Excessive and improper use of the Reverse-VH technique
The reverse vertical-horizontal (reverse-VH or RVH) technique is used with great prevalence by goalies at all levels of hockey. In fact, it seems to be used excessively, and without much consideration, for when its use is appropriate. This article hopes to increase conversation about the valid use of RVH and its pitfalls.
The technical considerations must, naturally, be properly executed. If incorrectly executed, the fault lies not with the technique itself, but with the goaltender. This cannot be overstated. As popular as the #RVHFail hashtag may be on social media after a bad goal, it’s usually the goalie who has failed to execute the RVH properly or at the right time.
There are three different options with which to integrate the lead, or horizontal (H) pad with the post: Skate blade on post, toe box on post, and pad (shin) on post.
The best option will vary with coaches and goaltenders. The author favors the third option because it allows the torso to get closer to the post and minimizes the amount of lateral bend (lateral spinal flexion) required to seal the seam along the post. Reverse-VH is not a natural anatomical position and the first two options require greater lateral flexion to seal the post.
This seam is frequently opened up, as we see with Nashville Predators No. 1 Pekka Rinne on the second goal in Game 7 against the Winnipeg Jets in the 2018 Western Conference Semi-Finals:
The blade–on-post option may allow for an easier push across the crease (or out from the goal line to establish depth). However, there have been several recent examples of pucks going in through the gap skate-on-post leaves between the bottom of the pad and the post, and while the teaching trend is towards toe box on post to seal that gap, the pad-on-post integration also eliminates that hole and most (mature) goalies can still easily push off the post with their shin or quickly recover to their feet.
On either side of the net, the arm can be on the inside or outside the goal-post. The author favours the latter option. The elbow can be used to anchor the body and secure the seal. On the trapper side, the arm (and glove) are usually pointing down at the ice and ready to cover the puck. The trapper is also commonly placed on the top edge of the short-side pad.
Another variant, which InGoal labeled “reactive-glove RVH” in a recent article, has the trapper pointing up. This allows the arm to remain reactive and potentially reach up for shots going “bar-down,” however, for this to be effective the shoulder and elbow should probably remain outside of the post for ease of movement. This variant can ALSO leave a hole between the elbow and the top of the pad.
The position of the stick (trapper side) may vary depending on the proximity of the attack and how the play evolves. The goal-stick is in a position of strength and power when the play is moving from the goalie’s trapper-to-blocker side. It can be more easily extended and manipulated with greater power to deflect wrap-arounds, low walk-outs, and cross-crease passes.
However, an improper blade angle and poor seal can still lead to poor technique-based goals:
On the blocker-side, the stick is positioned on the ice and still has reasonable manoeuvrability with a potential walk-out. It can seal the five-hole if the attacker gets around the corner of the net. The V-pad can either be one the ice or with the knee off the ice and extended.
If all the aforementioned technical elements are properly executed the question becomes when to use Reverse-VH effectively.
The wrap-around is a valid application. A transition from standing to RVH is smooth and quite natural. You are probably more likely to seal the ice with RVH than shuffling post-to-post or attempting a transition into VH as the attacker moves around the net; However, what if the opponent is in the trapezoid and is not being pressured by anyone?
The RVH is commonly used in this scenario. Is this option really better than standing on your skates and using the “windows approach?” One factor is communication between goaltender and defensemen and the way the team is coached to deal with this situation. If not supported by teammates and proper coverage, both methods can result in goals. However, to drop mindlessly into RVH may make it more difficult to stay visually attached to the puck. Vertical coverage is also lost (proportional to the goalie’s physical stature).
The author witnessed three “lacrosse move” goals within a one-month period where the goalie in RVH never saw it coming. On a goal scored by the Soo Greyhounds, Evan Cormier of the Saginaw Spirit is a victim. Cormier decides to use RVH. He seals the ice well which is the principle effectiveness of the technique. His defenceman stands passively by giving time and space for the Soo forward to score an unnecessary goal. Neither Cormier nor RVH is at fault. Poor communication and team play is to blame.
