Goaltending and the Blocking Technique: Part 1 of 2
One of the problems I have with modern goaltending is that of the blocking technique and its frequent inappropriate application by both young and more established goaltenders. Let me clarify right now that puck “blocking” and the Blocking butterfly is a technique and NOT a goaltending style. However, we can leave that debate between what is a style of play and what is just an overused technique for another time. This two part-article will discuss the following points of interest as they relate to the blocking technique.
- The purpose of the butterfly block
- Technical considerations in proper execution of the block
- Proper application of the technique
- Improper or misguided application of the technique
- Common technical errors associated with blocks
The basic purpose of the block is just getting the goalie’s body in front of the puck. The attacking player, and hence the puck, will be in very close proximity to the goaltender. This is what I refer to as a tight goaltender-related gap. With a tight gap there is minimal reaction time for the goalie and as a result we call it a blocking technique as compared to a reactionary type save. Again, the purpose is therefore just to get your body in front of the puck and prevent it from going in. Rebound control, as always, is desirable but of lesser concern.
The technical considerations are also straightforward. There are four elements to put together: (1) the pads (2) the body unit (3) the arms and (4) the stick. I will deal with each of these separately.
The pads are always completely down to “seal the ice” with the knees tightly together to prevent soft 5-hole goals. The pads will also, to a greater or lesser degree, be flared out for optimum horizontal coverage based on the goaltender’s flexibility in the hips, knees and even ankles.
The body should be as upright as possible to establish maximum vertical coverage. With a tight goaltender-related gap the shooter will most often shoot high for what is referred to as the Arial Angle. The goaltender must therefore maintain the thighs upright with buttocks completely off the ice. The torso is also upright or with a slight forward flexion at the waist. This slight flexion is so that quick release shots which cannot be absorbed without rebound, will hopefully drop squarely in front of the goalie so that it can quickly be covered.
The arms should be tight to the body to increase the width of the blocking wall and to make certain there are no holes under either arm (referred to as the 6th and 7th holes).
The stick should be on the ice as much as possible and positioned in front of the 5-hole. It usually has a shallow angle to the ice. If a shot is taken along the ice to the 5-hole the puck should be deflected off the stick blade (like a ramp) into the goalie’s mid-section for cradling purposes. If the puck misses the stick blade the second line of defense is the tight knees along the ice.
Having explained the basic technical considerations, I feel obliged to briefly discuss a variant in this technique.
The only real difference is the position of the hands and hence the resultant change in the position of the stick blade. The hands are held higher which draws the stick in and creates a more perpendicular angle between the blade and ice surface. This will allow for better rebound control to the corners than with the standard technique. I am not here to say which is better but in general I prefer the latter technique for reasons I will reveal when discussing common errors.
This covers the purposes of blocking and basic technical considerations in save execution. See you next week with the conclusion of this very interesting goaltending topic.