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It’s one of those terrible feelings every goalie can probably relate to: reaching to cover a puck only to have it knocked in past you before you can smother it.
It’s worse knowing the hole that loose puck is knocked through probably wouldn’t have opened if you didn’t reach out and open up to try and cover it.
That’s why Michael DiPietro dedicates practice time to covering those loose pucks without opening the holes. We spotted the Vancouver Canucks prospect doing this simple three-puck drill by himself in the corner earlier this season:
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When we had a chance to go over the video with him, that was the explanation.
“Beginning of the year when it started, [Canucks goaltending coach Ian] Clark wanted me to start collecting pucks in the butterfly, so when I am collecting pucks I am not on my stomach covering pucks,” DiPietro explained. “Because when guys come in and they poke and they jab and the whistle hasn’t blown yet and they poke it and I’m on my stomach, this thing is sliding in the net.”
Instead of reaching out to cover the puck and opening holes, DiPietro is focused on making sure he maintains balance in his butterfly, instead using his stick to pull the puck close to his pads quickly before covering it with his glove.
“Clarkie wanted me to really hone in on collecting pucks in my butterfly so I have a second and a third layer of coverage,” he said. “If I cover it and they hit my hand and my hand comes off, I have my pads and if it goes through my pads, I still have my knees there, so there are extra layers of coverage as an insurance policy.”
It may not seem like a big detail, but DiPietro, who is currently with Team Canada at the World Championships in Latvia, quickly realized how important it can be.
“It’s something small that I didn’t even think of but the attention detail Clark has, and the attention to detail [development goalie coach] Curtis Sanford has on your game, these little things to work on and they do pay off,” DiPietro said. “That can be 3 or 4 goals you can have back if you do these little details, so it’s important.”
The drill footage is short, and that’s our fault because DiPietro was one of three Canucks goalies on the ice that day and the InGoal cameras were focused on Thatcher Demko when he started doing it on his own in the corner. But there’s an important lesson in that too: On a practice day when DiPietro had already spent an hour working 1-on-1 with Clark before Demko and Braden Holtby got on the ice, and despite spending two hours and 15 minutes on the ice, DiPietro still didn’t waste any down time. When Demko and Holtby had the nets, he found the time to work on something small by himself, knowing it might be the difference between going back to old habits and sticking with this new plan in a game.
Despite clearly being tired from the extra early work with Clark, he spent the extra time to try and make this new collection habit instinctual, breaking between reps to make sure he was ready to do it right the next time.
As for other keys to the movement itself, watch again in slow-motion below and notice how he starts his movement with early eyes on each target — and placing pucks to use as targets is something we’ll see more of from DiPietro when working on his own — keeping his head down to trigger good early rotation:
Notice too how he keeps his stick in place, not letting the blocker fly away in the other direction as he pushes back and forth, and gets that pad down quick.
“I think for me making sure I have a good anchor leg, a sharp, quick stop and slamming that anchor leg back down for a quick seal,” DiPietro said.
It may not seem like a big deal, but understanding the importance of those small details — and having the discipline to work on them properly in practice, even if it’s on your own – can help goalies everywhere avoid that terrible feeling of reaching out to cover a puck and having to fish it out of the net instead.
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