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Alexander

Alexander

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Posted by on in Alexander

What are some of the “extras” you can do at the rink & beyond that will translated into improving your play on the ice and give you a better chance at winning?

 
Probably, if you asked 10 people, you would get 10 different answers.  However, it comes down to some very basis rules of thumb that, although, require a lot of discipline, will pay instant rewards

- eat nutritious foods.  Food is fuel for your muscles; no fuel, no energy

- get the correct amount of daily rest.  Same as food; no rest, no energy
- never skip or “tank” a workout.  What you don’t do today will come back to bite you in the future


- prepare thoroughly pregame & pre practice.  Pre-game/practice routines are invaluable to not only instill confidence, but get you in the correct frame of mind to compete &/or learn


- diligently work on your skills to perfect your game.  In practice, focus on the mechanics & movements of the skill & don’t just go through the motions.  Practice is not a social

- never take a "night/day off" at practice or game.  Work harder in practice today than you did in your last game, work harder in your next game than you did in your last practice

- keep an open mind to advice & correction.  Not to do so, could deprive you learn of another “tool” to improve your game

- be a "student" of the game; always in "learning" mode.  The day we know everything about goaltending is the day we stop learning and when you stop learning, you stop improving

- watch hockey! There is no better way to understand the game & how it affects your game, than to watch it being played

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How can you give yourself the best chance at the game results you want? 

Playing a great game is not centered around a couple or one big or “impossible save” that stands out from everything else.
It is the sum of a series of smaller details you control that will put a positive spin on your game, even if your team doesn’t necessarily put up 2 points in the win column.
 

Sometimes you’ll do everything right (or almost everything) and still not win the game.

Here are some suggestions on how YOU can give yourself the best chance to get those 2 points. 

1. remember, you will never play a "perfect" game.  Set your sights on playing an "excellent" game...no goalie ever played a perfect game.  (And, anyway, who needs the added pressure of being perfect)

2. game time is not the time to improve your skills, that is what practices are for.  Trust that your work in practice will give you the best opportunity for game success

3. it is okay to make mistakes.  Every game is full of them.  Park and forget them until the game is over

4. don’t worry & get distracted if your technique is not quite where you'd like it to be on that day.  Everyone has “off” days 

5. share the load...you don't have to win the game all by yourself

6. focus on the goal(s) you have set for the game, not on the score

7. stay positive. Think about being successful

8. do whatever it takes to play well, even if it is "ugly" or not quite up to your usual standard. Sometimes you just must play "ugly" to win 

9. keep your thoughts simple. Don’t over-analyse.  You will only psyche yourself out

10. when on ice, focus on your performance as an athlete, not the score, mistakes or goals that go in

11. play for the team, but TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PLAY

12. don't worry about what others may think about your performance, there will ALWAYS be critics

13. don't ever assume you know what others, or your coaches are thinking; 9 out of 10 times you will be wrong

14. take the game seriously, but have fun 

15. don’t blame others or beat yourself up if you lose. That is the EASY WAY OUT.  Figure out the areas of your game where you might have been better & GET AT IT!  Even if you won, there are always parts of your game you can improve on.

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“SIZE".  At a very young age, it is normally not a factor in goaltender selection, but, unfortunately, as you move up the hockey chain, it does begin to matter.  Sometimes, even, at the U13 level and, most assuredly, at the U15 & U18.  But don’t despair; there is room for the smaller goaltender at those levels & beyond Minor/Youth Hockey or High School.   And, there is still a place in Major Junior/Tier I for the smaller goaltender and, most certainly, the smaller goaltender can flourish at the Junior A or Junior B/Tier II level.

Beyond that, U Sport, NCAA, ECHL, AHL and European teams are options open to those who have the skill but do not achieve the "supposedly ideal" 6' 2" height for an NHL goaltender.  Understand, reaching the NHL is no easy task, even with the size factor.  At any given time, there are only 62 goaltenders playing there and they come from every part of the world.  So, your competition is not only the kid on the next block or in the next town, but the kid playing minor hockey in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland or Germany or Russia. 

My advice to any goaltender, who is shorter in stature than your peers, is to not bury your dreams, but understand what your situation is and take steps to improve your chances at playing at a higher level (if that is truly what you want) by working on and improving those parts of your game to get you there.

So, here are some things you need to be to maximize your ability to compete at any level, no matter what your size.  You can achieve proficiency in most of these even without the help of a coach. 

- athletic (possess incredible agility, balance & co-ordination with speed) These elements can be developed away from the ice surface, but a certain amount requires on-ice time (see the next element below)
*not all goaltenders will have the physiological capabilities to achieve a high level of athleticism.  So then, positioning becomes a much more important factor 

a superior skater (a master at using inside edges to position, or reposition on skates in control and on balance)
Spend on ice time working on inside edge control, crease skating drills & team skating

- unmatched in lateral movement (speed with power in lateral movements on skates or in a lateral slide)

- a student of the game (watches games played at all levels; observing player tendencies and play patterns and how shots are generated and from which locations in the defensive zone they originate)

- excellent at reading the shot release (using complete puck focus and shooter information such as hand/puck/shoulder position to determine height, velocity and shot location immediately as the puck is leaving the stick blade) 

- near perfect at tracking shots (able to SEE pucks coming into & going away from your equipment & FIND the flight path of the puck through screens & front net traffic situations)

