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Reverse-VH: Common Issues and Proper Execution

Reverse-VH: Common Issues and Proper Execution
Jonathan Quick was noted for his ability to explode out of the Reverse-VH, a new take on the old paddle down technique. ( InGoal Photo by Clint Trahan)

Jonathan Quick brought reverse-VH into the limelight in 2012, and is still one of the best in the world at the technique. ( InGoal Photo by Clint Trahan)

Reverse-VH has become an increasingly popular technique in the goaltending community. A growing number of professional goaltending coaches are teaching it to their students, and as a result, more and more NHL goaltenders are starting to add it to their repertoire.

For such a widely accepted technique, it is far from perfect. Debates rage on in the goaltending community about how to properly teach and perform the move, and which situations to use it in. It has been developed for years, but it really rose to prominence during the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup run in 2012 because of Jonathan Quick’s extensive use of the technique. Later that year Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley helped break down the move for InGoal Magazine.

Like any technique, there are a number of issues that arise while using Reverse-VH that coaches and students need to be aware of. They sometimes get labelled as issues with the technique itself, but are really just common mistakes in the proper execution of the move.

Issues Transitioning Out of Reverse-VH

While many goaltenders practice the move and become very strong at sealing the post with reverse-VH, some of them struggle on plays that develop out of the corner and back into the slot area.

For goalies that play in North America at amateur levels, posts becoming dislodged while using reverse-VH have become a major annoyance. With solid NHL nets, it is easier to teach goaltenders to keep their skate blade against the post and use the net to help push out to the top of the crease. Most amateur-level goaltenders do not have that luxury.

A lot of goaltending instructors will instead teach their students to keep their foot slightly inside the post. You still get a solid seal along the ice, but it is harder to get a push when transitioning out of the position. If a strong push is attempted, the net still has a high chance of being dislodged.

While attempts are being made to fix post issues in North America, there is no solution yet. Reverse-VH is still the best option for sealing the post off on sharp angle plays, despite this setback at the amateur level. It must continue to be taught at a young age, so that kids are not left behind when they do begin to play on nets that can handle a lot of force.

A few minor details become extremely important for goaltenders that cannot use the post as an anchor. While in reverse-VH, if a cross-crease pass is attempted, a goaltender can have more success by remembering to keep their hands active. Blocking the pass becomes a priority. A push across should still be attempted, but because of the difficult position the net puts the goaltender in, it is wise to also make a strong effort to block the pass.

The folks over at Complete Goaltending Development also recently developed a new technique that combines the overlap technique with reverse-VH, to provide another option for goaltenders that still struggle with reverse-VH the traditional way. Take a look at what they came up with by clicking here.

The other extremely important thing to remember is to anchor the back foot. It’s easy to forget about the foot that is not up against the post while focused on sealing the post, but it is very important to dig that blade into the ice. Not only does it help with staying balanced, it also helps provide stability if the opponent tries to jam the puck in and allows for a quick and strong transition to the top of the crease if a pass is made.

Goaltenders should practice transitioning out of reverse-VH just as much, if not more than transitioning into reverse-VH. Dig the back skate blade into the ice immediately when dropping into reverse-VH, and use that as the anchor for an explosive challenge to the top of the crease if the play develops back out towards the blue line.

Habitual Usage of Reverse-VH

The next main issue is when reverse-VH becomes a “resting position” for a goaltender. It is important to remember that reverse-VH is a very active position, not a position to become frozen or locked into.

Goalies have to recognize when the puck is carried too high in the zone, then they become susceptible to getting beat over the shoulder. Coaches that are critical of reverse-VH usually point to this as a flaw in the technique, but it is mainly caused by goalies that are unaware that the puck is too high in the zone – or just plain lazy.

Every play on the ice is situational, but as a general rule of thumb, here is a visual example of when to be in the reverse-VH position and when to transition out of it:Reverse-VH Situational DiagramGoalies are free to follow that picture as closely as they want, but if they remain down in the reverse-VH position while the puck is outside of the blue area, they are at a high risk of getting beat over the shoulder on a shot.

It’s imperative for a goaltender to recognize this and immediately transition out of reverse-VH, or else the technique is not as effective as it can be. Let’s look at a few examples of goaltenders getting scored on while in reverse-VH:


Zach Fucale – Team Canada World Juniors


Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay Lightning

Lehner 2

Robin Lehner – Ottawa Senators

Here’s a chart of where those players were on the ice, in relation to the diagram posted earlier:

Reverse-VH Situational Diagram with annotationsAs you can see, all three of those shots came from well outside of the blue area. No two situations will ever be the same in hockey, so the diagram can be used as strictly as an individual goaltender sees fit. Some goaltenders, usually taller ones, are more comfortable using reverse-VH aggressively, but the diagram can still be a great visual aide for a goalie that is frustrated by getting beat over the shoulder while in reverse-VH.

Be aware, shooters are smart and the good ones pick up on tendencies very quickly. If they are able to carry the puck out of the blue zone to reveal space over the goaltender’s shoulder, they will exploit that. It’s the goaltender’s job to stay one step ahead of the shooter and ensure that does not happen.

There is a lot of unjust hate toward the reverse-VH position from some goalies, but even smaller goaltenders can succeed if it is executed properly. It is a tough technique to learn and is still evolving, but is a valuable tool for playing sharp angle shots.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.


  1. Rherbst

    The diagrams are very helpful to see where you should be down and where you should stay on your feet.

  2. Greg

    Really great articles!

