Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Working with the Goaltender in Practice

Do you give your goalie enough work dealing with screens at practice? It is easy to fall into the habit of goalie drills being shooters vs. goalies, without the typical traffic in front of the goalie that causes so much trouble. Put a couple of attackers and one defender in front of the net. Feed a pass from the boards (or corner) to the mid-point and have the point shoot low. The two attackers in front should jockey for different positions in front, not only to screen the goalie but to give the goalie different deflection angles. Occasionally, have one of the attackers withdraw for a pass from the point. The goalie has to read when to drop and smother both the shot and the deflection or, if the point man passes to a teammate who has pulled away from the front, to move to the new angle and remain standing. The defenseman has to learn to be a help (moving someone out or covering someone) and not just another body in the way. (Another way to do this is to use the other goalie or goalies as screens if you want to save ankles.) The goalie learns to work hard to find the puck, to stay low, and also to react the right way: down and close to the screen or out on the more lateral pass.

Another question comes up in these situations: how involved do you want your goalie to get with these screening players? There must be a middle ground somewhere between doing nothing and getting too involved. Goalies can use their glove hand to push or make a quick jab with the blocker but getting their stick too involved eliminates a key piece of equipment in stopping low shots most likely to get through the screen. Also, stick work is obvious and can get called. And the stick can get tangled in legs and skates, hampering the goalie if puck movement necessitates lateral movement by the goalie.

Remember: the screener is trying to bother the goalies both physically (they can’t see the puck) and mentally (breaking a goalie’s concentration). The goalie must work hard and maintain his focus.

Filed under: Goaltender, ,

One Response

  1. From a goalie’s perspective, I very much agree with you that getting game-like conditions is very important for any goaltender. Stopping shots is only a small part of being a great goalie. Dealing with traffic, reading plays, controlling rebounds – there are so many more things than shot stopping to think about.

    Two things I’d emphasize – this drill should be for d-men as much as for goalies. Don’t forget to teach them what to do with the attacker in front. Too many d-men think it’s only about tying a man up and winning the “who is toughest” battle – which can often end up making it harder for the goalie.
    Second – yes, a bit of a push and establishing territory is fine – but many young goalies get so wrapped up in the situation that they lose focus and the result is a goal. Better to ignore the man in front than allowing yourself to be distracted by him.

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