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No Rebounds: Steve McKichan's Goaltending Tips

Thursday, 03.02.2005 / 11:35 PM / Features
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No Rebounds: Steve McKichan\'s Goaltending Tips
Maple Leafs New Goaltending Coach Has Advice From The Pros

(February 3, 2005) -- For the past two years, Steve McKichan has been Ed Belfour's personal goaltending coach. In Ed's first year in Toronto he set a team record for victories with 37 and was a big reason the Leafs had a successful season. This past season Eddie had another stellar year finishing the season with a career win total of 435. During the playoffs he posted three shutouts in the opening round as the Leafs sneaked by the Ottawa Senators.

As an NHL goalie coach, Steve must develop all the goaltenders in the system and try to get them all progressing towards the mutual goal of playing in the "show". Besides the two goaltenders on the big club, most teams will have two goaltenders in the AHL and one or two goalies in a third tier level like the ECHL or the Central League. In addition there are normally two or three other youngsters that have been drafted but still play in Major Junior or college hockey.

Now, Steve will regularly offer up some great practice tips for goalies of all ages at all levels...

"All pro goaltenders do things really well as you would imagine but clearly they all have areas of weakness or more accurately areas the need to improve on. The fact that they are getting paid to play doesn't mean they have the position perfected. This applies to the guys on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the guys trying to get their first taste of the Big Leagues.

"Each individual goaltender in our system would have specific areas to address but all goaltenders need to work on three core areas. Even goaltenders still playing in youth leagues or in the recreation leagues can benefit from these ideas...

What to do about a dropped goal stick

I have watched and played hockey for over thirty years and I have seen the goaltender lose his stick during the course of play thousands of times. Chaos usually ensues while defensemen furiously try to get the goaltender their stick while the coach on the bench is screaming, "He's got no stick. Give him your stick!"

Conventional wisdom dictates that the defenseman should sacrifice his stick so the goaltender has something to stop the puck with. I plan on outlining my observations and suggest the reasons why perhaps we need to rethink the conventional wisdom in this case.

I believe the goaltender should not be offered the defenseman's stick and he shouldn't accept the offer if it is provided. Here is why.

In the past, goaltenders weren't as adept at covering the low net. They used their stick and their skates on the majority of low shots. In that era it made sense to give the goalie the stick from the teammate. Now the game has changed and goalies display superb low net coverage using the butterfly. There is a relatively small increase in the danger of a goalie getting scored on low when they lose their stick in today's game.

When I think back in my experience I fail to recall any time a goalie actually made a save with this loaner stick and in fact I recall many other things occurring as a result of the stick hand off.

First of all, we have a defenseman who has now taken his attention off the puck and his defensive zone responsibilities while he flutters around handing off the lumber.

Secondly, we have a defenseman with no ability to clear the puck out of the zone. His lack of a stick is far more dangerous than the goalie's lack of a stick in my mind.

Thirdly, we all know what happens when a defenseman takes one hand off his stick in a battle along the boards; a holding penalty. This can't be anything but a greater penalty risk when he doesn't have either hand on a stick.

This issue brings up a summarizing issue. Goaltending and the sport in general have evolved over the years because people have gone against conventional wisdom. Former Leafs coach Roger Neilson and netminder Jacques Plante are two familiar names that changed the game because of their thoughtful approach in spite of conventional wisdom. Approach the game from a logical point of a view with a critical eye.

"If you want to reach your goals in hockey as an elite goaltender it is important to focus on these core areas. If you have any other questions you could drop me an email or visit my website www.futurepro.com.

--Steve McKichan
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Coach

 
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