I like to watch team practices whenever I can. I find I can learn a lot about a goaltender simply by the way they practice. One of the first things I look for is commitment on their part to stop every puck (even in desperation save situations) & secondly, what they do with their “down time” (not engaged in drills or drill explanations).
It is truly amazing to see the number who just let shots go by without really attempting to stop them and/or stand idly leaning up against the net or side of the rink during their “unproductive time”. Of course, there are many other parts of the technical & tactical game I will take note of, but those two items are always first. I dare say most recruiters, or scouts follow much the same pattern.
Before I move on to the best practice "practices", understand 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 because 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 that practice is the only opportunity a goaltender gets to really work on skill development.
Here are some observations that will make practice more productive for you:
- prepare for the ice time; make sure your body is warmed up and stretched before you get on the ice. Time on ice is meant for developing skills, not for warming up and stretching
- pay attention when drills are being explained; Think about the role you could play in drill (don’t be afraid to jump in and ask your coach how you could be a part of the drill particularly if it is a breakout or regroup) or how you can use the drill to improve your technical or tactical skills if it is a shooting drill or a defensive zone entry. Many of the drills used at practice will mimic game situations and likely you will see other teams in your league use some form of that particular practice drill to create scoring opportunities once they enter the defensive zone. This helps your ability to read the play.
- have a plan for each practice; you need to go on the ice with a goal or an objective. Otherwise you will tend to just “float” through practice & come off ice without really producing any positive result except for a bit of perspiration (maybe). Discuss it with your position coach, if you have one, before going on the ice. Perhaps it is something you want to improve on from your last game such as 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. Ask your coach first so he can keep one net clear from player shooting at the beginning of each practice
- practice tracking every shot; 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 keep your eyes focused on & your nose pointed to the puck
- physically reposition on rebounds; if you cannot, (sometimes the spacing between shots does not permit time to physically reposition on rebounds) at least continue to visually track pucks after you make the save
- work on your in-game communication skills; 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. (ask your coach to put a plan together with your teammates on how you should handle rimmed pucks or dump-in situations to help your team make zone exits easier)
- battle hard to stop every shot; even those you know you don't have a chance to stop. 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 every practice; make it a point to get out and stop, set or play any rims or pucks that come near the net to get a feel of how you want to react in different situations. Better to make a mistake there, than in a game.
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going"