Overlap (OL) Technique: Another Sharp-Angle Option
Regular InGoal contributor Tomas Hertz teamed up with goaltending coach Kory Cooper to take an in-depth look at a new technique to deal with sharp-angle threats.
Cooper played major junior for the Belleville Bulls and minor pro in the ECHL and IHL before turning to coaching, working as a goalie coach for the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League and Director of Hockey Operations for Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Cooper is currently the goaltending coach for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, Queens University Golden Gaels mens Varsity team in the CIS, and the Brampton Beast of the Central Hockey League, and also works at Fineline Conditioning and Athletic Academy while residing in Kingston, Ontario.
In this introductory article, Hertz and Cooper present a relatively new technique for poor-angle shots: Overlap.
The Overlap (OL) technique adds an additional save option to those already established for dealing with shots between the goal line and the bottom of the face-off circle. These include the VH (Vertical-Horizontal, or one-knee up as some call it) and the newer Reverse-VH, with the lead pad down on the ice and against the post.
Although not familiar with its exact origin, or how prevalent its application is within the overall goaltending community, the OL is already established in the “toolbox” of some goalies.
This includes Antti Niemi, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season with the San Jose Sharks, and Danny Taylor, who is currently playing in Sweden’s top pro league after finishing last season with the Calgary Flames.
With OL, the goaltender initially maintains an up-right “relaxed” stance with one skate on the outside (overlapping) of the goal post. The skate distance from the goal post may vary slightly, but it is never really more than several inches.
The “relaxed” stance merely implies the goaltender is not in a complete crouch. This allows them to remain uncommitted as to which save selection is ultimately chosen as the play continues to unfold and develop.
If the goaltender decides OL is the correct save selection choice, the nature of the stance naturally changes to one of greater “readiness” as the puck-carrier advances closer to the net.
The best technique to use will naturally vary from one situation to another, and hence patience is required prior to committing to any specific save selection.
With three different options at the goaltender’s disposal, the natural question is whether one technique is superior to others.
We believe the OL technique is complimentary to the VH technique. The main reason for this is that a skilled goaltender can easily transition back and forth between the OL skate position (outside the post) and traditional position (inside the goal post) with VH.
An argument has been made that this transition is not easy and that “clearing the post” is a point of weakness with OL. But the following two video segments show this doesn’t have to be the case.
The first segment features Grant Rollheiser of the Central Hockey League’s Brampton Beast “clearing the post” while initially remaining upright for a pass out. A lateral slide is then performed. In a subsequent repetition, Rollheiser makes a “paddle-down” save, again from the OL position.
The second segment has former London Knight – and current Queen’s Golden Gaels – goalie Kevin Bailey executing this manoeuvre from the butterfly position.
The movement sequence mimics narrow shuffling down towards the post as a play progresses into the area between the bottom part of the face-off circle and the goal line. Thereafter, the goaltender chooses OL and drops to the butterfly position. The post is easily cleared as the goaltender pushes to the far side of the net.
Clearing the post is therefore a movement pattern to be practiced habitually in order to develop proper muscle memory to make it a refined skill. The goaltender merely has to become comfortable stepping in and out while clearing the post.
We believe OL has certain advantages over VH.
One is that the goaltender is not anchored to the post. Therefore, once comfortable with clearing the post, OL allows the freedom of dropping to a complete butterfly, transitioning back to VH, pushing-sliding towards the top of the crease, or performing a backside push.
The principle advantage, however, lies in comfortably maintaining squareness and shoulder position along the vertical seam between goalie and post, both while standing and in a butterfly drop.
Conversely, if the goalie drops to butterfly position from VH, their torso is naturally somewhat removed from the post (skate-to-knee length) because the skate was anchored to that post.
Goaltenders can still make a save on short-side rebounds, but must lean the torso back towards the post, or make a reactionary glove save. In the third video segment, Danny Taylor drops on a couple of reps and, while having his skate against the post, leans his torso back towards the post to help close the large open net space:
The only other option is performing extra moves by flexing the knee and pushing back towards the post. The skate and part of the pad would then be on the inside of the post, thus eliminating the undesirable gap.
The OL technique eliminates the need for these considerations.
The problem is the post is a tough fixed anchor. It is frequently difficult to completely seal the seam between the body and post in VH despite the best intentions of the technique. To what degree this is based on the technique, incorrect save selection or flawed execution is up for debate.
Regardless, the fact remains that VH is neither an anatomically natural nor comfortable position. It is riddled with flaws and holes resulting in a large quantity of unnecessary goals.
As noted, one VH problem includes the vertical pad and torso often leaning away from the post with resultant holes. It occurs with all goaltenders but seems more common with oversized goaltenders. With knee and hip tension and strain in the VH, the goalie tends to lean the vertical pad off the post to alleviate strain and make it easier to push off the post if necessary. The OL closes this seam in the vertical plane in contrast to VH with what is hopefully greater versatility.
We also believe OL is a safer option than VH on the blocker side. Here, the goal stick is in a position of weakness vis-à-vis the catching side. The stick blade is left on the forehand side and, if using any part of the arm to integrate to the post (for balance and control), the movement range of the stick is quite limited.
