles are just as important as they protect the top corners and are very deceptive to the eye. Here's how they work:  Just like a goalie's depth in the net, the depth of hand angles and stick angles can cover additional net space but without having to change your legs/core position. First, imagine a goalie in the net. Kind of looks like a flat cardboard cut-out right? The goalie should be imagined with all of their working parts (i.e. the stick and hands) having depth away from the body. Goalie should have their hands in front of their body (instead of to your side) as it creates additional depth. This extra depth with your hands covers the space in the top corners even though it is deceiving to the naked eye. This is because of the trajectory of the puck. A puck is shot from the ice, approximately 5-6 ft below the angle by which the shooter sees the goalie. Because of this the forward does not recognize that the top corner is not as open as he perceives it.  The hand angles can equate to a few extra inches of net that is taken up. Add all this up and it's a few extra inches that your glove must travel to make a top corner glove save, which may be just enough to stop the puck from going to the top-corner.

And Now Control. So there's the importance of hand angles. The next article will examine how hand control can be achieved, and how it affects a goalie's movement.
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