No Red Lights: Hockey: Stepping Off The Post - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

Stepping Off The Post

In the article before, "NHL Analysis - Playing One-Timers in Tight", I spoke about the quick decision making that must go through both a Goalie's and a Forward's mind during an in-tight one-timer. Even though the article referenced a very specific situation, it is the thought process of the situation which is important. During the play, a Goalie cannot consciously comprehend and analyze the situation. That's just too much thinking. It must be a natural reaction, where the Goalie is conditioned to react. Many times I had Goalie coaches, or astute Forward coaches, tell me to "just stop thinking, and stop the puck." That pretty much sums up what the Goalie needs to do on in-tight plays -- the thought process should be second nature and occur only on the subconscious level. The only thinking the Goalie really has time for is when anticipating the shot. When the player is behind the net, you have time to think about the next play. Know their options and what you must do to stop those options. Forwards are pretty predictable so it's usually to get the puck in front of the net and for you to get off your goal line. In this example, we will imagine that the Forward is skating with the puck behind the goal line and then walks in front of the net for a shot.

Move First. Now that the thinking part of the play is over, the movement must be second nature because there will not be enough time to think of everything. Once a Goalie starts worrying about all the technical steps (stopping with the inside foot, leaning into the shot, angling up to the stick and not the body), the play could have already happened; this is why I advocate the desperation/reactionary type save in in-tight situations. There just is not enough time to play these perfectly so jump to the end game of stopping the puck.

Square Up. The first and most crucial movement a Goalie should make to cut down the angle is to square up to the puck. This is crucial because it automatically forces the Forward to make a decision. They can no longer wrap the puck around to the far side since they have a Goalie taking away their space. The timing for this move is very precise. When the Forward moves above approximately 40 degrees away from the goal line, you should make your move. The reason is because a Goalie can cover the same amount of the net when hugging the post if the Forward is 40 degrees or less away from the goal line. This is a low angle shot, and no movement really needs to take place. But once the Forward moves to an angle greater than 40 degrees, the amount of net that they can see greatly increases; this is why a Goalie must step off the post. There is just too much open net left exposed.  To square up, the Goalie will move the foot that is to the inside of the net (i.e. the foot that is not on the post) off of the goal line so that it angles up to the shooter. This changes the Goalie's body angle from facing down the ice to facing the shooter.

Step Off. After squaring up, if the Forward continues to walk in front of the net, the Goalie must step off the post. This is the only way to remain aggressive and to maintain a good depth in the net. If you do not step out towards the Forward, they will have practically the whole net to shoot at, and you should probably hope that you get some help from your Defensemen or that the Forward loses the puck. Some of the main pitfalls when moving off the post are the very precise. The timing of this movement must be perfect. If you move to fast, the Forward can tuck the puck in short side (the post you were just protecting!); if you move too slow, the Forward will beat you to the far side. But beyond timing, the most frequent mistake Goalies make on in-tight situations are their angles.

Stick To It. If you recall in the previous post, I described Leclavaier as standing on the left side of the net and that he was a righty. This is important because one of the hardest skills to teach and to execute is to angle up to the stick (and therefore the puck). When you have to react fast, the eyes will naturally find the largest object, which is the shooter's body. As a result, Goalies tend to angle up to the shooter's body rather than to the shooter's stick. This can be the same as moving too fast or moving too slow; either the short side or the far side post will be left vulnerable and an easy target for Forwards.

Stepping of the post and angling up to the puck will allow the Goalie to get their body (their largest and least hole-ridden area) in front of the puck. This is the basis of the Quebecoise Goalie style and is extremely effective in the situations where it is humanly impossible (or at least imforwaprobable) to make a reaction save. Whether you are a butterfly Goalie or an old-school stand-up, it is important to understand these basics as you should give yourself every opportunity to make a save. It is less efficient and by the percentages, harder for a stand-up Goalie to save a one-timer in tight (more of the ice is covered in the butterfly). Likewise, it is harder for a butterfly Goalie to stop top corner shots if they are moving down in to the butterfly and the shot goes up high. This is why learning as many different techniques as possible can be extremely valuable.