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Playing angles: Part 1

March 13, 2011 Goalies, Hockey Tips No Comments

By Mitch Korn
Every coach, parent and goaltender talks about “cutting down the angle,” but I doubt very much that they all understand the intricacies of the process.

While moving forward, moving laterally, or backing up is the physical part of playing angles, the most critical aspect of the process is mental.

The three steps required in cutting down the angle are; 1) coming out; 2) being square to the puck; and 3) getting set. Simple?

Not really. These physical aspects will be discussed in Part 2 of “Playing Angles,” in next month’s issue. But before a goalie can begin to accomplish these three physical challenges, he or she must totally understand a variety of other concepts that have enormous impact on the decision-making process. Here they are:

Front Door vs. Back Door

Photo 1: The front door.

If a goalie comes out when the puck is on the wing, he is always involved in a tradeoff of “front door”, (photo 1) vs. “back door”, (photo 2). The farther a goalie comes out to take away the front door, the more the back door is left vulnerable to a pass play. While the goaltender does not want to be beaten by a shot from the wing (front door), he must also be aware and prepared to react to the back door play. Simply, the goalie must read the situation. If there is no one on the back door, the goalie can come out a bit farther and cover more front door. If the back door is open, and is a threat, the goalie must give up a bit of the front door (not too much) to be ready to get to the back door.

Photo 2: The back door.

In other words, your positioning is based on the location of all players—not just the puck. Therefore, all angle decisions are based on the situation, and how you read it.

Photo 3: A goalie rarely has to leave the posts to fill the net.

Marginal Returns

Sometimes goalies come out too far. The term “marginal returns” means that for each additional foot the goalie comes out, there is less and less benefit. If a goalie comes out too far on a situation, certain things happen—none of them good. He opens too much back door; becomes very vulnerable to a rebound; has a much tougher time adjusting to even a small change in the position of the puck; actually wastes effort by covering area outside the net; and may take their gloves “out of the net” as well.

Photo 4.

The Ice is Divided into Thirds

Picture this, the ice is divided into three lanes: the left lane, the center lane, and the right lane. The outside lanes are the least dangerous, while the middle one is the most dangerous. Strive to eliminate all goals from the outside thirds, or lanes. When the puck is in the outside lane, a goalie does not have to come out as far to fill the same amount of net as he does when the puck is in the middle third of the ice.

In addition, on extreme angles (with the puck positioned down below the dots) a goalie rarely has to leave the posts to fill the net (photo 3). Remember, at bad angles, a goalie should close up, because the only way a puck can score is through the goalie (5-hole, under the arms, etc.).

Photo 5.

Understand a Shooter’s Hands

A good player will try to “open up” net with his hands by changing the location of the puck. A goalie tries to “close net” by playing the angles (photos 4 & 5). It is a continuing on-ice chess match. Remember this, a good player will rarely shoot the puck from where it is presented. The puck is almost always shifted, thus forcing the goalie to adjust. To play proper angles, a goalie must continuously adjust, and never let the 5-hole get too large while adjusting. The 5-hole is a scorer’s favorite place.

Photo 6.

Understand the Aerial Angle

When a goalie comes out, he not only makes the shooting triangle smaller, but also shrinks the aerial angle; the triangle created from the crossbar to the puck and along the ice. The steeper the angle, the tougher it is to score. Too often a big goalie comes out and puts his gloves actually outside the aerial angle (see photo 6). This is why we see so many goalies lower their gloves in tight in an effort to keep the gloves “in the net.”

Finally, remember: just because you are out of the net does not mean a shooter cannot score. A goalie must still react to the puck, and not be a spectator.

Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week Summer Hockey School. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.

This first appeared in the 03/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2011 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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