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Part 2: Get out of a ‘goalie-school goalie’ mindset

Part 2: Get out of a ‘goalie-school goalie’ mindset

Carter Hutton leads the NHL with a .944 save percentage, earning an increased share of starts with the St. Louis Blues in 2018, but it’s the lessons learned during five seasons spent mostly in the backup role that resonated with his puck-stopping peers at all levels.

Fellow NHL goalies have approached Hutton during pre-game stretching to share appreciation for some of the lessons Hutton shared in Part 1 of this Pro Tips series, which ended with the 32-year-old talking about the need to “get away from these controlled environments.”

So, what did Hutton mean by that? Sometimes it’s important to go beyond goalie-specific drills.

“We play in this vacuum with the goalie coaches, this perfect world where this guy is here and he is going pass to that guy there and he is going to shoot low pad here, and then you get in a game and it’s a melee,” Hutton said. “Sometimes you need to engage yourself and just battle and compete.”

Don’t get Hutton wrong. He knows how important the position-specific drills before or after practice are for goalies, and credits first-year Blues goalie coach David Alexander for helping simplify his game this season. Like a lot of NHL goalies, Hutton believes there is a direct link between the evolving technical efficiency and improved consistency in the crease.

“I have never been a goalie school kid. I went to (Former Toronto Maple Leafs and current Manitoba Moose goalie coach) Rick St. Croix’s school when I was 10, that’s the only goalie school I have been to. I learned to play just by battling; street-hockey goalie,” he said. “Now I have this access to goalie coaching and I have taken the street-hockey goalie and turned him into a goalie-school goalie that has these elements of compete and battle that are refined technically without losing that edge. I think that’s my recipe. I think that’s established me as a more consistent goalie. I can get away with stealing a game by just battling, but to play all the time like that, you can’t with the traffic and tips and everything that goes on. Simplifying my game with Dave this year has helped me a lot.”

All that said, Hutton also believes goalies can get too stuck in what he called a “goalie-school goalie” mindset, that perfect world he talked about above where they know where each pass is going and every shot is coming from. So how does Hutton make sure he doesn’t fall into that trap?

“If we are doing a power play drill, I am doing it full tilt. I am penalty killing, I am alert, I am treating that like a game rep,” he said. “At the end of practice, I am jumping in wherever I can to get one-timers from D-men, even if it puts me in a tough area. A lot of goalies step away from those. I engage in them because that’s something you get in games. You get to a power play and guys are on the flank bombing it. If you get hit high, you get hit high, that’s part of being a goalie. I feel like sometimes we shy away from that.”

Of course, every goalie knows there are also parts of every team practice that can do them more harm than good. In Part 3, Hutton will talk about how he handles some of those instances.

~ If you haven’t already, go read Part 1 of Hutton’s Pro Tips series on playing well when you aren’t playing a lot. The tips he shares for thriving as an NHL backup apply well to minor hockey schedules too.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.

1 Comment

  1. Les

    I think my son could learn a lot from Hutton. I’ve kept him out of professional goalie schools (except for 1 weekend with Steve Briere’s crew) for two reasons: (1) I prefer to endorse volunteer goalie coaching in minor hockey and (2) I don’t want him to be a robot. He made the bantam AAA rep team by winging it for the most part. Unfortunately, inconsistent (unschooled) play at the beginning of the season saw him on the bench a lot. He, and his parents, learned the lessons from Hutton’s Part 1 and he made strides in his development just from working hard in practice. But I will say this, schooling is what makes a goalie consistent, and the head coach knows what he is going to get every game, good or bad but rarely great. It is the unschooled innovation that makes a goalie great and possibly legendary. (The AAA team, by the way, brought in professional goalie coaches for a few minutes once every two weeks. I would estimate the actual 1v1 time was over $400/hr. I’ve been telling my son to make sure he volunteers his coaching time when he is older.)