Reverse-VH: Common Issues and Proper Execution
Reverse-VH has become an increasingly popular technique in the goaltending community. A growing number of professional goaltending coaches are teaching it to their students, and as a result, more and more NHL goaltenders are starting to add it to their repertoire.
For such a widely accepted technique, it is far from perfect. Debates rage on in the goaltending community about how to properly teach and perform the move, and which situations to use it in. It has been developed for years, but it really rose to prominence during the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup run in 2012 because of Jonathan Quick’s extensive use of the technique. Later that year Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley helped break down the move for InGoal Magazine.
Like any technique, there are a number of issues that arise while using Reverse-VH that coaches and students need to be aware of. They sometimes get labelled as issues with the technique itself, but are really just common mistakes in the proper execution of the move.
Issues Transitioning Out of Reverse-VH
While many goaltenders practice the move and become very strong at sealing the post with reverse-VH, some of them struggle on plays that develop out of the corner and back into the slot area.
For goalies that play in North America at amateur levels, posts becoming dislodged while using reverse-VH have become a major annoyance. With solid NHL nets, it is easier to teach goaltenders to keep their skate blade against the post and use the net to help push out to the top of the crease. Most amateur-level goaltenders do not have that luxury.
A lot of goaltending instructors will instead teach their students to keep their foot slightly inside the post. You still get a solid seal along the ice, but it is harder to get a push when transitioning out of the position. If a strong push is attempted, the net still has a high chance of being dislodged.
While attempts are being made to fix post issues in North America, there is no solution yet. Reverse-VH is still the best option for sealing the post off on sharp angle plays, despite this setback at the amateur level. It must continue to be taught at a young age, so that kids are not left behind when they do begin to play on nets that can handle a lot of force.
A few minor details become extremely important for goaltenders that cannot use the post as an anchor. While in reverse-VH, if a cross-crease pass is attempted, a goaltender can have more success by remembering to keep their hands active. Blocking the pass becomes a priority. A push across should still be attempted, but because of the difficult position the net puts the goaltender in, it is wise to also make a strong effort to block the pass.
The folks over at Complete Goaltending Development also recently developed a new technique that combines the overlap technique with reverse-VH, to provide another option for goaltenders that still struggle with reverse-VH the traditional way. Take a look at what they came up with by clicking here.
The other extremely important thing to remember is to anchor the back foot. It’s easy to forget about the foot that is not up against the post while focused on sealing the post, but it is very important to dig that blade into the ice. Not only does it help with staying balanced, it also helps provide stability if the opponent tries to jam the puck in and allows for a quick and strong transition to the top of the crease if a pass is made.
Goaltenders should practice transitioning out of reverse-VH just as much, if not more than transitioning into reverse-VH. Dig the back skate blade into the ice immediately when dropping into reverse-VH, and use that as the anchor for an explosive challenge to the top of the crease if the play develops back out towards the blue line.
Habitual Usage of Reverse-VH
The next main issue is when reverse-VH becomes a “resting position” for a goaltender. It is important to remember that reverse-VH is a very active position, not a position to become frozen or locked into.
Goalies have to recognize when the puck is carried too high in the zone, then they become susceptible to getting beat over the shoulder. Coaches that are critical of reverse-VH usually point to this as a flaw in the technique, but it is mainly caused by goalies that are unaware that the puck is too high in the zone – or just plain lazy.
Every play on the ice is situational, but as a general rule of thumb, here is a visual example of when to be in the reverse-VH position and when to transition out of it:Goalies are free to follow that picture as closely as they want, but if they remain down in the reverse-VH position while the puck is outside of the blue area, they are at a high risk of getting beat over the shoulder on a shot.
It’s imperative for a goaltender to recognize this and immediately transition out of reverse-VH, or else the technique is not as effective as it can be. Let’s look at a few examples of goaltenders getting scored on while in reverse-VH:
Here’s a chart of where those players were on the ice, in relation to the diagram posted earlier:
As you can see, all three of those shots came from well outside of the blue area. No two situations will ever be the same in hockey, so the diagram can be used as strictly as an individual goaltender sees fit. Some goaltenders, usually taller ones, are more comfortable using reverse-VH aggressively, but the diagram can still be a great visual aide for a goalie that is frustrated by getting beat over the shoulder while in reverse-VH.
Be aware, shooters are smart and the good ones pick up on tendencies very quickly. If they are able to carry the puck out of the blue zone to reveal space over the goaltender’s shoulder, they will exploit that. It’s the goaltender’s job to stay one step ahead of the shooter and ensure that does not happen.
There is a lot of unjust hate toward the reverse-VH position from some goalies, but even smaller goaltenders can succeed if it is executed properly. It is a tough technique to learn and is still evolving, but is a valuable tool for playing sharp angle shots.