Monday, May 01, 2006

Goalie camp - day 3, shuffling around and gazing with telescopes at the stars

day three of seven of the social bobcat's goaltending camp is in the books, and it brought..... pretty much more of the same: drills, drills, drills.

this past monday's camp focused primarily on two different aspects of goaltender movement: telescoping and shuffling.

telescoping is the act of moving out toward the puck or backwards toward the net and is the cornerstone of good gap control.

in a standard goaltending matchup (goaltender vs. single attacker) you can think of there being two "gaps" in play: the distance between the puck and the goaltender and the distance between the goaltender and the goal itself. (or think of a straight line from the goal, A, to the puck ,C, with the goaltender as some point, B, between the two)

the greater the distance between the puck and the goaltender, the more time the goaltender has to react to a shot on goal. to an extreme, if the goaltender planted his feet on the goal line the goaltender-to-puck gap would be maximized all the time and the goaltender would always have the most time possible to react to a shot. this method wouldn't be too practical, however, as a standard goal measures four feet high by six feet across; most people can't fill up twenty-four square feet of space, bulky protective gear or not, leaving numerous large holes for shooters to target. with the speed that hockey pucks can achieve, playing a 100% reaction-based goaltending style won't get you too far, sometimes you need to just be a wall that the puck hits.

the way to reduce these holes is through, you guessed it, adjustment of the goaltender-to-goal gap. as you travel farther out from your net toward the puck your body covers more of the net, same as how holding your hand up to your face covers more of your computer monitor than if you place your hand against the screen.

the trick in proper gap control is to figure out just how far you need to be from the goal and from the puck at any given moment. you want to be out from the goal far enough to reduce the amount of the goal that the shooter can see (called "cutting down the angle") but don't want to be so far out that you overcommit to the current puckcarrier (mind you, there are usually four other guys in the zone who would also endeavor to put the puck past you into the net).

visualize a triangle between the puck and the two goal posts: the puck can be shot on a line anywhere inside of this triangle and, unless impeded in some way, a goal will result (unless of course it's shot over the top of the net itself).

Your friendly neighborhood goaltender can maximize his level of coverage without overcommitting to the puck's current position by telescoping out to where his body touches the edges of the triangle (for most modern-style goalies, where the feet would touch the triangle edges while in the butterfly position). By doing this the netminder can ensure that a puck shot on net will at least be in reach of his limbs, upper or lower, giving him a chance to make the save; a puck shot any wider will miss the net entirely.

So what have we learned? Telescoping is great and a good example of geometry and physics in the real world. But.... it doesn't get the save made by itself.

I've found that opponents have the nasty habit of not staying still while play is going on; one guy moves around the attacking zone to my left with the puck or passes it to another guy in the center of the zone who passes it off to yet another guy down to my right or maybe back to the first guy on the left. They keep changing the size and shape of my puck-to-posts triangle! It's really quite impolite as it requires me to make sudden changes in my physical location and angle as well; with all that gear on it can get quite tiring.

When making these positional changes, the goaltender wants to maintain the uniformity of his stance and be "square to the puck" (meaning he is between the puck and the goal with his body perpendicular to the line between the puck and the center of the goal line); this maximizes the surface area width of the body between the puck and goal. since shots can be fired on net at any time, it's best to be ready for a shot at any time and in the right position. if you moved to your left by turning your hips to face the new spot you wanted to be in, you'd open up a lot of net and also not be ready to react to a shot; the way to move around and stay ready is to shuffle like a madman (assuming that madmen shuffle in the way i'm about to describe).

Shuffling is nothing more than facing forward and pushing off to the side with your right skate (to move left) or left skate (to move right). The goalie does this motion from his crouch stance and the upper torso remains motionless; all movement is from the hips down. With a series of small quick shuffles the goaltender can track the puck around the zone while maintaining a solid mass between the puck and the net. of course, on some long-range passes where the angle of attack changes sharply the goalie must abandon the shuffle and make a quick skate over to the new puck location, but for the most part the shuffle is his bread n' butter.

so there you have it, making saves is as easy as telescoping out and back to adjust to the puck's distance from the net and shuffling laterally to accomodate for the angle of the puck relative to the net.

..... and maintaining proper stance and balance.....and monitoring the puckcarrier while noting the locations of the other opponents in the zone.....and noting the locations of your own teammates in the zone.... and tracking an inch-wide , 3" diameter cylinder in flight and telling your various limbs what to do to stop it..... simple!

(and hence my attendance at goalie school)

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