- a master at staying up and on skates (patient and confidently remaining on skates and only moving to a butterfly or RVH position after the PUCK HAS LEFT THE STICK BLADE & the velocity & trajectory is known or through experience &/or past observation can anticipate the logical sequence of events prior to the shot) The exception being close in, tight, shot situations where the higher percentage play is to use a down, butterfly or RVH, blocking position

- near perfect at positioning (must always have proper angle and depth on every shot and must arrive "on time", every time, so feet are set and skates, hips & shoulders are square to the puck "BEFORE" the shot released – in the case of a lateral slide the same squareness must be priority) 

- strong mentally (develop your mental toughness & “grit” to handle the ups & downs of goaltending)

 

A few other non-technical, non-tactical necessary elements.

has a “never give up” attitude
works harder than any of his team mates every off or on ice session
wants to be the best
wants to learn

 

ENJOYS PRACTICES AS MUCH AS THE GAME

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Confidence!  It is a corner stone on which successful goaltending is built.

 

Confidence inspires you to play at a top of your game; playing at the top of your game inspires confidence.  The question is, which comes first?  Perhaps it is a bit of both.  But, make no mistake, self-confidence is crucial to performing at your highest level.


If you are confident, you'll be better able to handle difficult situations - those times during competition when things go wrong.  Your demeanour both on and off the ice will reflect that confidence and your attitude will be "play to win" and not a "try not to lose" mentality, which will influence your team mates & inspire confidence in them as well.

 

On the other hand, when you aren't confident, you'll struggle with mistakes, likely become frustrated and play too cautiously.  You become tense, your movements are no longer smooth, you "fight" the puck, you create rebounds and overplay situations.

 

So, if we understand how important confidence is to our performance, why do we struggle with confidence issues from time to time, and more importantly, how do you acquire/maintain/regain confidence.

 

From our experience, confidence seems more evident when the goaltender focuses on his/her strong points (what are the things I do really well) and not their deficiencies or weaknesses.  There is no room for negativity if you are to perform at your best.  

Confident goaltenders concern themselves only with the things they can control (emotions, preparation, attitude, thoughts).  We also note that, generally, the more prepared the individual is, the more likely they are to play with confidence.

 

And, that leads us to one of the most important elements that will affect confidence - PREPARATION.  We've talked about pre-game preparation many times before & we are firm believers that the better prepared physically and mentally (and especially mentally) you are to play, the more likely you will play with confidence.  There is something about routine and familiarity that gives us a feeling of comfort and preparedness.  So, doing all those "good things" which motivated athletes do away from the rink plus a positive pre-competition routine will start you off on the confidence route.

 

If you noticed, all the things we mentioned in the previous paragraph are controllable by the goaltender.  As a starting point,

1. make a list of what you can or can't control

2. don't worry about what you can't control.

 

Remember, there definitely will be ups & downs in your game and it is natural that you will struggle with confidence at times.  The secret is to understand that it will happen, and to believe in yourself and that what you are doing will bring positive results over the long run.  

Understand what got you to where you are today (hard work, motivation, dedication, on & off ice training, good personal choices).  Understand, as well, that your skills don't just "suddenly" leave you.  They don't say "that's it, I'm done" and go away.  More likely, you are hi-jacking your skills with negativity.  Our experience is that, goaltenders get into trouble with confidence when they start thinking the game, thinking about their mistakes or their team mates mistakes, the referee, missed opportunities, what their team mates think, what the coach thinks, what the fans think....the better able you can control that "little voice" inside your head the more likely you will play with confidence. 

No one can "give" you confidence and no one can take it from you.  Your confidence (or lack of) is in your hands (or, more exactly, in your head)  Understand the things (negative thoughts, unmet expectations, mistakes etc) that affect your confidence level and focus on replacing those thoughts (the little voice inside your head) with the notion that you can get through this because you are doing all the "right things" and that this is just one small bump in the road in your journey to becoming the best goaltender you can be.


Confidence is preparation.  Everything else is beyond your control. - Richard Kline

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Posted by on in Alexander

I like to watch team practices whenever I can.  From youth/minor hockey to junior & pro.  I find I can learn a lot about a goaltender simply by the way they practice. One thing that really stands out, especially at the minor/youth hockey level, is a lack intensity in practices and the amount of time spent unproductively.  With few exceptions, I also see goaltenders left on their own without anyone really working with them to improve his/her skill development during practices, even if there is a position coach with them on the ice. (but that’s a topic for another time)

Let me begin by telling you it is my belief that the old saying "you play like you practice" is exactly true....if you give your best effort in practice you'll do the same in the game; if you pay attention to details in practice you will in a game.  For the goaltender, I think this so much more important since your play, good or bad, could determine the outcome of a game.  I also believe that every goaltender needs to take responsibility for their development and needs to engage in a certain amount of self-coaching and, also believe that practice is the only time one can really work on skill development. 

If you are such a goaltender, I want to pass on a few observations that will make practice more productive for you:

- prepare; make sure you are warmed up and stretched before you get on the ice.  Time on ice is meant for developing skills, not really for warming up and stretching

- do you need to go to the drill explanation each time the coach whistles players in?  Ask the coach to signal you in only if you really need to be a part of the drill.  Otherwise ask to use the time to work on some aspect of your game such as puck handling, inside edge work skating or lateral slides/recoveries; sealing off the post in a VH or RVH etc.


