No Red Lights: Hockey: Being Motivated Against "Weaker" Opponents - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

Being Motivated Against "Weaker" Opponents

The Weak Team Phenomenon. A recent article on the Lightning's website discusses the "weak team phenomenon" (as I will call it). This phenomenon is when a superior team (in terms of record and skill) underperforms when playing against a weaker team and loses. I guess the more glass-half-full perspective would be to call it the Underdog phenomenon. Either way, a team either rises to the challenge or stumbles in defeat. I believe it is more important and more difficult to prevent the weak teams/players from scoring than it is to stop the more talented teams/players -- at least in terms of mental toughness.  The Lightning article brings attention to the mental aspect.

Here is the big challenge for coaches. They must convince their players there is no such thing as an easy hockey game. They must prepare a sound game plan for their team no matter where the opposition is in the standings.

Always Be On Guard! This pertains to goaltenders for more than just the better teams/players; it can be situational as well. For example, take a simple breakout. When your team has control of the puck, a goalie typically relaxes. They let down their guard and loosen their stance. This is usually because a goalie cannot be in their stance at all times -- it will kill their legs! But they should not relax their mental readiness. They should always look for, and anticipate, the opposition gaining control of the puck. This is part of having a sound game plan: if you see a defenseman make a pass across the front of the net; be on your guard! If you see a defenseman try to make a move to escape a forechecker; be on your guard! It is in your best interest, and really, it is your fault if you are not prepared! Just like a coach will not excuse tardiness, a goaltender should not excuse laziness. The same suggestions in the Lightning article apply to these types of goaltending situations.

The key is to get players back to the basics – the systems, strategy and shifts that got them into the higher seeded position in the first place.

Fundamentals. The bedrock of any goaltender's play should be their fundamental preparation. In these times of relaxed play, goalies should remember their basics: always watch the puck, be aggressive, square up to the puck and keep your stick on the ice. A goalie should always adhere to these four fundamentals no matter what the situation. If your defender has the puck in your own zone, there is no reason that you should not be sticking to these fundamentals. My general rule was once the puck crosses the center red-line, I was examining the situation, had my stick on the ice and was looking to be aggressive. Do these small things for every play, and you will set yourself up to dominate the weaker players.