Goaltending and the Blocking technique: Part 2 of 2
This is the second of a two-part article. Please click through to see part I.
One of the numerous challenges to becoming an elite goaltender is proper save selection for each competitive scenario. This is no more true than for the blocking technique. The key point to remember for correct application of blocking is a tight goaltender-related gap for it to be effective. If the gap is tight, low goals are eliminated by sealing the ice. Unacceptable goals are rare by keeping the arms in towards the torso and goals via the aerial angle become next to impossible. Hence, the following question: when should I employ the block to be successful with it?
The following diagram reveals what I believe to be a “blocking zone.” You can see that this is just around the top of the blue paint. It suggests that blocks should be used in and around the crease potentially with net scrambles and 2nd and 3rd shot scoring opportunities.
The main reason for writing this article is the frequent misguided application of this technique. I see goalies of all ages up to, and including, the Ontario Hockey League who must believe that blocking is the panacea of goaltending techniques. I personally consider them one dimensional goaltenders! They block within the blocking zone and block well outside side of it when the aerial angle is NOT covered by goalies who drop to their knees without thought. Whether these goalies have been trained incorrectly or misunderstood their coach’s instruction is unknown to me but I see it all the time. Blocking is a great skill to have in your toolbox but is it only one tool and not the entire workshop.
There are other factors to consider with the block. (1) Goaltenders of larger physical stature can get away with using it more often purely based on net coverage when in the butterfly position. Some of the goalies drafted nowadays have their shoulders at the level of the crossbar when on their knees. (2) Skating is of critical importance with blocks since positioning is everything. If you are a great skater then you should be able to get on angle and be set before the puck is released. If you are slow and never square this technique will not lead to success.
Finally, there are a few technical errors that are seen on a recurrent basis with developing goaltenders. (1) You will see them sitting on their buttocks so they are not maximizing vertical coverage:
(2) They do not maintain a compact form (they open up) and this leads to poor goals between the torso and arms.
(3) The stick-side forearm is not maintained fully pronated. This results in the stick blade sitting up partially or fully on its heal. This results in many poor goals through the 5-hole.
In conclusion, the blocking butterfly is an important technique and must become a learned skill through diligent practice; however, it must only be used when appropriate and then executed with precision.
I always encourage conversation between student and teacher since the competitive application of any lesson is of paramount importance. Misguided application of skills or interpretation of the play will both lead to failure. Good Luck !