- have a practice plan; you need to go on the ice with some goal or objective.  Discuss it with your position coach before going on the ice, if you have one.  Perhaps it is something you want to improve on from your last game like keeping your hands ahead of your body in stance, keeping your stick on the ice and in your 5-hole.  Basically, anything you want to become better at

- get your skating in first; as soon as you step on the ice, head for a crease and do your skating drills.  You need to work on skating every practice.  Make sure you check with your coach first so he can keep one net clear from player shooting

- work on your puck tracking; track every puck from the time it leaves the shooter’s stick, as it comes into your body and you smother it or catch it or direct the rebound away with your blocker, pad or stick. (tip: keep your nose pointed to the puck)

- follow rebounds; if you can't follow them physically (sometimes the spacing between shots doesn't permit time to physically reposition on rebounds) at least continue to track pucks visually after you make the save
 

-  practice is a good time work on game situation communication with your team-mates; vocalize information to your team-mates when the team is working power play or penalty kill or breakouts.  It will be easier to transfer this skill to games if you have already practiced it

- battle hard to stop every shot; even those you know you don't have a chance to stop.  Reason being, your team-mates will appreciate your effort when you challenge them & it will show your commitment to improving.  And secondly, your “battle mentality” will translate into your game play and help you make that "game saving" stop from time to time

- handle pucks at every practice; make it a point to get out and stop any rims or pucks that come near the net


"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going"

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Posted by on in Alexander

Today I want to address a topic which is discussed often among coaches & a question asked by recruiters & scouts.
  
Is he/she coachable?

Perhaps there is no more important quality in a player than to be eager to learn.  And, probably no quicker way to become a better goaltender. 

So, who exactly is the "coachable" athlete? I suggest it is the goaltender who WANTS to be in the net every second of the game; who ACCEPTS the fact that they do make mistakes and who LEARNS from those mistakes; who TAKES responsibility for their performance (good or bad); who SEEK out help from their coach or mentor and are ALWAYS looking to improve.  Their mind is open to new things & new ways to do things.  They take advice WILLINGLY, and though they believe in themselves, they understand that they are where they are because of others.  And, that they need others to become the success they desire to be.

A coachable goaltender is one who shows up at the rink PREPARED, whether practice or game. They are always ready to get better and want to be the best they can be. They are energetic and enthusiastic.  They are first on the ice and last to leave and always looking to do more.  


And they look you in the eye when you speak to them.

Unfortunately, I've seen my share of goaltenders over the past 25 years coaching WHO DO/WILL NOT "look you in the eye when you speak to them".... they just nod or, look past your shoulder as you speak & then go out and do exactly the same as they did before the conversation.  As a coach this is, perhaps, one of the most frustrating & disappointing encounters you'll have.  And you know right there you words are not having any effect on the individual.

Because, they are telling you, without saying a word, "there is nothing you can tell me I don't already know and, so, I am not really interested in what you have to say".  It also shows a complete lack of respect for someone who is only trying to help you get better. If any of this sounds familiar, well………………….

I suspect all coaches would welcome that the goaltender simply say, "I don't agree coach, I see it this way" or "I'd prefer to try this way, because...." or "Can you explain to me why this is important?”  At the very least this would produce some dialogue.  And, from that dialogue perhaps a common ground can be reached.

Most of these type goaltenders I encountered, did not go on to have an extensive goaltending career beyond Minor/Youth Hockey. 

So, the message here folks is: if you are an aspiring goaltender and not already "Coachable", learn quickly!

"The difference between a good player and a great player is that a good player thinks he or she is good, and a great player always believes they can be better,“ A great player is an athlete who is never satisfied.”  Bob Deraney

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Posted by on in Alexander
Didn't make the team?

Make it a new beginning not an end with a 
NEW ATTITUDE & renewed motivation
 
 
Reflecting back on the tryout period prior to the season as we enter the first couple of weeks of hockey season, it is safe to say these were some very anxious moments for goalies (and parents too)
 
And, some of you didn't make the team you tried out for. Believe me, I've seen it happen numerous times including a couple of personal experiences & I must admit it wasn't the the most pleasant of times.

So, today, I thought I would pass on some advice which, I hope, will motivate you to begin the process of improving your chances next time.
 
I know the first question that comes to mind, when you get the bad news, is WHY?  
 
Truth is, sometimes it doesn't make a lot of sense, even when you get the answer. (if you get an answer)  Maybe it was just that the competition was tough (a lot of exceptionally good goalies in your age group) or you didn't perform up to the expectation of the coaches or your skills were lacking.  Or maybe, "politics" came into play.  Maybe it was your demeanor, how you presented yourself in the net.  Maybe the coach thought he would give a second year goaltender(s) the opportunity, or the coach just felt more comfortable (confident) with the other guy (or girl).

You can't hang on to the thought that the coach didn't like you, or they didn't see you at your best, or you should have been selected because you allowed fewer goals than the other goalie(s) .  

Whatever the reason, you must move on.
 
Understand, that, unless we do fail from time to time, we will never become the best we can be.  Most top end athletes (goaltenders) will tell you that they failed numerous times during their rise to the top, and these failures were the motivation that really drove them to become successful. (check out the Jordan Binnington story) They learned from the failing experience and were able to "move on", understand their deficiencies, and vowed to work diligently on those deficiencies to make the necessary corrections and improve.

