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Reverse-VH: The Importance Of An Engaged Back Foot

Reverse-VH is an effective, yet relatively new technique for stopping jam plays and short angle chances. As a result of its’ relative newness, many current goaltenders (and coaches) struggle incorporating it into their game. Most of them did not grow up with the technique, and that causes a lot of heated debates. Everyone interprets it differently.

One such example is the positioning of the foot on the post. A lot of coaches argue that having the boot of the pad inside the post offers a tighter seal on jam plays. Having the boot land directly on the post is also an option, but is incredibly hard to execute consistently at game speed. The downside of boot-inside-post is that it is harder to transition out of the position if the play goes from the corner, to high in the zone.

Here is a short Vine clip from Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild that shows how Tuukka Rask incorporates boot-inside-post RVH into his game:

Others say that having the skate blade up against the post gives goaltenders more control over their body positioning and ability to rotate. The downside with that, is that a lot of goaltenders are uncomfortable jamming their blade up against the post, and it is harder on the hips when using post lean to seal the post. Here is a video of Rob Madore, a goaltender in the Toronto Maple Leafs system, practicing skate-on-post RVH:

Another bonus to using skate-on-post is that the goaltender can immediately push with the skate that is up against the post, and transition out of the position. Notice on the Tuukka Rask clip how he must disengage from the post, drop his skate to the ice, load his weight, then push. It only takes a fraction of a second longer, but it could make a difference.

A third way has also been developed by Complete Goaltending Development called the overlap reverse post-integration technique, and the details about that were discussed in a previous article here on InGoal.

Goalies need to practice each of the possible ways, and find out which is the most comfortable for them. Like it is mentioned above, there are pros and cons to each way of doing it. It’s best to choose the version of RVH that is easiest to incorporate into a goaltender’s existing style.

Whichever way a goaltender chooses to use RVH, one thing is true for each version: The back anchor leg is extremely important, and should not be forgotten.

The leg that is not touching the post needs to be dug into the ice at all times. It controls the angle of the goaltender’s body, helps push the pad against the post on jam plays, and allows the goalie to execute a proper post lean. In the Rask clip above, you can see that he uses a unique “C-cut” type of move with the back foot to adjust the position of his body.

Why is it so important? Let’s take a look at a few ways a goalie can be exploited in RVH if their back foot is disengaged.

CrawfordRVH

Corey Crawford was beaten on a shot in the first round of the playoffs in the reverse-VH position partly because of the fact that the blade of his back foot was disengaged.

If a player is in tight on a goaltender, and tries to roof the puck over the shoulder, the goalie will need to shift their body up in order to seal the post. The only way to do that quickly and efficiently is if the back leg is ready before the shot is even taken. Corey Crawford was beaten on a shot in the first round of the playoffs because of a play like this, and we broke it down in a full post here.

The back foot is also an important factor in making sure that the goaltender’s shoulders are square to the shooter. That becomes especially important during walk-out scenarios when the shooter comes from behind the goal line and carries the puck high.

A good example occurred during the rookie tournament that recently took place in London, Ontario. During a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, sniper William Nylander took the puck around the back of the net, swung out front and picked the top corner on goaltender Tristan Jarry. It was a brilliant play, but it could have been prevented.

Here’s the play in question:

Now, Tristan Jarry is no slouch. The former Edmonton Oil King is the Penguins’ second-best goaltending prospect behind Matt Murray, and ranked 20th overall in our recent top goaltending prospect rankings.

That being said, the close-angle replay shows exactly where he went wrong on the play. Instead of reacting to Nylander (a right-handed shot on the left wing) bringing the puck dangerously high in the zone, he remains in a paddle-down position for too long and pays the price.

Nylander1

At first glance it looks like he was beaten over the right shoulder, between his head and the post, but the shot actually goes far side and beats Jarry over the left shoulder.

With Nylander carrying the puck around the back of the net, he makes a smart play by initially coming across and sealing the post with the paddle-down position. The shooter had a fair amount of speed, and that should be every goalie’s first reaction. He blocks any attempt at a jam play, and keeps the paddle of his stick in the passing lane.

NylanderScreenshot1

The next frame is where things begin to go wrong. With his back foot disengaged from the ice, Jarry leans forward in an attempt to get closer to Nylander as he carries the puck higher in the zone. Nylander is a very smart shooter, and may have been doing this intentionally to goad Jarry into this position.

NylanderScreenshot2

This is the crucial moment when the goaltender needs to realize that it is time to shift their body to become square to the puck. The threat of a jam play has been nullified. Unfortunately, Jarry does not adjust and it leaves the entire left side of the net open. That is a deadly mistake when it is a right-handed shot on the left wing. Even if Nylander would have hit him with the shot, because his shoulders are not square, it would have created a very dangerous rebound.

NylanderScreenshot3edit2

If the blade of his skate on his back leg was along the ice properly, it would have been a simple movement to straighten out his body so that he was squarely facing the shooter. Instead, his best hope was to throw his glove up at an awkward angle, or that the shooter would simply miss with the shot. Not ideal.

