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Studying Hockey Systems for Goaltending

Studying Hockey Systems for Goaltending

Today we introduce a new series of articles from coach Hiroki Wakabayashi a USA level 5 certified hockey coach from Japan, currently based in Hong Kong. He has worked with a wide variety of goaltenders and teams from professional teams, national teams, Junior and NHL drafted goalies to the youth hockey level. Too often young goaltenders think their world begins and ends in the blue paint, learning all the intricate details of our position while assuming the rest of the team game holds little value to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this series we focus on the team game and how the systems employed by opposing teams can have an effect on how a goaltender reads, prepares for and ultimately handles scoring threats. In the first article of the series we are looking at the scoring opportunities that develop from two common forechecking systems.


 “Goaltending is to hockey like putting is to golf. It really has no relationship to the rest of the game.” – Harry Sinden

As Mr. Sinden noted, goaltending requires totally different skills from other hockey positions; however, it is obvious that goaltending has evolved through the changes to the rest of the game. For example, the basic positioning of NHL goaltenders in 1970s to early 80s was far out of the goal crease because most of the shots were coming from distance in those days. The dominance of the European-influenced puck movement teams from late 80s has gradually moved the goalies back to the blue paint in order to play against quick lateral puck movements. As a goalie coach who also coaches teams in general, I always encourage my goalies to study and understand hockey systems so they can expect what kind of scoring chances could happen to them out of particular systems that opponents may use. I usually analyze the opponent’s systems that lead into scoring patterns and apply them into goalie training before the game so my goalies can prepare for them. I will share my thoughts in this series of articles. I hope you enjoy seeing a new dimension of the game from the net. After all, putting can’t start until you put the ball on the green. You must understand the whole game.

Part 1: Scoring patterns from different forechecking systems

Forechecking is a defensive team system to pressure the puck in the offensive zone in order to prevent clean breakouts. Successful forechecking often creates scoring chances. A goalie has to expect different scoring patterns from respective forechecking systems.

2-1-2 forechecking system

2-1-2 forecheck scoring patterns In 2-1-2 forechecking system, F1 and F2 pressure the puck hard and try to recover the puck below the goal line while F3 is staying in high slot area. A typical scoring pattern that a goalie must be aware of is a quick pass in front of the net. In clip (1) two LA Kings forwards hunted the puck behind the goal line and fed the pass to F3 for the shot. The goalie was little bit late to cancel RVH position to come out for the shot. Clip (2) is very similar play, Coyotes F1 and F2 pressured and recovered the puck in the corner, sent it in front of the net and F3 scored. Goalie committed to go down in RVH position but couldn’t move across for the pass. Clip (3) shows another common scoring pattern from 2-1-2. F1 and F2 recovered the puck in the corner, F2 skated around the net and passed to F3 who sneaked in from high slot for the shot. On 0:30 mark shows the goalie’s stick was not presented toward the puck to cut down the passing angle. When he noticed the pass to the slot, it was late to reach and move out. Clip (4) is the option to move the puck up to the point when slot is not available after the puck recovery. Goalie needs to expect heavy traffic in front of the net because all three forwards are already surrounding the net.

1-2-2 forechecking system

1-2-2 forecheck scoring patterns In contrast with 2-1-2, 1-2-2 forechecking is designed to recover the puck around half board area to the point area on the strong side. F1 usually steers the puck career to one side, F2 seals the half board and F3 is staying high in the slot to shut down the passing option to the middle lane. A typical scoring pattern that a goalie must be aware of is a pass from the half board to the middle or weak side slot. In Clip (5) F1 steered the play towards the half board, F2 recovered the puck and made a pass to F3 in the slot for the shot. In Clip (6) and (7) F2 may carry the puck across the slot for a quality shot if he steals the puck on the half board area: Clip (7) Clip (8) shows the option to move the puck up to the point after the puck recovery. Since the LA Kings players were already steered to the strong side with 1-2-2 forechecking, point man moved the puck towards middle ice for better shooting angle. Clip (9) is a similar play as clip (8). F2 recovered the puck and moved it up to the weak side point for better shooting angle. Forechecking is becoming more of a scoring setup strategy than a defensive pressure nowadays. Be proactive, study, analyze and apply for the goalie drills and you will have some advantage over the shooters. See you next month.

Hiroki Wakabayashi is a USA level 5 certified hockey coach from Japan. Hiroki has coached goalies and teams in Japan, Canada, USA and five other countries in last twenty years. His work varies from professional teams, national teams (Hong Kong), Junior and NHL drafted goalies to youth hockey level. Heroki is currently working with Arizona Jr. Coyotes.

About The Author

Hiroki Wakabayashi

Hiroki Wakabayashi is a USA level 5 certified hockey coach from Japan. Hiroki has coached goalies and teams in Japan, Canada, USA and five other countries in last twenty years. His work varies from professional teams, national teams (Hong Kong), Junior and NHL drafted goalies to youth hockey level. Heroki is currently working with Arizona Jr. Coyotes.

3 Comments

  1. Paul Ipolito

    Thank you for another informative article. You are really playing to your strengths this week.

    Reply
  2. Hiroki Wakabayashi

    Paul,
    Thank you for your comment.
    Yes, I always analyze hockey games from both sides, team and goalie. This habit helps me on developing team systems and also goaltending preparation.
    I’m planning to discuss about more different situations in coming articles. Hope you enjoy!

    Reply
    • Paul Ipolito

      I really like this article for a very selfish reason- My son has always played goalie and as he has moved through the ranks we can see that a better understanding of what is happening all over the ice would really help him improve his ability to “quarterback” the game. Thanks again.

      Reply

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