There are a great many coaches that hold their collective breaths whenever goaltenders venture from their crease to handle pucks. Unfortunately, it is often for good reason. But, like any other skill, with a little practice and some planning between the defensemen, forwards and goalies, each time a loose puck nears the net, teams don’t need to enter scramble and hope mode but rather can prepare to breakout cleanly and efficiently.
Communication is essential between the Defensemen and the Goaltender if these exchanges are to be efficient and seamless. Therefore, it is vital that several specific and simple “cue words” be established and rehearsed during practices to help in the execution of D-Goalie exchanges. Words such as “Over, Front or Strong Side” can be used to call for a forehand pass by the Goaltender. The terms, “Reverse, Behind or Weak Side” can denote a backhand pass or a pass to the side with less pressure. And of course “Play it or Leave it” are simple and direct commands that can be used at any level.
Teams may wish to establish their own oral cues. They just need to be straightforward and easily understood by all involved.
Finally, when stopping the puck behind the net, the goaltender should always attempt to set the puck to the forehand of the defenseman that is retrieving the puck. This allows the players to retrieve the puck with greater speed and comfort so they can begin the breakout more rapidly.
Like any important skill, puck handling takes practice. But with some time and effort, it can become a valuable tool in your team and/or Goaltending arsenal.