Puckhandling Part 2: Keys to Success

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Continuing on with puckhandling, it’s important to know what makes a good puckhandling goaltender.

First of all, what it is not, is the guy who’s trying to bomb home run passes to guys at the far blue line. Those opportunities are few and far between, and the likelyhood of them turning into a scoring chance is low.

There are, however, a few things that goalies who are known to be solid puckhandlers have in common:

They gain possession of the puck

I can’t stress this enough. When the other team dumps the puck in or rims it around the boards, it’s because they want the puck in a certain spot, and that’s usually a big part of their offensive setup against you. Just by disrupting the dump in and stopping the puck, you’re already forcing the other team to enter the zone in a way they didn’t want to do, and that can have a big impact over the course of a game. So, when you leave your net, gaining possession of the puck is the number 1 priority. Whatever you have to do, stop that puck.

They have a plan

As you make the decision to leave the net, it’s important to take a mental snapshot of everyone on the ice. Where they’re located and what direction they’re headed in. That way you can anticipate where you may have to move the puck once you gain possession.

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They handle the puck like a pro

Being able to handle pucks and deliver passes confidently on both your forehand and backhand is key. You should be able to make a solid first pass either way. Most of the time, all that will involve is getting the puck over to your D in the corner, or up to a winger on the boards. Being able to give a good tape-to-tape pass in those situations though, can make all the difference in the world.

One of the most important aspects of puckhandling is allowing yourself to see all options before making the play. Time permitting, once you gain possession, just like a defenseman, you want to get you toes pointed up-ice so every option is visible and available to you.

From there, your job is to quickly move the puck to the safest available option, and getting back to your net. There may be times when you have to take it upon yourself to get the puck around the glass and out, but those should be the exception.

A couple other things; make sure you’re using the right size stick. If you’re struggling to make a strong pass or handle the puck, you might consider cutting down the shaft of your stick to give you a better feeling of control. Also, I always suggest my goalies use white stick tape. It’s much easier, if you’re setting up a puck for your defenseman, to see a puck against a white background. White also tends to blend in with the net and the gear better, so the shooter doesn’t have something eye catching to tell him where you’re at.

Also, communication with your defensemen is very important. The last thing you want is to leave a puck thinking your D is coming to get it, and they’re peeling away waiting for your pass. Come up with established language between you and your defenseman so that, in a game, everyone can communicate clearly and concisely what is happening.

The next article in our series will focus on ways to work on some of these skills, even with limited time and space.

Thanks for following along guys.

Andrew

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