The Reverse-VH can also be used for low walk-outs. The issue is when to drop into RVH and if the goaltender will receive support. The greatest bewilderment for the author is when the puck is in the quiet areas and goaltenders from novice to the professional ranks automatically drop to RVH as a default position. This seems pointless with no immediate threat that warrants RVH.
When the puck is in the quiet areas (whether below or above the goal-line) the goalie is best served by using traditional post-integration techniques. Use your peripheral vision, put your “head-on-a-swivel”, and “look off the puck” for developing weak-side threats. Watch any professional or junior-level game and you will see this phenomenon on a disturbing basis. In most cases nothing develops, the puck is not funnelled towards the net, and the goalie eventually recovers to his / her skates. Energy is also wasted. An effort will be made in a follow-up article to determine if this opinion has merit.
More disturbing is when the puck is on the half-wall and goalies right up to the NHL are still in RVH. This seems ridiculous has has a poor influence on impressionable younger goaltenders.
If we take these three common scenarios as a basis for the effective use of RVH the next question is the correct timing of the drop into RVH as the play gets closer to the net.
If the defense is properly positioned to prevent a slot pass, or movement to the far side of the net, a distance of few feet from the net (see diagram below) will be sufficient to correctly get into position without dropping too early. Goalies drop too frequently into RVH regardless of whether the puck is in zone 1, 2, or 3. The star at the junction of the goal-line and trapezoid represents a reasonable distance from the post at which the goaltender should execute the technique if that is their decision. This has been tested locally amongst a few colleagues, including Ottawa Senators development goaltending coach Kory Cooper with the Belleville Senators, and seems to be a reasonable start point to an evolving discussion.
A drop too early, a goalie of short stature, or improper execution can lead to bad-angle goals like the one Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara scored on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen during the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
With Chara being so low on his natural wing would an overlap standard integration not have been a smarter option? The author believes Andersen also committed to RVH. too early.
This is seen on another goal on Cormier in the same 8-0 loss to the Greyhounds:
The final consideration is the poor angle or dead angle attacks. The goaltender has several options available including VH, RVH, Overlap, and the classic “hugging the post.” If the RVH is chosen, the opponent’s distance from the net, and positioning of teammates to limit opponent’s options will contribute to a successful or undesired outcome.
Other needless uses of RVH observed include a D-to-D pass behind the net by the goaltender’s teammates or with a defenseman swooping around the net in a breakout. There is no reason to be in RVH in these situations. Stand up and pay attention to the play at all times.
Goals occur with all the aforementioned techniques because mistakes happen. The VH and RVH have revealed holes that repeatedly develop with these techniques. The VH was used excessively in the past and lost favour. The problems with RVH have been identified by many.
At least one NHL goalie believes RVH may also be gone from the game in the future.
“I bet you in three, four years it will change and reverse-VH will go away, just like VH went away,” Bruins backup Anton Khudobin told InGoal last season. “I still do it sometimes but this league is growing fast so shooters learn every single day through the season ‘this goalie plays like this, we have to place the puck over there or we have to shoot here’ and reverse-VH will go away. That’s what I am saying to [coaches back home in Russia], I am like ‘guys teach them how to skate, how to be on their feet,’ because right now its tendency that a lot of goalies are on their knees all the time and that will go away.”
The author also believes Reverse-VH and VH are advanced techniques that do not need to be taught to very young goalies. Gross and fine motor control is often lacking. Nevertheless, kids watch the acrobatic “Spiderman-like” style of Jonathan Quick (and others) and mimic their heroes. They develop poor muscle memory. It becomes a daunting task to undo these problems at a later date. To re-train the muscles is difficult but the greater challenge is re-training the mind.
The Overlap and standard post-integration keeps goalies on their feet and maintains short-side coverage. They also permit easier, more natural maneuverability.
This article recommends valid application of RVH in a few situations. Let us collectively use this as a starting point. Hypothesis testing, discussion and future details must be presented to the global goaltending community to determine appropriate application as we move forward.
The Reverse-VH is a good technique but it has inherent flaws and is frequently used without merit and wastes valuable energy. A follow-up article will review the relative use of RVH, VH, Overlap and standard post integration approach during the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals.