By Daniel Tkaczuk and Mike Rosati
The game of hockey is quick. Players and goaltenders need to have the skills to correctly read the play, identify their options and execute. Many situations arise on the ice and the following is a view into the thought process that goes into a play by both the player and the goaltender.
Game Situation: There is a breakdown in the corner as the defenseman falls down and the puck carrier has enough time to take it towards the net.
PLAYER’S PERSPECTIVE – DANIEL TKACZUK
“Once the player has beaten his man in coverage it is important that his first instinct is to get his feet moving and take the puck to the net for a scoring chance. Defenders also tend to take penalties when they have to reach to recover from poor positioning or a teammate’s lost battle.”
GOALIE’S PERSPECTIVE – MIKE ROSATI
“At this moment the goalie will simply identify a breakdown has occurred.”
“Once the player is moving towards the net he should make a quick note of the secondary situation. How much space does he have to take the puck to the net? Where are his teammates? Is the goalie going to be able to make an aggressive challenge? The player has to be able to read the situation quickly and act. Every situation differs slightly and a player must be able to make a quick judgment call based on the options presented.”
“Before positioning himself on the puck carrier, the goalie must quickly recognize which way the player shoots in order to position himself accordingly. Also, he needs to determine if a pass option is available in front of the net.”
“The player now has two options – drive to the net or pass. If he decides to drive to and possibly across the net, he must read the goalie. Is the goalie small? Is he right or left handed? Can the player jam it short side? Can he pull it around to the far side? Five hole? Can he use his ‘go to’ move?”
“If the player is taking it to the net alone and his stick is to the middle of the ice, the goalie needs to step off his post line, front the shooter and protect the long corner. He must also defend and deny that player as much space as possible cutting across the top of the crease.
If the shooter’s stick-blade position is closer to the goal line, the goalie needs to be a little more patient on his post and not allow the shooter to pull him away too early. The natural shot for this player is short side. As long as the goalie remains patient, the player will have no shot.
If the shooter attempts to pull to the backhand, the goalie must be aggressive either with an active stick or strong slide to deny the attacker ice.”
“If the player sees an open teammate he must decide: is it worth a try for a back-door or one-timer pass? Does the teammate shoot left or right? How far away from the net is he? How much weight can the player put on the pass? What fake can the player use to make the goalie think he is shooting? A player must be able to take advantage and use teammates where necessary. Sometimes they can even be used solely as a decoy to bait the goalie into staying deeper inside the net and giving the shooter more options.”
“Knowing there is a pass option, the goalie needs to first communicate with his defenseman. In this situation the goalie must respect the pass. We have to remember the puck carrier coming out of the corner does not have a great shooting angle, so there is no need for the goalie to overplay him with positioning.
By playing a little shallower here, the goalie maintains good position against the shot and a higher percentage for success against the pass as well.
He must load his foot against the post in order to get a strong push into his butterfly slide directly towards the stick of the player receiving the pass.”
“ Now the player must execute. He has analyzed the situation, made a choice in a split second and needs his skills to take over to stick the puck into the back of the net!”
“The goalie has identified and analyzed every scenario. He needs to be able to do this at the speed of the game. If he is late in his decision-making, he will be beaten on the play. If he is confident with his analysis, remains patient and allows the play to come to him, he is destined for success.”
The game of hockey is complex – a lot happens in a split second. Skaters and goalies must be able to quickly react, make decisions and execute as the play constantly changes. Through training a skater and goaltender can improve their thought process, skill and overall hockey sense to succeed in the various situations that come up in a game.
Daniel Tkaczuk was Calgary’s first round pick in 1997 (sixth overall) and has been playing professionally in North America and Europe for the past 12 seasons. He is currently president of iHockeyTrainer.com, an online hockey school for skill development.
Mike Rosati is a former professional goalie and current owner of the Canadian Goaltending Academy in Barrie, Ont. He grew up in Toronto, played in the OHL before being drafted by the New York Rangers. He then opted to head to Europe where he spent 14 seasons in Italy and Germany’s DEL winning eight combined championships. Between 1994 and 2003 he was a key member of Italy’s national team, participating in two Olympics and nine World Championships. He currently serves as the goalie coach for the Barrie Colts.