And, so, failing is a necessary part to improving your game.
 
The question is, what are YOU going to do about it?
  
 
The first thing you need to do is take a hard, honest look at your game and identify the parts that need improvement   
 
Although you may attempt to do this yourself, I suggest you enlist someone whom you consider to be an unbiased, experienced coach to review your game with the use of video or observation.  Just remember, they will need to be brutally honest and, so, you may hear things you don't want to hear. However, if you REALLY want to improve, then the need for honesty.

 
During the initial review process, 3 or 4 areas for improvement may be identified.  Once, identified, develop a plan and commit it to writing.  This will provide direction and keep you on track, plus allow you to measure how you are progressing at a future point in time versus where you began.  You will likely have to do this several times during season, similar the approach used at the professional hockey level.

I suggest that you include your parents in the plan.  They can act in a supporting role where necessary. But remember, the puck is in your rink. It's 
YOUR plan and not the responsibility of Mom or Dad or a coach to lead you along.  They supply direction and support only.  YOU must provide the motivation, dedication & hard work.  
 
If you truly WANT (not wish, like to, would be nice) to be a top end, above average or elite goaltender then you need to put in the work, provide the self-motivation and DEVELOP THOSE GOOD, PERSONAL HABITS necessary.

There is absolutely no substitute. There is no "magic formula"  You must put in the time and the work.
   
 
AND, NO ONE ELSE CAN DO IT FOR YOU! 

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
 
 
 
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 Prepare for the opposition

  1.  Through your own experience, by viewing video or by viewing statistics determine players to watch on the opposing team (this prepares you to deal with the better players on the opposing team because you know who they are and their tendencies.  Usually the better” players are the betterplayers game in and game out.   (this will also prepare you for shootout situations)

 2.  Again through your own experience, by viewing video or discussion with your head or assistance coaches, determine the type of game offense this team usually plays or the combinations you will most likely see (this prepares you to formulate a plan for your reaction to most of opposition zone entries & power play, plus how you will need to communicate with your defense for a stretch pass, wide rim, dump & chase or beat the “D” and net drive situations etc.)

 3.  Similarly, you should make yourself aware of the opposition tendencies once they penetrate the defensive zone on 5 on 5, 5 on 4, or 5 on 3 situations (thiwill allow you to develop a game plan for reaction to each of these pressure situations so you improve your chances for success)

Reminders
 
Pick one or two self-reminds to take with you into the game.  Here is a quick list of some self-reminders you might use:

- track every puck into and away from your body, gear, stick etc.
- focus on getting into position quickly on passes
- re-position quickly on rebounds
- set my feet before every shot
- fight to find pucks in traffic
- be patient
- be under control (physically & emotionally)
- help my “D” by communicating with them
- get out & handle all pucks that are near the net
- battle for every puck
BREATH

Physical Warm-up (typical)

Pre-ice

1.  Dynamic stretch / warm-up (10 – 15 minutes)
2.  Technical movements include quickness and agility exercises with tennis balls or “reaction” balls either alone or with your goaltending partner.  (10 minutes)
3.  Static Stretch (5 minutes)

On-ice

For the first couple of minutes – movement drills (saves & crease movements, slides – do outside the crease) then team warm up (discuss with your coach & team mates the most effective warm up for you)

Focus on the process of the warm up and not whether a shot goes by you and into the net.  IT IS A WARM UP ONLY TO PREPARE YOU TO PLAY. 

IN GAME - BE ACCOUNTABLE

 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Game day preparation is vital to the success of the goaltender; especially at a high caliber level of competition.  To neglect this important area is to jeopardize the potential for you to play at your best.  

Proper preparation will give you a sense of control over an otherwise seemingly, uncontrollable situation and allows you to rehearse your reaction to game situations as they might develop.  Proper preparation will also give you a measure of confidence and you will go into the competition feeling at ease and comfortable.

Preparing the mind

Breathing: take 5 minutes and work on your breathing (this helps calm your mind and relaxes your body) 

Inhale for a count of two… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for four…  and finish by  holding the breath out for a count of one. Keep your breathing even and smooth. If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on.  But if longer breaths create any anxiety there is no need to push yourself. The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the absolute length of the breath

Visualization: 5 – 10 minutes of visualization work will effectively bring you into “game mode”

Find a quite spot without distractions.  Create a mental image (visualization) of different game situations in your mind as though they were happening and you were   looking at them through your own eyes. (watch the puck coming at you and hitting your equipment, or you catching the puck or controlling the rebound. In other words, you are successfully making the save. Try to do this for 5 - 10 minutes. It will be difficult at first and perhaps you will only be able to concentrate for a few minutes.  But as you practice more you will be able to concentrate longer)

(visualization and breathing exercises can and should be practiced regularly both at and away from the rink)

 

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The most important factor when the puck is being carried behind the net is to maintain eye contact with the puck for the greatest amount of time that it is there.

Generally, goaltenders will stop watching the puck once it passes the post on the short side & begin to move in the direction the puck is being carried without bothering to maintain any type of eye contact with the puck until they arrive at the far post.

In other words, the goaltender is “guessing” that the puck carrier will continue moving the puck in a forward direction behind & around or beyond the net.  And this really is a “guess”.

