PLAYING THE PUCK

It started with Jacques Plante “roaming” from the crease. Then Ed
Giacomin became the Ranger’s “3rd defenseman”. Ron Hextall,
with 2 goals under his belt, could fire the puck harder than most
forwards. And now, most every goalie in the NHL is capable.
Goaltending has evolved to a point where a goalie cannot excel
without being able to handle and move the puck. Unfortunately,
many younger goalies do not know how to handle, or where to
move, the puck.

It starts with the stick. It must fit the goaltender. The lie, paddle
height, and shaft length are important. The lie is the angle created
by where the paddle and blade of the stick meet. Lies range
from 11 (impossible to find) to 15, but most are now 14 and 15.
In an effort to make a stick’s lie less important, and to help in
moving the puck, many sticks now have a “rounded” heel.
The second key dimension is the length of the paddle (the part
above the blade). The maximum length permitted is 26 inches,
and again, many use paddles that are way too tall.

The third area of concern is the length of the stick’s shaft. The
maximum total stick length is 63 inches, and that’s probably too
long for most. Yet, one should not cut down the shaft more than
a couple of inches, if needed. Besides, changing the “balance”
of the stick, it will inhibit your ability to “open up your arms” in
order to move the puck.

Once the goalie gains possession of the puck, he has a couple
of choices. The first and best choice is to leave the puck for a
teammate (probably a defenseman), or the goalie can move the
puck. Too often goalies over handle the puck and make a bad
decision when choosing to move it.

There are basically two parts to the skill of “moving the puck”.
First is how the goaltender physically positions his hands in
choosing one of 6 methods, and second are the mental skills of
reading the play to select the correct option on where to move
the puck.

The goaltender has 6 options on how to position his hands in
order to move the puck.

The best and quickest way is to move the stick hand to the top of
the shaft, with the catch glove supporting the stick at the paddle.
This is forehand. It is difficult for some because a right-hander
(stick in the right hand and catch glove on left) has to learn to
move the puck as a left-hander.

The second, and most difficult, is the backhand. The hands are
the same as #1, but the puck is moved on the backhand.
Third is a one hand, sweep backhand, that has become very
popular in making a direct pass or moving the pucks around
the boards from behind the net. This is actually easier than the
two-hand backhand.

Fourth, is the one hand forehand push pass. The puck does
not move very hard, but is a quick move.
Fifth and sixth (forehand and backhand) are the “turnover
methods”. Here, the catch glove goes to the butt-end (top
of the stick) and the stick glove remains at the paddle, with
the stick “turning over” (a la Curtis Joseph). The advantage is
that a right-hander can move the puck as a righty. However,
it sometimes takes too long and leaves the goaltender’s stick
way out of position.


Now that the goalie has gained possession of the puck, he
must move it. Too often the goaltender moves the puck past his
teammates, or just blindly throws it with no reason to the corner,
possibly getting his defenseman crushed into the boards.
Ideally, the goalie should make every effort to leave the puck
in a good position, behind the goal line, and away from the
boards for a defenseman. But, if the goalie has to move the
puck, he must have an objective in mind when doing so. He
has three choices.

First, the goalie can make a pass to a teammate. Whether a
direct pass, or moving the puck around the boards, the puck is
not moved too hard or past his teammate. If it is moved PAST a
teammate, the opponent is sure to gain possession and create
a good scoring chance. Often, in a “drop-out play” a defenseman
“peels” to avoid a forechecker and gets into a passing lane
for the goaltender.

Secondly, the objective could be to clear the zone. Many goalies
are just not capable of clearing the zone... even though they
try, and normally turn the puck over for a good scoring chance.
When clearing, always avoid the middle of the ice, try to get
some elevation (we call it getting “getting glass”) and clear the
puck toward the boards, close to the blue line. By taking this
angle (close to the blue line), the puck will leave the zone the
quickest.

However, there are times when nobody is open (forehand or
backhand) for a pass and no open lanes exist to clear, so the
goaltender must simply “dish” the puck “to a safe haven”.
That means put the puck in a place that a shot cannot be taken
(below the hash marks), giving your team a chance to skate onto
the puck, or to set up defensively, keeping your squad “out of
trouble”. Often this is accomplished by dishing the puck toward
the corner, creating a “battle” in a non-threatening location.
This avenue is better than a turnover.

Remember, do not just aimlessly fire the puck up the boards.
Odds are, it will wind up on the opponents stick, and possibly,
in your net! You do not have to fire the puck hard, to be smart
with the puck. The goaltender has 6 options on how to position his hands in
order to move the puck.

The best and quickest way is to move the stick hand to the top of
the shaft, with the catch glove supporting the stick at the paddle.
This is forehand. It is difficult for some because a right-hander
(stick in the right hand and catch glove on left) has to learn to
move the puck as a left-hander.

The second, and most difficult, is the backhand. The hands are
the same as #1, but the puck is moved on the backhand.
Third is a one hand, sweep backhand, that has become very
popular in making a direct pass or moving the pucks around
the boards from behind the net. This is actually easier than the
two-hand backhand.

Fourth, is the one hand forehand push pass. The puck does
not move very hard, but is a quick move.
Fifth and sixth (forehand and backhand) are the “turnover
methods”. Here, the catch glove goes to the butt-end (top
of the stick) and the stick glove remains at the paddle, with
the stick “turning over” (a la Curtis Joseph). The advantage is
that a right-hander can move the puck as a righty. However,
it sometimes takes too long and leaves the goaltender’s stick
way out of position.

Now that the goalie has gained possession of the puck, he
must move it. Too often the goaltender moves the puck past his
teammates, or just blindly throws it with no reason to the corner,
possibly getting his defenseman crushed into the boards.
Ideally, the goalie should make every effort to leave the puck
in a good position, behind the goal line, and away from the
boards for a defenseman. But, if the goalie has to move the
puck, he must have an objective in mind when doing so. He
has three choices.

First, the goalie can make a pass to a teammate. Whether a
direct pass, or moving the puck around the boards, the puck is
not moved too hard or past his teammate. If it is moved PAST a
teammate, the opponent is sure to gain possession and create
a good scoring chance. Often, in a “drop-out play” a defenseman
“peels” to avoid a forechecker and gets into a passing lane
for the goaltender.

Secondly, the objective could be to clear the zone. Many goalies
are just not capable of clearing the zone... even though they
try, and normally turn the puck over for a good scoring chance.
When clearing, always avoid the middle of the ice, try to get
some elevation (we call it getting “getting glass”) and clear the
puck toward the boards, close to the blue line. By taking this
angle (close to the blue line), the puck will leave the zone the
quickest.

However, there are times when nobody is open (forehand or
backhand) for a pass and no open lanes exist to clear, so the
goaltender must simply “dish” the puck “to a safe haven”.
That means put the puck in a place that a shot cannot be taken
(below the hash marks), giving your team a chance to skate onto
the puck, or to set up defensively, keeping your squad “out of
trouble”. Often this is accomplished by dishing the puck toward
the corner, creating a “battle” in a non-threatening location.
This avenue is better than a turnover.

Remember, do not just aimlessly fire the puck up the boards.
Odds are, it will wind up on the opponents stick, and possibly,
in your net! You do not have to fire the puck hard, to be smart
with the puck.







 
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