After watching many up and coming young goaltenders head into the NHL loop one can quickly notice the difference between the ones that are comfortable and the others that seem out of place. In similar significance to when an evaluator comes to watch a game, the number one detail that is identified first is to note how well a goaltender can move.
From Junior leading into the minor and pro level of hockey the biggest noticeable difference for each goaltender is to adjust to the speed of the play. In zone transitions are a lot quicker, along with each players release on net. With this in mind, it is important to remember that preparation for each shot is key due to proper movement execution.
While skating is at the bottom of each goaltenders development pyramid, lateral movement is the next progression of a maturing goalies position specific movement.
Lateral movement is the goaltender's key direction of movement in net. While forwards must be superb at forward skating and defensive players must have exceptional backward mobility, goalkeepers must focus on lateral movement.
Within a goaltenders lateral movements there are five methods used to adjust position. Within this there are two main frames of classification - Wide and narrow.
Wide lateral movements help a goaltender to move with power efficiently and rapidly to cover a wide lateral distance. While wide adjustments get the goalie quickly across the net, it is the narrow adjustments that tighten the goalie's position on the puck. Narrow lateral adjustments is a method of movement that allows a goaltender to make small, accurate refinements to position.
Tightening a goaltenders position on the puck implies that the goaltender will establish superb angle coverage in net along with dignified body position. As a goalie's angle changes significantly, for example due to a rebound, the goalie will use a method of wide lateral adjustment to regain lost angle. Depending upon the accuracy of the initial move, the goalie may have to use one of their narrow adjustments (either shuffle or knee shuffle) to further hone the angle selection.
There are a couple rules of thumb that can be used when determining which lateral movement to use.
- When the puck is passed from player to player, and there is a significant angle shift, a wide lateral adjustment is used.
- When a player is stickhandling and the angle is changing gradually, with a shot imminent, the goalie will use a narrow adjustment.
Take a look below as goaltender Braden Holtby executes a great display of control with his upper body and demonstrates his ability to cover the bottom of the net in close with tight knee-shuffles.