Simply, because, this does not consider the other 3 options at the puck carrier’s disposal:

1. the puck carrier can stop at some point behind the net & with a quick set up, make a pass out to a supporting partner on either side (result = panic: since goaltender is committed to one side of the net & has no idea where the puck carrier or puck is, he/she ends up turning his/her head from side to side in an attempt to determine where the attack will come from)

2. the puck carrier can make a back pass to a partner who is below the goal line & trailing the play (result = trailing partner steps out over the goal line & jams the puck into the open net near side or plays “catch” with the passer forcing the goaltender to bounce from post to post & completely out of position for any type of scoring attempt)

3. as he reaches the mid-way point behind the net, the puck carrier can make a back pass to a supporting partner who is already above the goal line on the same side of the net where the puck carrier started (result = easy tap in goal 9 times out of 10)

 

So, here is one method to "effectively" track puck movement behind the net.

 


The first point I want to make here is “don’t panic”!  Remember, generally you will have more time than you realize especially, if you maintain excellent eye contact with the puck.
 

In this scenario we have chosen, the goaltender has positioned him/herself in an RVH (or for younger, less experienced goaltenders in an integrated post position on his/her skates) on the blocker side post as the puck is being moved below the goal line towards the net on the goaltender's blocker side. 

The goaltender should hold this position on the post until the point where the puck has moved past the blocker side post inside the frame of the net.  Now the goaltender moves his upper body away from the blocker side post but keeps his/her skate blade/pad in contact with that post and eye contact on the puck.  At this point the goaltender will be positioned on the goal line & approximately MID-NET.

When the goaltender can no longer see the puck over his blocker side shoulder he should continue to HOLD THAT SAME MID-NET POSITION, turn his head & attempt to pick up the puck location over his trapper side shoulder.
  

If the puck carrier has continued his path forward with the puck, the goaltender should just simply use his/her trailing leg (the one still in contact with the blocker side post) to push off & engage and seal the trapper side post and the ice.

On the other hand, if the goaltender cannot locate the puck position over the trapper side shoulder, he should KEEP HIS POSITION & turn his head back to the blocker side & attempt to locate the puck on that side.

If the puck carrier has stopped & set up behind the net, the goaltender can still maintain eye contact on the puck simply by leaning a little more to one side or the other and reacting to what he does. Although, not totally integrated to either post, the goaltender's location still leaves him/her in a very, very favorable position to gain angle on a pass out to either side of the net or deal with a wrap around attempt. 

If any type of back pass has been made the goaltender is still in a favorable position (MID-NET) to react to either of the back-pass situations described above because the goaltender is just a short push away from being able to quickly and effectively integrate with the post and seal the ice and/or gain angle against the scoring attempt.

We suggest this method is equally effective in situations where puck movement is similar but, where the goaltender chooses to remain on his/her skates and to not move into an RVH position.


(although we have used puck movement from blocker to trapper side of the net, the same method can be used for a puck being moved in the opposite direction)

Tagged in: Goalie Training
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Posted by on in Alexander

To successfully prevent goals being scored from screened shots requires a collaborative effort between the goaltender & the team’s defensive core. 

Basically most, if not all, screened shots are scored because the initial shot is deflected or redirected by an opposing player or the goaltender’s own player.  Other instances of goals being scored from screens might be the goaltender looking to the wrong side in traffic or the goaltender guessing because he/she is unable to see the shot release point or, because of the screening effect (screen moving into or out of the puck trajectory path), to track the trajectory of the puck all the way. 

Additionally, we are seeing “layers” of screening on some shots.  For example, there could be a high defending forward, a secondary defender layer, and finally, an opposition player (or in reverse order) all in the goaltender’s sight line to the puck release. 

In today’s game, the emphasis for the defending team appears to be front blocking where the defender(s) (one or more) position ahead of the opposition player attempting to block the shot before it reaches the opposition player (acting as a front net screen) and, subsequently, the goaltender.  All is good in respect to this set up, if the shot is, indeed, blocked.  Unfortunately, depending on the commitment of the defender to block the shot or the blocking instincts of the defender, quite often, the puck will get through. 

If, what I have described above, is the system defense employed by a team in a screening situation, I suggest the following: 

a. shot blocking ALWAYS attempts to force the opposition to shoot to the short side (opposition player at the blue line on the goaltender’s blocker side of the ice, defender positions to take away the far side shooting lane.  Opposition player at the blue line on the goaltender’s trapper side of the ice, defender positions to take away the far side shooting lane) 

b.  when there are two defensive layers blocking, the one nearest the shooter attempts an outright block and the secondary layer positions in the far shooting lane.  Understand, that it is as important to force the shot to the short side as it is to block a shot.  Forcing the shot to the short side, which would normally be away from heavy traffic and the potential for deflection or re-directs also allows the goaltender to deal with only one screen (opposition player) making for easier puck tracking to the net and improving the potential to control rebounds to the short side or directly back out in the direction of the shooter and away from the low slot, high scoring location 

c. the defensive player in a blocking position nearest the net must understand that if the shot does go through to the net, they MUST immediately attempt to gain a position where they are able to retrieve any rebound or prevent the front net opposition player from retrieving a rebound

