In the two most recent issues of Goalie World Magazine there is a lot of discussion about the technical aspects of the V-H (Vertical –Horizontal) technique and its application in game situations. Some people believe that it is frequently used inappropriately with a lot of resultant poor goals. I will briefly discuss the situations where I sincerely believe this technique can used effectively and how the technique probably would have been a good save selection choice for the cup winning goal scored on Michael Leighton by Patrick Kane.

I believe the V-H technique can be used as a proper save selection technique in the following game circumstances:

  • Pass out from behind the goal-line in some circumstances
  • Low walk-out from either behind the net or from a corner(quiet zone) where a defender limits time and space of the puck carrier
  • A low walk-out with cross-crease pass option
  • A low net drive below the circle with or without a cross-crease pass option
Goalie Tuukka Rask VH technique

photo by Scott Slingsby

The V-H technique can be used effectively in a pass-out scenario. Traditionally, a goaltender would stand up and hug the post on a 45 degree angle to the slot. One advantage of the V-H is that the horizontal pad is already in position for low net coverage. The vertical pad maintains integration with the post and prevents a weak short-side goal. Proper loading of the V-leg and a correct post skate angle allows the goaltender to quickly push off the post, gaining depth in a powerful and dynamic fashion. However, I believe it makes a difference whether the pass is received in the low vs. high slot.

With a pass out to the low slot, the combination of sealing the ice (via V-H) and a blocking butterfly should result in a relatively high save to goal ratio. I am less enthusiastic about V-H application with pass outs to the high slot. With attackers in high slot a lot of areal angles open up (due to a large gap between shooter and goalie) and, as a result, the blocking butterfly is rendered a less effective technique. If the goaltender sees the only pass option is the high slot then I find it favorable to gain depth by T-pushing to the top of the crease and relying on more reactive type saves as required.

There is however a middle ground between these two options. It is referred to as a ‘hybrid V-H’. The hybrid position means that the H-leg is neither completely on the ice nor completely vertical. It is partially bent but not touching the ice. It allows the goaltender the flexibility of time to determine (based on the evolution of the play) to either commit to full V-H or to bring the H-leg back up to a full stand-up position.
A low walk-out is another competitive scenario with which V-H technique may be applied. With the puck in the corner, the goaltender should be on the post in a relaxed upright stance, allowing him to conserve energy, and looking off the puck to assess pass options. When the walk-out begins I believe that V-H can be employed as long as the shooting angle remains poor and the puck –goaltender gap is fairly tight. It further helps if a defender is present to limit time and make certain the attack angle does not improve to the far side of the net. If the goalie feels the walk-out may change to a pass then, once again, the hybrid V-H will provide the goalie with greater options in decision making as the play unfolds. The starting angle on the past is anywhere between 30-45 degrees and the H-pas is initially kept in a position where pivots can be executed. The key is not to commit to V-H too early!

A low walk-out with a cross-crease pass option is a perfect situation with which to implement V-H. Everything is similar to that described above but a passing lane, most likely through the blue paint, with an attacker backdoor has now opened up. Once again, the loaded post leg and proper post-skate angle allow for a quick and powerful backside push with 100% ice coverage for one-timers along the ice. The goalie will slide to the backside in a compact blocking form but may have to convert to a reactionary type save if the situation calls for it.

The CWG by Patrick Kane is basically a very low net drive (below the face-off circle) where the pass option is not really a good one. Kane is a left-handed shot and the low drive occurred on his natural wing. Hence, with an extremely poor attack angle, being pressured by a defender and not having the weak side of the net available to him a shot becomes the likely option. As discussed above, as the gap between Leighton and Kane shortens the V-H technique would have been an acceptable option for Leighton. However, one of the dangers with V-H is the often centering rebounds of the V-pad. This could have happened but the Chicago forward is well covered just above the blue paint. With V-H Leighton would have had reasonable short side vertical coverage, a tight seam between the pads and been ready with ice coverage with either a centering or cross-crease pass. Other options for Leighton include just squaring up on his feet (and sealing his pads together) or employing a blocking butterfly (without flare) as Kane gets in close. Instead, Leighton essentially chooses an un-square wrap-around technique with paddle down, no real vertical coverage and holes everywhere. Just look at it yourself on youtube.com.
The key is to remember that it is a very low net drive. If it is a high net drive (within the face-off circle) and the attacker is on his off-wing the far side of the net opens up and there is considerably more ice with which the attacker can be creative (especially if the defender is beaten). This is not a good situation in which to employ V-H technique. In this scenario, a goaltender should be standing at the top of the crease and as the gap shortens generate slight backward momentum should be generated with 1-2 C-cuts. After that, there are both aggressive and conservative save options.
The V-H technique is both challenging to learn and use correctly. It remains a relatively new technique and will continue to have its supporters and detractors. Goaltending experts and analysts will continue to refine the competitive situations where its application is appropriate and ill-advised. This article describes four situations where I believe V-H can be used with success after the goaltender has mastered both the technical-anatomical aspects of V-H and feels comfortable with these situations in training. Like the technique or not, all that matters is whether or not you stop the puck. In the case of the cup winning goal V-H was not chosen by Leighton and he got burned.

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2 Responses to V-H Technique and the Cup Winning Goal

  1. Justin G. says:

    Outstanding work, very articulate!

    The only thing that detracts me from using the VH (in some instances) is when a keen skater has time to read the play from the slot. Many of them will receive passes and then one-time a shot on goal shoulder height and above. For many goalies, especially the younger ones, VH execution results in the “paddle-down” movement with the blocker hand. Although the bottom portion of the net is sealed to perfection, the paddle-down action causes a goalie’s shoulders to slant or slope at a non-parallel angle to the crossbar. In the photo above of Rask, you can see his right shoulder is lower than his left. This always seems to bother me, as the goalie does not have the best balance to push laterally. They either fail to get across quick enough or their head and shoulders “dig” into the ice and fail to react cleanly to a high shot. Their stick has to go from paddle down to the top corner in an instant and that’s a tough save to make.

    I notice a select few NHL goalies have the lankiness and arm length to go paddle down, but still keep their shoulders relatively parallel to the crossbar. I believe Tuukka Rask is one of them, as is Pekka Rinne. Again, just something I notice over the course of a season.

    So I notice a lot of goalies will push off (sometimes using the post as a spring for the drive leg) and slide across their crease with those sloped shoulders. When a keen shooter is able to read a goalie going into the VH, they instantly see that blocker-side downward slope over the shoulders and they foam at the mouth to get off a quick shot into the upper-half of the net or through the six (or seven) hole.

    I love the idea of the hybrid-VH, as that helps compensate for this, but I just figured I would add my thoughts on something I notice when it comes to a lot of goalies attempting to execute the VH on centering passes from the goal line or on some walk-out plays.

    Definitely a spot-on article and a fun read! Especially when relating it to Michael Leighton’s gaffe in the Stanley Cup Finals. That alone is a lesson that ALL goalies will want to learn from. Leighton probably has nightmares about it. I know I would.

  2. Tim says:

    Four goalies, guess off the top of my head:

    1. Plante
    2. Roy
    3. Brodeur
    4. Fuhr

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