  3. Brent

    Also, I think another rule of thumb for when to go down into the RVH concerning the puck carrier behind the goal line and an option in the slot. If the goaltender sees the option is in close to the crease while the puck carrier is behind the net, then it is ok to stay in the RVH,because if the puck comes out for a one timer or deke, the chances are low he will get beat high,also he will be in better position to stop a deke move(assuming the goalie is agile enough to go post to post and keep good stick position). Now where I see goalies getting beat(and this comes down to situational awareness) is if the option is higher up in the slot, then the goalie should stay up on the feet(unless he knows for sure the puck carrier is going to jam the net) so that if the puck comes out for a shot he can come out and challenge and not get caught on his pads. I saw Ben Bishop get beat on a play like this last night(although he did recognize the player in the high slot, but chose to stay in the RVH). Just my two cents and nice article,cheers.

  4. Spiros

    Ben Bishop, if you look carefully, is totally undecided and confused on how to play the shot. He’s caught between square-to-the-puck and RVH and easily beaten. It’s not an easy shot to save because of so many options that you’re trying to defend against that are running thru your mind at the time.

    • Brent

      True, but I think he(and some other goalies) rely to much on their size, that they choose to stay on their pads in situations like that and easily get picked apart by shooters when the pass comes out to the slot. Overuse of the technique creates bad habits, that sometimes goalies will automatically go into the position when the puck is in close or behind the net, when it is better to stay on your skates if their are threats in the slot area.

  5. Spiros

    Great and informative article. Thanx and Cheers.

  6. Doug

    Notice as well, all the shooters are right hand shots, giving them a better shooting angle. If these were lefties, the goalies would have been fine to stay in the RVH. My point is watch out for forwards on their off wing, giving them a shooting advantage.

  7. Anthony Delage

    I personally like to use a mix of one-knee down and RVH on sharp angle plays. On plays originating above the goal-line, I’m usually either overlapping (in which case I’d just use a standard, likely blocking save technique) or on the post, which leads well to one-knee down. On plays that start below the goal-line (wrap-arounds, jams from corner, etc.) I like to get in the RVH and play out the situation from there. Any thoughts?

  8. Rick Besharah

    I agree that far too many goaltenders rely on this technique as their go-to method any time the puck happens to be below the goal line, or when the puck happens to cross above the goal line as well. I have seen goaltenders at all ages and calibres of hockey immediately drop into a RVH as soon as they expect the opposition to move from one side of the net to the other while below the goal line. The problem with this method is that it remains effective in close-proximity situations within the grey areas below the goal line shown in the figures above, and only half of the grey areas above the goal line as the advantage is given to the shooter when more distance is placed between the puck and the net. Notice the picture used above of Jonathan Quick, and how much of the net is exposed over his right shoulder. Add a little more distance between the puck and the net, and you’ve created a highlight reel goal for the shooter even when situated within the grey areas above the goal line.

    Another issue with this method is that it may be considered to be a one trick pony. Essentially, it’s effective when used on close-range shots. However, by maintaining the closest knee to the puck down on the ice, and the other knee off of the ice, the goaltender will not be prepared for a quick pass to the front of the net. Instead, the goaltender is “betting” on the shot rather than playing in the proper position and implementing efficiency into his/her game by allowing themselves to be prepared for a shot AND a pass.

    In addition, applying the RVH method will not allow the goaltender to cut off the angles at the depth of their crease that they want, as it will not allow for proper edge work from the post position skate for an explosive push off of the post in the event of a pass. Therefore, applying the RVH method will only allow for more of the net to be exposed to shooters in the event of a pass, odd bounce, or rebound to the front of their crease as the goaltender will lack the power and angle of his/her skate to take as many shots to the midsection and retain the puck.

    There is so much emphasis these days on goaltenders being required to be the best skaters on the ice, but it appears that so many goaltending schools and coaches are so quick to defend a drop-to-your-knee(s)-immediately-upon-the-puck-going-behind-the-net-technique while promoting a modern hybrid-style technical program. Instead, why not teach goaltenders to attempt to keep up with the speed of the puck and the play rather than attempt panic saves which rely solely on athleticism? As mentioned within the article, “shooters are smart and the good ones pick up on tendencies very quickly”. As shooters develop their skills, and progress, the good ones will indeed find the holes over the sunken shoulder, and reaching arm with ease.

    Instead, my suggestion is to apply the techniques learned and practiced for behind-the-net plays such as the 4 Window Method, while combining the hours of edge work practice. This will allow goaltenders to ensure they are capable of providing their team with the best chance to win through efficiently making a judgement call based on the situation which they’re faced with rather than a drop and panic approach. The application of the combination and utilization of their edge work, 4 Windows Method, and VH Method (or one pad down method) will allow goaltenders to cut off passes from below their goal line within their reach, cut off the angle for a quick release when stepping out from below the goal line while maintaining a more upright posture which will allow them to more effectively cut down on the net available to the shooter, and prepares them for a more explosive push off of the post to the angles and depth of their choosing resulting in a better chance for them to take more shots to the midsection and lessen the chance of a potential rebound. Having the outside knee already placed down on the ice, versus the post position knee, also allows for better results with wraparounds, or quick and close proximity one timers directed along the ice. Using this method instead, is all a matter of recognizing the situation and responding to it with proper timing as the goaltender must keep their body square to the puck at all times after it has crossed from below the goal line.

    Simplification is the key to a goaltender’s success, and therefore efficiency should always be at the core of everything we apply during training and games.

  9. Cody

    Useful technique for sure. Eli Wilson is an excellent coach on the subject.

  10. Mike

    Just watched Lehner lose a game for the Sabres by failing to stop a shot over the shoulder on the SHORT side while in reverse VH position. Not sure if this works consistently when the shooter is high in the zone like Couture was for his game winning shot.