Here is a guide for the goaltender in a screening situation: 

a.  maintain a relaxed, upright stance following the puck until the shot release is imminent then move into a shot ready position  

b.  be aggressive in maintaining your position at the top of the crease.  Do not allow the opposition to back you into the net.  Use your trapper hand to keep opposition at a distance that allows you to move freely in and around the crease to make the save 

c.  default to a short side view to find the release point of the shot and track its trajectory 

d.  if there is front net screen movement, you may have to adjust your sight line by moving your upper body from side to side or even up & down prior to the shot release.  Continue to maintain your edges and, more importantly, your angle and position in the crease while doing so.  I cannot overemphasis how critical it is to see the puck release to be able to determine the path of the puck to the net.  Even if eye contact with the puck is lost in flight, those first few fractions of a second when the puck leaves the stick should allow the goaltender to “connect the dots” to determine the general location where the puck will arrive at the net, unless deflected or re-directed 

e.  if the shot is a clear-sighted situation, and the screen is not a factor, the goaltender need use the appropriate save selection to stop the puck.  However, if there is potential for a re-direct or deflection the goaltender should default to a butterfly block described below 

e.  where the view of the puck release & trajectory is completely unavailable, the default action will be to move into a butterfly block.  This is strictly a blocking position with elbows tight, hands down (no “active hands” positioning) and slightly ahead of the body and, of course a tight butterfly with a slight bend at the hips and head forward for good balance & reaction/re-positioning/recovery 

f.  on the same note, where the puck release view is available, but the trajectory vision is impeded along the puck’s path to the net, the goaltender should use the “connect the dots” method.  This should allow the goaltender a rough idea whether the path of the puck will be to the right, left, high, low or directly into his/her present angle.  If to the right or left, the goaltender can use a center shift to bring as much of his/her body to fill that portion of the net into the anticipated path of the shot

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Posted by on in Alexander
  1. I will work hard to develop my skating, & technical skills so I am the best goaltender I can be
  2. I will give my best in every game and never leave any game wishing I had worked harder
  3. I will build my mental toughness so that negative events in a game will not affect my performance
  4. I will improve my practice habits and, so, my play in games will reflect how I practice and I will develop my best game habits in practice
  5. I will accept responsibility for my play - good or bad
  6. I will not lay blame with my team mates for goals that are scored even if they made the mistake
  7. I will be a student of the game and always look to improve so that my play will be a positive influence in all my games
  8. I will be disciplined in both my on & off ice habits, and maintain emotional control at all times during games
  9. I will practice good pre-game preparation so when I step on the ice, I am always ready to compete
  10. I will compete for every puck and never give up on a shot, no matter how impossible it might seem to stop it

 

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Posted by on in Alexander

You can absolutely "kill it" in practices, but if you aren't able to perform under pressure you will not become a top end goaltender.  To quote Allistair McCaw, professional trainer & author

"THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BEST AND THE REST COMES DOWN TO PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE


In my experience, when you have two athletes (goaltenders) of equal skill the one most likely to come out on top is the one who can handle the stress and pressure of competition, even when fatigued. 
The athlete able to cope with stress & pressure will always be looking to solutions, not excuses.  They will be doing all the good things we explained in our last e-mail and posted to our FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/alexandergoaltending/

If you watch them closely in practice, these are the ones who consistently challenge themselves to become better.  Even when the drill is mundane or "easy" they look for ways to make it challenging.  They look for more ways to make it more difficult....for themselves.

Hopefully they have a coach who understands the saying "you play like you practice" so he makes sure the goaltender is engaged and challenged in every drill.  But, if not, they know what they have to do.  They understand that the best way to get better and learn about yourself, your capabilities & shortcomings is to "step into the fire".

You will compete as you train!  If you really want to perform well under pressure you need to take an honest look at how you train.  Don't give in to excuses & looking for the easy way out. 

I recall an incident working with a couple of Junior goaltenders where I devised a drill (purposely) where the goaltender's chance of success was marginally low.  Mid-way through the drill I had one of the goaltenders come up to me and suggest we switch drills......because he thought is was too hard.  Good luck with that one.

Here is a quote from a prominent QMJHL goaltender, “You definitely have to practice like you play. I think the more you practice competitiveness, and making athletic saves, the more your body will get used to it”, said the veteran netminder. “When it comes time to applying that in a game, you are ready to make that type of save. You always have to battle for those extra saves and extra pucks, because you never know if it’s going to be a difference maker in a game.”
 

Can you handle the pressure and be a "difference maker"?

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Posted by on in Alexander

Over the past month I’ve been taking in a lot of hockey games, mostly watching goaltenders in the 13 – 15 age group (10 – 12’s next).

With few exceptions, the majority goaltenders appear similar. They all look the part and, generally, they all have reasonable technical skills. Some are a step above others, others struggle a little at the level and a very large group are possess average skills – they are no more above average than below average.

If I am looking beyond the obvious, however, it becomes apparent that there is much more of a separation than the 3 I have described above.  Because, once the game starts, some of those who looked the part, no longer stand out.

So, if I am observing or reporting on a goaltender, here are some of the important elements I want to evaluate beyond the general technical skills:

1.      Does he/she compete to stop every shot?  Is she/he willing to do anything to make the save?

2.      Does he/she have excellent footwork controlling his/her inside edges both on her/his feet and in a down position & move around the crease smoothly and easily?

3.      Does she/he position (gap/angle) properly in all game situations

4.      Do I see his/her eyes track pucks/shots right into his/her trapper or body or to her/his pad, stick or blocker and then away from the body?

5.      Is she/he mentally tough & focused? Making a timely save when the pressure is on or shaking off mistakes and bad bounces

6.      Can he/she process the game?  Does they appear to understand how plays generally develop in the defensive zone and are they able to understand the potential options.

