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Goalies 101: Cutting Down The Angle

Goalies 101: Cutting Down The Angle

There are a number of terms used by the goaltending community that are understood differently by different parts of the hockey community. The differences in usage and meaning can lead to confusion and can make it harder for discussions about goaltending to bear fruit. In some ways, goalies and non goalies are often talking a different language. In an attempt to clarify some of these concepts, InGoal is bringing you Goalies 101, a series that aims to explore how goalies talk about goaltending. You can read the complete series here.

There are few concepts more central to the modern discipline of goaltending than angles. If the biggest imperative for goaltenders is to get the core of the body in between the puck and the net, then managing angles is the most effective and efficient way to accomplish that.

In every game, on every save, the goaltender is managing multiple shifting angles as the puck moves around the defensive zone. To be successful, the goaltender must understand how the perspective of the shooter changes in relation to the net as they move.

Doing this right will influence how and when shooters shoot as well as increasing the goaltender’s chances when the shot comes. Take away the net – cover it up – and a shooter may delay taking a shot until they are shooting at a smaller target. Or they may choose not to shoot at all.

A shooter's location on the ice and their angle on the net determines how much net is available.

A shooter’s location on the ice and their angle on the net determine how much net is available.

To get down to basics, shooting happens in a moving triangle.

The shooter’s location on the ice determines how much net is available to them—how big the actual target is. This is regardless of where anyone else is located and what they’re doing.

In the example here, the shooter directly in front of the net (C) has the largest angle. The shooter at the bottom of the faceoff circle (A) has the smallest. Each of these angles requires a different depth to achieve net coverage. A goalie should play deeper on shot A than on B or C.

Cutting down the angle, then, refers to the process of getting to the right depth for each situation and getting square so as to block as much of the net as possible from the shooter’s perspective.

Everything in goaltending is a tradeoff. Every choice takes one thing away at the expense of giving something else up. Deeper play gives the goalie a shorter distance to cover as the play moves, but it can come at the expense of opening up the net to a shooter. It’s all a balancing act.


Cutting down the angle means blocking off the net from the perspective of the shooter.

Cutting down the angle means blocking off the net from the perspective of the shooter.

In managing angles, the goaltender attempts to keep the center of the body on a direct line between the center of the net behind them and the puck in front of them. A puck may go under or around limbs, but it won’t go through the center of the torso.

This imaginary line is the angle line. It is the line that a goaltender is “square to” when they are square. By presenting the shoulders perpendicular (or square) to the angle line, they are presenting the biggest possible target and are covering the biggest amount of the net from the perspective of the shooter. Pull off this line and you open up one side of the net. Goalies who are not centered on this angle line end up reaching with arms or legs to try to compensate.

Angle lines connect the puck and the center of the net.

Angle lines connect the puck and the center of the net.

[Side note: This principle is the reason that bigger nets won’t force goalies to reach more. Reaching doesn’t work as well as being centered and square and goalies know it. Managing angles won’t disappear in favor of lower percentage glove and toe saves. Instead, goalies will simply figure out how to get centered on the new lines.]

While a goalie is working to stay on and square to the angle line, they are also trying to manage depth so that they are, in fact, cutting down the shooter’s angle.

Goalies who choose to challenge higher (meaning further from the goal line) have to move a greater distance to adjust their position as the angle line moves than goalies who don’t take as much depth. It’s simple geometry. The bigger the radius, the bigger the arc.

In cases where you can’t get both angle and depth on a shot, the rule of thumb is angle over depth. In other words, it’s better to get on the angle line and get set and square before a shot comes even if you’re not as high in the crease as you’d like to be.

In actual practice, of course, it’s a hugely complex enterprise. The shooter is moving, the goalie is moving, the puck is moving — everyone is moving all the time and there are a lot more people on the ice than just a goalie and a shooter. But at the core of all of it is the skill of visualizing and managing angles. It isn’t easy and players who “see” angles well will have more success than players who don’t.

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.


  1. Doug

    Amazing article.

    • John Mckersie

      Wow this really makes it common sense goaltending . Makes the position too easy to play if you are smart enough to apply it
      Thank you

  2. Jo

    Most goals are scored when goalie is out of net. Pro players perform their shots by visualizing net without seeing net. Much like a quarterback throws ball without receiver in line of sight.