Basic Analysis of the Puck Handler’s Options

My dad and I used to play table tennis every night after dinner. He was my teacher, and above all else, he taught me how to stay one step ahead of your opponent. This, he said, comes from careful analysis of your opponent’s options.

The dissection of an opponent’s options, assists in the prediction of his actions. As a goalie, predicting allows you to anticipate the save you will have to make, which will give you a better chance to save it. Essentially, recognizing all of the things they can do allows you to anticipate what they will do.

It takes a combination of positioning, athleticism and anticipation to make a save. When I play, I go through a couple of questions as I analyze a puck handler’s options.

Where is the puck handler in the zone and where are his passing options?

Knowing where the player is allows me to position myself in case he shoots. Knowing where his teammates are tells me where I would have to move if he does choose to pass.

Can he shoot, hold or pass the puck?

If he shoots, I should already be in position to either save or block the puck.

If he holds, I need to adjust my position to his movement. He could either attack the net, or move and create space to set up a teammate for a pass.

If he passes, I already know which direction I have to move based on his position, and can begin to analyze his options.

And the cycle continues. With every pass in your defensive zone, it is important to analyze their position, their teammate’s positions, and the possible actions they can take to attack. Seeing the play before it happens helps you to stay one step ahead of your opponent.

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Constant Improvement is Always a Goalie’s Key Focus

Welcome to GoalieHead, a blog geared towards the journey that is goaltending. Goaltending is one of the toughest positions in all of sports because it requires a unique balance of physical and mental strength. With this blog, I plan on sharing the lessons that I’ve learned on my journey through my favorite position in sports.

Goalies have many responsibilities both within the game and as a leader on the team. In the team aspect, goalies are the figurehead of the defense. This job in particular, requires an incredible amount of mental strength.

When the team is winning, goalies receive a lot of the credit for success. Nobody knows this better than Nashville’s goaltender Pekka Rinne, who for much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was considered the best goalie in the league. He was recognized by all as the best player on the Predators, and was even the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy entering the Stanley Cup Final. However, after two losses in the Stanley Cup Final, much of the blame fell on Nashville’s figurehead.

In a team sport such as hockey, the cause is always a combination of things: Poor play by Rinne, some missed defensive assignments, and some pure bad luck. But irrespective of the reasons and excuses you can make, the accountability falls on the goaltender, who by nature of the position, is responsible for the puck going into the net.

It’s not easy to receive a lot of credit, and a lot of blame. The praise can make you overly confident and stagnate your improvement. Too much criticism, will cause you to lose confidence, and worry too much about your public perception. In all situations, goalies must block out the noise and focus on your improvement as a player.

Pekka Rinne’s ability to disregard the outside noise was crucial to his solid performance in Game 3. Goalies that can do this, can effectively lead their team to have a bounce back game. This mentality of constantly improving your game, is one of the many things that makes Pekka Rinne so special.