7.      Is she/he athletic?  I don’t mean diving & flopping all over the crease.  I mean CONTROLLED athletic movement

Certainly, this list is not all encompassing and there are more parts to the making of a top end goaltender.  However, many of these elements were lacking in a good portion of goaltenders I observed.  All are skills or intangibles which do not require a coach, only motivation & effort.

But make no mistake, their absence will/could become the deciding factor when you are being scouted or recruited.

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Posted by on in Alexander

Success!  Everyone has their own definition.  Most of what I hear and see is that success is equated with winning.  I don't necessarily agree with this, but, to each his own opinion.

So, what is really necessary to be a success (successful)?  Ask 100 people and you might get 100 different answers.  So, it's really an individual thing.

This leads me to the question: "what is REALLY necessary for success?"
Again, the answers would be similar to the question in the second paragraph........... different answers from different people.

So, let's talk about that a bit by exploring what happens when we are NOT successful.

From personal experience what I see, is that, when we are not successful (in our own estimation) we get caught up with irrelevant things which have no real bearing on results or success.  "I need a better pad" "a different stick or brand of gear"  "Maybe I should have a protein shake before the game" "perhaps I need to change my off-ice workout" 

And so, we fret & anguish over minor details which make up such a small part of the picture and neglect the important parts which bring the most positive results. Why do we do this?

BECAUSE IT IS EASIER! 

It is easier than admitting that you really don't do the important things that make up the 90% difference to be successful such as:

- eating nutritious foods
- getting the correct amount of daily rest
- never skipping a workout
- preparing thoroughly pregame & pre practice
- diligently working on your skills to perfect your game
- never taking a "night/day off" at practice
- keeping an open mind to advice & correction
- being a "student" of the game always in "learning" mode

Sure, new shiny pads or stick will look sharp, but, are they really going to make the difference? Not unless you have already honed your technical skills and mastered the fundamentals of goaltending.

And, for that, you must PUT IN THE WORK!

So, what are you waiting for?  Make a decision, stick to it and START TODAY.

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Successful Tryouts


Within the next couple of days or maybe, even already, you will be heading off to one of the most stressful times of the hockey season. ..........try-outs.  But, it need not be, (except for the usual "butterflies") if you invest some time developing your own personal strategy.

First, you need to prepare for each ice session in the same fashion you would for any game.  Go through the same pre-game prep routine you always did during season.  As humans we all like things we are familiar with, so, by following the same pre-game routine & structure you always do, you will automatically feel more comfortable, at ease, & relaxed.


Secondly, in the heat of try-outs things are apt to go wrong (a puck hits your glove & trickles in; a puck goes in off a defenseman's skate; you lose your angle & goal is scored) What you need do is NOT dwell on these, especially your mistakes.  If you do, it will only magnify the problem and hurt your confidence.  The more you dwell on an error or mistake, the more you will play trying to avoid making more mistakes.

You will play your best, if you continue to play through those with the understanding that mistakes do happen.  It is human and all part of the game. Focus on the positives of your performance and don't be afraid to take risks.

Here are a few other thoughts for you to consider:

BE ON TIME - ALWAYS

- show you are motivated to make the team through hard work (give you best effort every game & practice)

- be enthusiastic & upbeat...a tryout is no place for negative talk (either self-talk or otherwise)

- don't be intimidated by others.  Make sure you get your share of shots, but don’t try to overdo it.
  You need to warm up as much as the next guy

- project a confident image...head up, shoulders square

- battle to stop every puck & never give up on a shot, “ANYTIME”; even in warmup

- watch the body language...throwing your hands up on a goal, snapping your stick against the post, shrugging your shoulders or glaring at your defensemen DOES NOT earn you "brownie" points with the coaches

- DO NOT shoot pucks or go into some elaborate skating drill while waiting for your turn to receive shots.  Simply, grab a knee and wait or move into a butterfly position & work on adjusting your upper body posture or hand/stick positioning until your turn comes up - relax

- listen more than you talk, especially in the dressing room

- o
n the ice, be a loud communicator of traffic and situations for your D and supporter of your team mates


- Be intense but under control
- DO NOT attempt to change your game from how you did things all season just because you're in a try-out
- the number of goals you give up is not as important as WHY THE PUCK WENT IN

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Posted by on in Alexander
Oddities of 2018 NHL Playoffs

This year's playoffs have been one for the ages.  With the conclusion of the semi-finals last night we've seen some real oddities.  Both losing goaltenders are Vezina trophy finalists.  Both were younger goaltenders (Andrei Vasilevskiy (limited playoff experience), Tampa & Connor Hellebuyck, (no playoff experience) Winnipeg.  But, both highly touted to take their respective teams through. And, both losing teams in the semi-finals (Winnipeg & Tampa) were likely picked by most to move on (and who would have predicted Las Vegas & Washington to be in the Stanley Cup finals). I am not going to comment here on the play of either goaltender or whether they were a factor in their team losing.

But, the lesson here is that things don't always work out as predicted or planned and that we, as goaltenders, should never lose sight of this.  Hockey is at best, unpredictable.  And, we need to be able to deal with it.  Many of the articles I have written throughout the past season have covered the uncertainty of the position and how we should approach it. Hopefully, you've all been able to gain some insights from those articles that you can use in your goaltending travels.

