Part 3: NOT ALL PRACTICE IS GOOD FOR THE GOALTENDER
In the second part of his Pro Tips series, Carter Hutton advised his puck stopping peers to get out of the comfort zone of a “goalie-school goalie mindset” in practice, and find drills that allow you to battle and fight to find the puck the same way you have to during a game.
The St. Louis Blues stopper knows, however, that not all practice drills are good for a goalie.
Well it may be lost on a lot of the non-goaltender hockey world, including far too many head coaches, the reality that a lot of team practices can actually be harmful for the guys charged with stopping pucks has been well established here at InGoal over the years. Facing rush after rush of guys teeing off from spots and with time and space they won’t get all season in a game, often leaves the goalie with two choices: cheat or get beat. Cheat often enough, and it can become a habit that creeps in during a game.
Goalies in the NHL are not immune to this trend.
“I found at times in my career, when I have gone into a lull of not playing well is I when become a pre-game skate goalie,” Hutton said. “You just see shots off the rush, off the rush, off the rush, and then you do drills after practice where a guy drives the net and it’s a little pop play, little pop play. Everything is within this small window so you are never really engaged with the puck.”
So how does Hutton combat that?
For starters, go back to the last part in this series: Finding drills that simulate game situations that force you to battle, even if they aren’t the easy drills goalies typically volunteer for. For Hutton that includes facing his team’s top power play. But he also makes requests of his teammates during some of those endless rush drills and wide-open shots.
“I like to back guys up a bit so I can track things, use my hands, make a save, follow it with my eyes,” Hutton said. “It’s a lot more engaging with my eyes, being connected.”
Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way. So, when the guys are winding up, dragging the puck into the middle and trying to go bar down over and over again, Hutton admits it can be tempting to cheat – “very,” he said – but more important not to.
“It’s not the James Neals and the Vladamir Tarasenkos, the goal scorers, that do it. It’s the guys that score three to five a year,” Hutton said. “But you can’t lose yourself in that. You have to keep your structure, 100 percent, and the times I thought I struggled, it’s because I didn’t.”
Whether it was when he faced Neal with the Predators, or Tarasenko with the Blues now, Hutton has been widely praised as a great teammate, and part of that is not whining when the drills don’t necessarily suit the goalie, or avoiding the ones a lot of goalies don’t like, but rather finding ways to make them work to help his game. It’s important that goalies know there is a difference between recognizing when a drill might not be great for them and sticking to their structure within it, versus quitting on that drills. Or always complaining about them to teammates or the coaching staff.
All that said, there is a lesson here for head coaches too.
“You don’t get that many chances off the rush in a game,” Hutton said.
So, making sure practice isn’t a steady diet of them might help your goalies – and the shooters who seem to be spending a lot of time practicing a situation that rarely occurs in a game.
~ If you haven’t already, go back and read the first two parts of Hutton’s Pro Tips Series: