Before the Shot: Condon’s Different Kind of Aggressive
In last week’s Before the Shot analysis, I discussed the importance of gathering information when goalies have time. The main point was goalies are able to make good decisions in a short amount of time when they take advantage of the time they have to gather information about what’s happening in the play.
On Wednesday, Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon perfectly executed a shoulder check, noticing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis open for a cross-crease pass from Sidney Crosby.
Condon’s reaction before the shot is a key reminder for goalies about how gathering information can help them find balance between being passive and aggressive on cross-crease passes.
Here, we see Condon following Dupuis pass around the boards to Crosby:
As soon as Condon switches from one side of the ice to the other and lands on his post, he performs a shoulder check. This immediately provides Condon with a snap shot of what options are available to Crosby on the far side of the ice and anywhere in the middle or near side.
Now, look at how close Crosby’s pass was in the crease. I’ve drawn a line to show how much deeper the puck travels on its way to Dupuis’ stick.
We often talk about goalies being contained with their movements and managing their space. In a nutshell, this refers to goalies keeping themselves in position to defend against most of the options they’re faced with.
On the flip side, however, we also need to look at times when goalies might consider being more aggressive, such as using a half poke check or stepping out and gaining depth to take away more net space if there are no far side options available.
This is a perfect example of when a goalie can be more aggressive and why I think Condon’s decision to try to intercept Crosby’s pass was a smart one. As you can see, the puck is within Condon’s reach and his eyes are on it. Now, it’s clear that Condon just missed the puck, but I don’t think the result should take away from Condon’s effort.
If we look at the bigger picture, intercepting passes can happen in many different ways. The first step, as Condon showed, is having the ability to gather information. Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind how close the puck ends up being to a goalie’s stick blade, which can be in the blue or white ice (in this situation, Crosby’s pass is in the blue ice). Lastly, understand how much reach a goalie has.
Depending on all of these factors – potential threats, how close the puck is to the stick blade, and reach – goalies can weigh the options of being more passive or aggressive when it comes to defending against cross crease passes and having an active stick.
It’s important to develop hockey IQ
Naturally, a goalie’s primary job is to stop the puck. But, as goalies get older, it becomes more important that they develop hockey IQ. Not just goaltending IQ – hockey IQ. Part of having good hockey IQ is finding a balance between being passive and more aggressive, and the only way to do that is by gathering information.
Some situations, like the one Condon was in, will prompt a goalie to be more aggressive. Having an active stick and intercepting a pass is just one example of being more “aggressive”.
When a goalie intercepts a pass with their stick, it won’t show up on a stats sheet. But in the eyes of coaches, teammates, and scouts, there’s tremendous value in being able to break up a play before it even happens. That’s not just smart goaltending, that’s smart hockey.
~ Eli Rassi is currently the Director of Goaltending Development with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD). CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com