As an added point to the oddities of the game, after having no shutouts in the regular season and starting the playoffs as a BACKUP, Braden Holtby recorded back-to-back shutouts in do-or-die games to propel the Capitals into the Stanley Cup Final.  It shows we can never tell what the future will bring.  So just hold on to your dreams, work diligently & with motivation and never give up.
 
 
 
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Posted by on in Alexander

You always perform at your best when your mind is calm and free of distractions.  A calm mind allows you to focus and react smoothly to what is happening around you.

The opposite of that of course is a mind filled with thoughts with one competing with one other for attention and giving off different signals.  That causes indecision.  So now, that low shot to the blocker side that you normally handle with ease becomes a challenge.  Should I angle the puck to the corner, try to stop and cover it or???? Your body becomes tight and your right arm (or left if you are left-handed) refuses to move at the same speed it normally does, the puck slips through and the red light flashes!

Generally, there are two major elements that cause indecisiveness.

I think a lot has to do with trying to do things perfectly (take it from a former perfectionist)  You put so much focus on the "how to" or the technical part of the action that you tend to neglect the fact that the outcome is what is really important......STOP THE PUCK!

Another cause might be thinking too far ahead.  You worry about the final score and forget to live and act in the moment.  So, throughout the game, your mind wanders to the outcome at the neglect of the present.

If you find this happening to you you might try these couple of tips to help you:

1. Don't second guess yourself....stick with your "A" plan. (generally your first thought is the best one)

2. Trust what got you to where you are.  Trust that all your training and hard work will see you through even though you might encounter rough patches.  Don't worry about being perfect. The minute you start questioning your abilities you are at a disadvantage. 

In the words of the Nike commercial...."JUST DO IT" 

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Posted by on in Alexander

I am sure every one of us who has a goaltender son/daughter has given thought at one time or another to the potential for them to have a legitimate shot at playing beyond youth/minor hockey perhaps at Junior A, Major Junior, Prep School, University or the Professional level.

And, the dream is exactly that for most every goaltender.

The unfortunate part is that, for the majority of us, at some point, those expectations meet the realities of the situation and it becomes evident that it might not happen. So parents & coaches need to become proactive in their approach.  Certainly, it is not the time to dash anyone's hopes and a well thought out plan of encouragement can keep everything on a positive note.  

Here are a few thoughts as to how to approach a situation like this.

I think, whether a coach or parent, the first thing you need to be is HONEST.   

For the goaltending coach, you need to explain where the goaltender's skill development level is presently and then, where exactly it needs to be if the goaltender is to move forward along the path to their goal.  The conversation about what "needs" to be done is an absolute necessity.  From there the ball is really in the athlete's court.
They must provide the effort and motivation and hard work with coach & parents providing direction and support.

In any event, everyone need to understand how steep the climb is to the top. The numbers who "make it" are extremely small by comparison to those who start out. The hockey pyramid is very wide at the bottom, but becomes so much smaller as it nears the top.  Hockey is now a global sport and once you leave Minor or Youth hockey, competition for spots on high level teams could come from almost any corner of the planet. 

Here, as well, I say to parent and goaltender go and see games at the next level and above where your son/daughter presently plays.  Sit at the side of the rink as close to the boards as you can.  There you are going to get a sense of the speed of the game and how quickly the puck moves, how hard the players shoot, how skilled they are at executing fakes, how quickly goaltenders react and able to read situations and on and on.  If you do, I think you will find it is a real eye-opener.

At any rate, it should point out the level the goaltender needs to be and just how big a gap there is between where they are skill wise and where they want to be.  Hopefully this will be the motivation factor that spurs them on.

And, finally, I point out, it is not always about skill, and that a positive attitude, work ethic, competitiveness, being coachable and a good team player are all attributes that are meaningful to coaches at every level.  

Many times it is the goaltender who possesses these 
intangibles who will improve more rapidly and can make the move up to the next level. 

There is never a good reason, no matter what, to not try to be the best goaltender you can possibly be, at whatever level you play.

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Posted by on in Alexander

Much of the off-season focus should really be on the physical plus time (refer to our e-mail from last week) taken for technical development and improvement.  This will still leave you plenty of time to play golf, tennis, or some other sport as a non-competitive activity.

So, here is what a potential training period could look like.  The number of training days per week will be determined by the program/trainer.

May 1 to the middle of August if you are Professional, University or Junior
(approximately 16 weeks)
May 1 to the middle of August if you are Midget, High School, Bantam or Prep School
(approximately 12 weeks)
June 1 to the middle of August if you are younger
(approximately 10 weeks)

Among other things, here is a short list of some basic elements you need to key in on during "The Most Important Season".

 

Speed & Agility
Allows you to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good balance

Leg & Lower Body Strength & Power
Gives you explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes.  Allows for smooth transition from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to slide in a lateral slide

Core Strength:
Gives you well developed abdominals, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient movement in & around the net.  (Core muscles are first to contract when we initiate goaltending movements)

Quick Feet:
Allows for speed of foot movement in and around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences

Flexibility
Gives you the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion; especially useful
in scramble situations or when caught out of position

High Fitness (Cardio) Level:
Gives you great anaerobic capacity and all-round conditioning

Hand/Eye Coordination & vision training:
Gives you the ability to co-ordinate limb movement to intercept the path of the puck effectively
on every shot

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