If you’ve been following along this week, I’ve been posting on puckhandling. The first post talked about why it’s such a big deal in the first place. I followed that up with some of the keys to success when it comes to being a good puckhandling goaltender.
Today, I want to deal with the easiest ways to incorporate puckhandling as a skill into practices, without having to use a ton of resources. I know space and time is at a premium, and there are lots of things that need to be addressed in the limited time we have with our goalies. I’m not suggesting we need to replace what we’re working on. I’m just saying we can add to it and not take away from either concept.
One simple thing I like my goalies to do is to utilize the warmup at practice the same way the players do. Handle the puck. Take some shots. I like to suggest to my goalies that they take at least 3 to 4 stickhandling laps and take a few shots before they stretch.
Adding puckhandling to drills you already do can be simple as well. Below I’ll show a couple examples of how I incorporate puckhandling into a few different drills that accomplish some different goals.
Warm Up Drills
I think everyone has used some variation of a drill that has a goaltender start at their post, then push to the top of the crease for a shot.
In this variation of that drill, rather than having the goalie start static on the post, we’ve chosen to begin the drill with a pass to the coach from a position below the goal line. It doesn’t have to be every time, and it doesn’t even have to be every rep within this drill, but mixing it in a bit will definitely help the goalie make that 10 foot tape-to-tape pass that they often have to do.
Skill Specific Drills
The next, most obvious way to work on puckhandling is with drills that target the skill specifically. This basic drill is one of my favourites.
In this drill, the coach starts by rimming the puck, and the goalie gets out to stop it. I like to mix up speeds, heights, and angles on the dump in to give the goalie a variety of situations to adapt to. The coach (or shooter) floats down to the hashmarks and receives a pass from the goalie. They immediately walk to the middle and shoot.
Just like that, you’ve addressed almost every skill a goalie uses on a regular basis in game. Over time you can add a forecheck or have the goalie respond to a verbal cue to make different plays with the puck, but this is the foundation.
There’s always going to be practices where the coach decides he wants to skate the team, and while I’m a big believer that goalies need to have straight line speed and a base of conditioning, it’s always nice when you can incorporate a goalie specific skating drill. Very often this will be a simple crease pattern, which is fine, but to switch it up, working on some puckhandling style skating drills can be a nice change.
This can be as simple as starting on the angle, sprinting to the corner and back 2-3 times per side, or from the post to the boards behind the net and back. The nice thing about that is that both goalies can go at once (one on either side).
Over the course of a long season, having a goalie who’s proficient at handling the puck can save your defensemen from a few more hits, help a few more breakouts exit the zone successfully, and ultimately save a few goals from being scored against. Finding ways to give your goalies confidence in this skill in practice will translate to confident execution in a game.
Thanks for following along through this short series on puckhandling. If you’d like some more specific examples of incorporating this into your practices, reach out via the contact form on the “About Me” page.