The moral of the story is, whether you use boot-inside-post, boot-on-post, skate-on-post, or the overlap RVH positions, make sure that back foot is engaged. If not, the variety of ways you can be beaten increases tenfold.

There’s nothing that drives a goalie coach crazier than a preventable reverse-VH fail.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario as the voice of the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.

5 Comments

  1. Pasco Valana

    Love the article as it opens up discussion and sharing of excellent points to assist goaltenders.

    One of the biggest points to understand about the RVH is that there are multiple ways to execute that skill and it is all based on the following criteria:

    1) the goaltender’s physical / genetic make up. Some people move certain ways and some simply do not. There are several styles and dialects of the RVH that should be explored and respected.

    2) The execution of the RVH and its various versions are selected based on 3 main criteria of external pressure OR the uncontrollables: a) even or odd man pressure b) puck proximity …where is the attack coming from and what are the horizontal or vertical angles that the goaltender covers exist c) a recognition that any movement from the RVH originates from the head ….NOT the skates. This is apparent in Jarry’s execution of the initial RVH paddle down but as the player moves away ….over the goal line …and then into the face off circle (2 major timing mechanisms relating to positional adjustments) did not take place.)
    The anchor of the weak side skate actually contributed to the lack of squareness on the shot.

    3) The use of the head first, eyes first mentality allows the body to correctly move and execute skills in a more efficient and and straight line approach. As a goaltender moves in ways that they can correctly and efficiently move their bodies to fall in behind their vision, they can collect all of the necessary information to protect the net space or “box control” and or respond to cross slot or low to high passes or rebounds.

    A FEW SITUATIONS:

    If the rap around is tight and angle is narrow or tight:

    SITUATION 1: The paddle down execution becomes critical, the shoulders don’t have to be as square, the paddle down should have extension options with the emphasis on the disruption of the attempted rap/pass as priority. Having the anchor on a potential net crash becomes more critical and would be best executed in reactionary tactic vs a net set and anchored position. Set positions vs reactionary executions much like how the VH were historically mis-used providing the shooter and players/pass options with the necessary information to make plays to expose goaltenders. Patience and read are critical.

    SITUATION 2: If the attack is wide with distance (proximately of the puck is in a further away position like in the attack above on Jarry) and there were no pass options:
    – the default squareness could take place either through a butterfly position, or squared RVH with a “hinge” executed by the weak side skate. (if the distance of the puck was further away then a return to skate on post stance position could take place.)

    There are many more situations that we can explore……maybe others can chime in …

    The key is, we are at the beginning of the RVH exploration and there are currently 5 different ways to anchor and hinge the post and RVH variations. It’s important that we explore all of these methods and assign them appropriately the the multiple situations where the RVH can be utilized and above all explore the right technique that best compliments the goaltender in the net.

    Great conversation.

    Reply
    • carl

      Pasco, this was a very well thought out and written response to the article. I agree with you completely. I teach my goalies to try to keep the back leg flat, above the goal line, sealing the ice. This has resulted in many saves from a quick pass out front or a deflection. With the back skate anchored, there is a gap under the knee, and holes seem to always be found by the puck. It is not time consuming or awkward to bite the ice with the back skate when needed to rotate or push out to a butterfly or paddle down move and gain a little depth.

      Reply
  2. Jamie Blanchard

    Great article and great response to this new move , all great points with room for each goalie or goalie coach to try with different goalies . The key is the goalies ability to adapt to this move in tight …is it uncomfortable (because of physical ..) or because they need to develop more skills(younger goalie ). Great job by all parties .

    Jamie Blanchard

    Reply
  3. Richard St_onge

    Good read. I disagree with the excuse used for Crawford. His choice of save and position was not efficient nor logical by taking into account where the shot was taken from. Engaged skate or not, he gave up too much up top by being angled, dropping the shoulder and not engaging his blocker a little more. His chances would of been slightly better in being more square and playing bigger in his dropped knee position.

    The reverse VH is a tough one to use as, for anyone regardless of height or size, by leaning across on the post over an extended leg, you will drop the shoulder, lose body height and squareness and put yourself in an ackward position for recovering. It’s a position best saved for wrap-arounds and/or goal line shots and drives.

    That’s my opinion.

    Reply
  4. Mitchell Dranow

    I know that this was not the import of the article, but I wonder what a goalie gains by placing his paddle down, as in the scenario involving Tristan Jarry? I understand that it is placed there to block a passing lane, but, in the process, Jarry is caused to lean forward further exposing the top part of the net, his right pad is already flush with the ice so the placement of the stick merely creates additional and unnecessary coverage for an area that is already blocked, and I don’t really see how the stick, in the position where it is, blocks a passing lane since it is directly in front of the goalie’s pad. Bear in mind I’m a 54 year-old goalie who only started playing six years ago, so be gentle with your comments.

    Reply

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