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Characteristics of an effective puck-handling goaltender

This is an excerpt from Hockey Goaltending by Eli Wilson & Brian van Vliet.

There are five main components that make an effective puck-handling goaltender. As a goaltender, you must be able to do the following:

Think and move your feet at the same time.

In many instances, you will come out to play the puck. You will scan the ice and decide on your best option. Being able to combine hard focus, soft focus, and decision making, all while moving your feet, can be a challenge. An inefficient puck-handling goaltender freezes his feet when making a play to move the puck up ice. As the goaltender approaches the puck, he starts to think about what he is going to do with it. While thinking, he stops moving his feet, and opposition forecheckers can then disrupt the play. It is important to look up ice and keep your feet moving in the same direction. This allows you to see the entire ice and make the best play with the puck. Repeating skating pattern drills allow you to react to a play without thinking about it. Skating patterns are discussed later in this chapter.

Point and move your feet up ice.

It is essential that you always have your feet pointed up ice. This allows you a full view of the ice surface and the ability to look for the best play option and potential threats. You should always attempt to make plays up ice. Playing the puck backward can lead to disastrous and sometimes embarrassing results.

Transition efficiently to two hands on the stick.

For most puck playing, you need to be adept at getting both hands on your stick prior to making a play. Having both hands on the stick provides both power and control. You can utilize the overhand or underhand grip to make a pass or shoot the puck out of the defensive zone. Overhand and underhand grips are described later in this chapter. In either case, the transition from one hand to two hands on the stick should be seamless.

Move the puck to the forehand whenever possible.

Although there are times when you will be forced to make a backhand play, most of the time it is best to transition the puck from the backhand to the forehand. The puck is easier to control on the forehand, and often, passes are more accurate because you can see the play in front of you. Backhand passes can be made, but remember you may be blind to the developments on one-half of the ice. For this reason, we emphasize that you should try to make plays on the forehand whenever possible. When you make a forehand pass, you're facing the play; on a backhand pass, your back is to the play, and you can see only the ice in the direction you're making the pass to. You are blind to the one side of the ice when you are making passes off the backhand, and that's why it is better to play off the forehand.

Communicate with teammates.

Skaters give goalies instructions on what to do with the puck while goalies alert the skaters to potential threats behind them. It is important for you to get comfortable with your teammates and learn their tendencies and preferences. You should learn which players want to come behind the net to pick up the puck and which ones want to receive passes in the corners or up the ice. It is important to know whether your players want passes on their forehands or backhands. Verbal communication and eye contact between you and the players are key. Language used between defensemen and goalies should be as simple as possible, for example, leave it, over, or rim.

More Excerpts From Hockey Goaltending