Coaching goaltenders by Clint Malarchuk
What do the Quebec-born goalies do that makes them so successful in the NHL?
Traditionally, goalies were always taught to stand up. With the exceptions of Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito, most goalies played a stand-up style. In the early 1970's, Soviet great Vladislav Tretiak, like Hall and Esposito, played a butterfly style. The outstanding play of Tretiak and the bond formed between himself and the hockey mecca of Montreal was of great consequence to the future of French-Canadian goaltenders.
Patrick Roy had great success as a butterfly-style goalie with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche.
It is my belief that these men have had great influence in refining the butterfly style and teaching it to the young goalies in the province of Quebec. That is why we have very successful goalies coming from that area. The Allaire brothers are both goalie coaches in the NHL, as is Tretiak.
When should I come out to cut down an angle and how far?
When coming out to cut down the angle or challenge the shooter, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The sharper the angle, the less a goalie has to come out. If a shooter is wide or at a sharp angle, the less he has to shoot at. This means you don't have to come out as far to be effective. If you over-challenge in these situations, you increase the chance of being back-doored or being late in getting across in time for a lateral pass. If a shooter is in the middle -- or slot area -- it is ideal for a goalie to be at the top of his crease. If his heels are outside the crease, he decreases the shooting area in the net. Hockey is an unpredictable and fast game with screens, deflections, and broken plays. There are sometimes few ideal situations for the goalie to get set. That being said, skating well and learning to read the play to get set and cut down the angle is vital for goalies.
On odd-man rushes, should I focus on the puck-carrier or cheat for the pass?
As a goalie, your job is to focus on the puck and the man with it. On odd-man rushes, a goalie is more concerned with the puck carrier, but he must also know the situation -- 2-on-1, 3-on-2, etc. The difference here is that a goalie can't get caught over-challenging the man with the puck. Come out to cut down the angle, but not so far that if a pass is made, you can't recover and get across. Goaltenders and defensemen should work on this in practice. This is a situation where defensemen learn to force the puck carrier wide for the goalie to play him. Defensemen then try to cut off any passes and let the goalie handle a shot from a wide angle. Communication between the goalie and defensemen is important, and this is also learned in practice. In practice, a goalie has to experiment with how far to come out and be effective, yet be able to get across if a pass is made. Again, the better a goalie's skating ability, the more he can challenge and still recover if a pass is made.
I can't fire out from my goal crease to get to hard-arounds. How can I get to the boards in time to stop the puck?
In answers 2 and 3 above, I've already stressed how important skating ability is to a goalie. Movement in the net with speed and balance is all related to a goalie's skating ability. Doing cross-overs in practice will help develop balance and agility. It is a strenuous and tiring exercise with goal pads, but it will help all aspects of your game. Anticipation is a key to getting out to stop pucks behind the net as well. Take the shortest route to the back of the net. You know the puck will follow the boards, so get from point A to point B as fast as you can. Young goalies tend to hesitate, not sure that the puck is going to follow the boards. Today?s arenas are almost perfect, and bad bounces seldom happen, so get there. I tell my goalies, if the puck is going around on the glass, let it go. This is when you get bad bounces, and the puck bounces into an empty net. The glass has seams that are not as smooth as the boards.
My equipment's heavy. What can I do to get stronger so I can get up and down quicker?
Training is so important to a goalie's game. The goalie should take his training seriously. I don't just mean on ice. Off-ice training is a part of a goalie's job as well. The equipment is bulky and heavy, so get on a weight-lifting program, as well as cardio. The stronger you are, the lighter the equipment feels, and the quicker you'll move. Goalies' legs must be strong as well as fast and flexible. This is the key to recovering after going down to make a save. Most local gyms have personal trainers now. They are trained to be sport-specific, so define goaltending to them so that they can put together a program for you.
Clint Malarchuk played 10 years in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. He tied for the NHL lead in shutouts in 1987-88 while with the Capitals.