Furthermore, the seam along the ice between the vertical and horizontal pad on this side is a frequent source of poor goals due to weak stick-blade angle and control issues. This is especially true when someone is trying to “jam” the puck in during a scramble.
On the trapper side, the stick could be dropped to a “paddle down” position (note Rollheiser video) while remaining in VH. This, however, is really not anatomically possible, or of practical value, on the blocker side.
These concerns are all eliminated in OL with proper technical and tactical application. A butterfly in OL eliminates the stick-blade weakness concerns and continues to seal the vertical seam with an upright torso.
Another problem frequently reduced with OL are the “bar-down” goals with VH that occasionally make the highlight real. This often occurs on the glove side between the cross bar and the top of the glove. The goalie’s arm is usually resting on the vertical pad knee or is off to the side of the net at ill-advised angles.
If the goaltender remains patiently upright in OL position, this unnecessary goal can be eliminated. However, if the goaltender drops early from OL, or is quite short in stature, the top shelf remains open to the best shooters and the outcome is no better.
Conversely, if one choses VH over OL, would it not make sense to raise the trapper to the cross bar? In this case, a small hole may exist between knee and elbow, but the goalie is playing “the odds” that the shooter will go for the top part of the net. A loose jersey may also eliminate that concern.
All of this also depends on the physical stature, skill level and preferred save selection of each goaltender.
A VH variant was discussed by former Montreal Canadien’s goaltender coach Pierre Groulx in the article titled Dead Arm OKD for InGoal Magazine.
The photo of Carey Price used to lead off the article finds the trapping-glove arm down and basically locked between the vertical pad and goal-post. This means the trapper is not in a position where a reactive-type movement to the top of the net can be made. Groulx correctly notes using the arm to seal the seam between pad and post “allows the goaltender to angle and load the post skate in a position that allows them to recover faster to the middle – or simply by dropping it (i.e., the V-pad) to the ice to make it easier to deal with a short-side rebound.”
Sealing the vertical seam with the trapping-glove arm proves the seam exist and that the naturally tendency is for the vertical leg to lean off the post. This technique should be good with tall goaltenders such as Price where, even in the absence of the trapping glove, minimal room is available under the cross-bar.
In OL, the arm and glove remain free to catch a puck or potentially cover it quickly.
Another important consideration with OL is the presence of a defenseman with net-side positioning towards the low slot. This criterion reduces the possibility of the attacking player driving across the crease to the far side of the net, which reduces the need to push towards the far post and hopefully controls the situation.
Furthermore, when performing a butterfly drop from the OL, it’s important to limit the amount of pad flare to the weak side. Everyone is familiar with the significant amount of slot rebounds created with shots off the horizontal pad with VH and routine pad saves off the rush. The goaltender should not square up excessively to the puck as this may increase the frequency of rebounds towards the slot.
If no trailer is driving the net, the puck can however be directed towards the slot to a teammate in what can become a quick transitional play. Nevertheless, in most cases shallow-angle rebounds to the weak-side are usually the best outcome.
The other option with these low angled shots is of course Reverse VH.
In his article Mastering the Reverse VH for InGoal Magazine, Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley explains how the Reverse VH is very effective in “sealing the post” (both the vertical and horizontal planes) and eliminating to the aforementioned problems with VH (see photo on page 90 of coach Valley’s article).
We agree that with pass-outs and walk-outs from immediately behind the net the reverse VH is safer and far more versatile than VH for goaltenders with the pre-requisite skills. This is also not a situation where OL would be effective and it does not really compliment reverse VH.
With the puck behind the net there is no reason to have the skate on the outside of the post. This is dangerous and may lead to poor goals off the skate or the back of the leg. Moving from OL to reverse VH is also too technically time consuming and inefficient.
The question is whether OL is better than reverse VH from the bottom of the face-off circle to the goal line with low net-drives, low walk-outs from the quiet areas and random shots from poor angles. This is difficult to answer and may again depend on the technical skills and preference of each goalie.
Reverse VH may be be more effective with the play unfolding below the goal line, while OL may become the technique of choice for certain situations for which traditional VH has been employed, but with mixed reviews.
A final advantage of OL pertains purely to goal-post integration.
With VH and Reverse-VH techniques, integration involves several technical considerations. This include variation in pad, skate, stick and glove positioning. These technical elements must first be taught and practiced to attain a certain level of comfort and confidence prior to use in competition. Furthermore, technical factors can make it more difficult to execute these techniques dynamically during chaotic situations.
OL has the advantage of using techniques already established in a goaltender’s “toolbox,” including a “relaxed” stance, “full crouch” stance, butterfly, hip swivels, pushes and slides, with great liberty since no contact exists between the goaltender’s body, skate and the post.
In conclusion, the OL technique is a fairly new technique some goaltenders have added to their game. It involves positioning the goal-skate on the outside of the goal post, and allows complete coverage of the vertical seam along the post if the goaltender demonstrates good patience on their feet.
It can easily transition to VH, a butterfly drop, T-push or slide toward the top of the crease, or a backside push. Upon clearing the post on one side of the net, goalies can also easily power slide and transition to reverse VH on the far-side post.
The key is that different save selection options exist at the corner of the crease with goalpost integration for low poor angle shots. The best tactical scenarios for which each technique is best suited will most certainly continue to evolve through success and failure but for some goalies OL is here to stay.