It’s inevitable to be scored on if you are a goaltender. This is something we all accept as being part of the job. Some goals are quite acceptable, while others can make you both laugh and cry at the same time.

The long goal is one of those situations that shows up from time to time and makes a goaltender look really weak.

When discussing the long goal what are we really talking about? I define the long goal as anything beyond the goaltender’s own blue-line that gets past him or her.

This type of goal has humbled many goaltenders of different generations, ages and levels of play. It happened this past spring in Game One of the Western Conference Finals when Derek Morris beat the Kings’ Jonathan Quick with a shot from center ice.

One of the long goals with which we are all familiar was scored on Vesa Toskala in a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders on March 18th, 2008. Letting a shot beat you from 197 feet away is most certainly something the recently retired former Leafs’ goaltender will remember for quite some time.

Toskala was also the victim of another soft goal, albeit just inside the blue-line, on December 18th, 2009 when a shot to the trapper by the Sabres Toni Lydman was treated too casually by the netminder and got past him.  This also happened to Ottawa 67s goaltender Danny Battochio in the Memorial Cup many years ago.

As mentioned, this occurs at all levels of hockey and is not limited to the elite players. A goal scored by an eight-year-old shows how cruel the game can be at times even to a beginner. I hope this little fellow wasn’t too sad and still plays the noblest position in all of sport?

I also have a strange long goal to my credit. I was playing a game in Saskatoon’s old Exhibition Stadium. A player came over centre ice and let a shot go which my teammate decided he would try to deflect by getting his stick in the lane. The puck deflected up to the rafters but never hit anything. Because the arena was quite old the lighting was rather sparse. I never really saw the puck and came somewhat out of the net to challenge while trying to find it. The puck came down behind my back and fell straight into the net. I will never forget it!

So what is it about shots from a long distance that seems to handcuff goaltenders? The puck is a small projectile and when shot at high velocity can be difficult to track. Furthermore, if you do not track the puck coming off the blade it can be difficult to pick it up in mid-flight. The puck’s trajectory can also vary by rising or falling and may be tipped off a stick blade. Also, as was the case with Vesa Toskala the puck may bounce several times before it reaches the goalie.

I believe the wisest course of action, especially if you see the puck, is to come out of the crease and apply the basic principle of cutting down net surface area and hopefully the likelihood of a goal. Even if you only get a piece of a bouncing or wavering puck but slow it down, the extra distance from the net may give you time to scramble and get the puck before it crosses the goal line. Whether the goalie leaves his feet or remains standing depends on the nature of the shot. It doesn’t have to be pretty as long as you make the save!

It is possible for you to practice this situation with your students. With more advanced students I employ my BONI goalie trainer. I will take shots at varying heights from centre ice and beyond and have the goalie practice the basic concepts discussed above. With younger students I prefer to stand at the blue line and throw pucks towards the net purposefully bouncing them off the ice. This is also good for some laughs between student and teacher.

The long goal has handcuffed many goaltenders including Bruce Gamble, Patrick Roy, Pekka Rinne, Grant Fuhr, Martin Brodeur, Dan Cloutier and Jonathan Quick. If, and when, it happens don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re in good company!

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7 Responses to The Long Goal: It Happens to All of Us

  1. Colin says:

    I was beaten once on a long shot from outside centre when I played Midget C. The puck was on the ice, and my intent was to direct it into the corner where my defenseman was waiting. Instead it rolled onto my blade, so that my wrist-flick managed to slingshot the puck into the top corner of the net.

  2. Todd says:

    I was the victim of this a week ago. a slapshot was taken about half a foot off the ground towards my stick side from the the neutral zone dots that I went to stick aside into the corner, a play I had done many times. The puck deflected straight up, and I went to block it away, but somehow I missed it as it came down. The puck had to have had some crazy spin on it because it hit the top of my skate blade and rolled backwards into the net. The whole thing was like in slow motion, lol. Pretty embarrassing.

  3. Jesse says:

    I’ll never forget the one I let in when I was maybe 13. The neighbouring town’s team had a terrific player with a great shot for his age. The situation was pretty much the same as with Toskala (and I’m a Finn too, haha), we were on the power play etc. When he let off his wrister from their end I swear the puck had a banana trajectory, and travelling so high up at first the puck wasn’t highlighted by the ice or the boards but the gray concrete of the building.

    I went out about 1,5 metres to take it, and it bounced right in front of me to beat me on my left, stick-side.

    It’s true these happen to everyone and you just have to battle through it. The best way to make up to it for your team is winning the game of course :)

  4. Dylan says:

    Thanks for the article Tom! I think your idea about coming out and cutting down net surface area is a good one. In situations where only small adjustments are possible, I like to teach my goalies to treat the bouncing puck like baseball coaches teach their players to field ground balls. The goalie should try to adjust their position so they can either: (1) make the save when the puck is in the air, at or near the apex of a bounce (ie. long hop), or (2) make the save just after the puck hits the ice (ie. short hop). Number one is preferable. For number two, the shorter the distance beween the last bounce and the goalie, the better. This reduces the possibility of a large directional change by the puck that throws most goalies off in this situation.

  5. Tomas Hertz,MD, BA says:

    The thing that bothered me about the Toskala goal versus Islanders is that he is retreating further back into the blue paint and made the decision to attempt the bouncing puck save with his trapper only while making himself smaller. I would like to believe he would have had a greater chance to succeed if he had gotten more of his torso in front of the puck and had come out to meet it due to the unpredictable nature and possible directional change of a bouncing puck. He is right in front of the goal line so there is no second chance. Easy to say judge after the fact since we all make mistakes!

  6. Adrian says:

    Tom Barrasso’s brother will never let him forget the couple of long goals he let go between the pipes

  7. Carl Potvin says:

    Don’t you guys forget an historic one? ….. Tommy Salo in Salt Lake City!

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