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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.