There’s a lot more that goes into being a goalie than simply stopping the puck.
Many aren’t aware of the preparation that goes into making a save, from the tracking of player movement to staying locked in on the puck.
Sudarshan Maharaj is a goaltending consultant with the Anaheim Ducks and has coached the likes of John Gibson, Martin Biron and Rick DiPietro over his career. He spends time as a scout as well and has evaluated plenty of goalies in his hockey life.
He breaks down the goalie’s job as always being ahead of the play. Anticipating where the puck will go is directly tied to how a goalie uses their footwork and skating.
By always staying focused on the play, it will ensure that a goalie is staying on point.
“If your mind is wandering, if you’re not anticipating and reading the play, there’s no question that you’re late. The minute you’re late, you’re playing catch up as a goaltender. You’re playing a reactive net instead of a proactive net.”
Maharaj says that there is an element of pre-determining where a shot will be aimed at a goalie. The handedness of a shot, left or right, as well as the angle of the stick can help a goalie get into position. It’s those little things that help a goalie get ahead of the puck.
“As the goaltender prepares himself for the shot, they’ve located the player, they’ve located lefty or righty, they’ve located all the scenarios they’re about to face. Then they narrow that focus from that wide view down to the view of the blade. So now you’ve gone from surveying the whole ice surface to surveying the player’s blade so they can read the release of the shot.”
There is an old hockey tale about how it is tougher for goalies to read the puck coming off of a stick with black tape over white. While Maharaj won’t put any stock into it, it’s a notion that he agrees with.
To counteract that, Maharaj says that goalies should learn when to start reading the release of the puck as this can aid in tipping off the height and location of where the puck will go.
“When you see that blade open up, you see that the puck is going to be elevated. The top of the blade pulling backward alone will indicate a high-rising shot. It’s a very quick thing and that’s why that focus has to be on taking from hat big picture of the whole ice down to that minute movement.”
When determining how far into the net a goalie should position themselves, it is a combination of a netminder’s skillset and the coach’s philosophy.
“There are some players that can’t really handle playing at a greater depth and need to be a little more aggressive while there are some players that are just more suited to play a deeper game. It does have an impact. It is a philosophical thing. But there’s also an element of personal preference of personal skillset.”
For younger age groups, Maharaj recommends using a half-butterfly stance and emphasizing patience of when to drop to the knees. He stresses how important it is for goalies to get back on their feet whenever possible and stay centered within the net.