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Pressure

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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Beyond the Obvious

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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What do you REALLY NEED for success

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

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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There is a message in the oddities of this year's NHL playoffs

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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