Carey Price plays with the puck during pre-game warm ups in Boston. He shared some of his stick and stick handling tips in this article. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)
Dustin Tokarski did an admirable job filling in for injured Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price in the Eastern Conference Final, but if there was one underreported aspect of Price’s game the Canadiens missed more than just stopping puck, it was playing the puck.
That’s not a knock on Tokarski, who got more comfortable and active at least getting out of his net to stop dump ins and set up pucks behind the Montreal net as the series wore on. But Price is on another level when it comes to playing the puck, breaking up opposing forechecks more aggressively than most goalies in the NHL by making plays above the goal line as well as behind his net.
InGoal Magazine got to see firsthand how well Price can protect and pass the puck during the CCM Extreme Flex Goalie Summit two summers ago, and even though he was just horsing around between photos and video shoots, it was a revelation how easily he moved and controlled the puck, even when it was down close to his skates. Price kindly shared a couple of tips that help him play the puck.
For starters, Price said he cuts “three to four inches” off the top of his sticks.
“Oh yeah, it’s a pretty short handle,” Price said in the 2012 Summer Camp edition of InGoal Magazine. “I just find that when I am handling the puck a lot of the times it winds up in your feet. So having a shorter stick allows you to pull your stick back and it’s right in your feet still without being up on the toe.”
It’s a simple concept, really, and makes a lot of sense.
Assuming a goalie is holding the end of his stick with the blocker, a longer stick won’t lie flat when the blade is tight into the feet. By shortening it, Price is able to fish it out of his skates easily, or even pull the puck in tight if he needs to, before moving it.
A look at the somewhat unique way Price tapes the end of his stick to help him handle the puck better. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)
Price also tapes up the end of his sticks gradually. He doesn’t have any kind of definitive edge at the end of his stick, instead using a subtle and gradually increasing knob, a tape job he said he learned from Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov.
So instead of having his blocker hand stop underneath the end of the stick, as some goalies with giant “rings” at the end of their stick do, Price is able to wrap his blocker hand around the top.
“I find that it allows me to have more leverage when I am handling the puck,” Price said. “A lot of guys have that big, bulky knob and it’s hard to do anything with it, but when you have something that gradually builds up you just feel like you have a lot of leverage. I used to just have one layer of strip tape and a couple rings around and that’s it. I’ve always hardly had any knob at the end.”
As for the paddle, Price shaves a little off the top, where the index finger sits, in order to ensure it sits flat and on place with the blocker, rather than forcing him more into a “fist” grip.
“If I’m trying to make a save that way I’m not presenting the stick,” Price said. “I like the hand flat along the paddle.”
Of course handling the puck and playing it in a game are two different things.
“I think the key to puckhandling is being aware of the forecheck,” Price said in answer to an InGoal reader’s question for an old Ask A Pro. “We do a lot of scouting of other teams forechecks so we kind of know what they are going to be bringing. So being prepared for a 2-1-2, or a 1-2-2, you have to know what is coming at you, and that makes a really big difference when you are going out of the crease to play the puck.”
Veteran pro Mike McKenna, who spent last season in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, took that breakdown a step further – actually it was several long skating strides – with a great, in-depth, eight-page breakdown of everything a goaltender needs to think about when playing the puck, including how his team’s system affects his outlet options, and how to get better at it.
Among McKenna’s words of wisdom: “Puckhandling is a necessity, rifling 50-foot passes isn’t.”
Be sure to read the entire article that appeared in the July 2o12 edition of InGoal Magazine here or by clicking on the image below. With or without Price’s stick tips, it will make you better and handling the puck.