In previous articles we discussed the necessary footwork, basic positioning, and save techniques required to give the goaltender the best possible chance to make the save. A necessary and often neglected part of actually making the save is Puck Tracking. This is the ability of the goaltender to read the release of the stick and follow the puck all the way to the body, and away from the body. Reading the puck off the stick early will allow the goaltender more time to be able to react and determine what save skill to use.
Puck tracking is a simple concept, but there are some common causes of why it is often neglected. Goaltenders who do not concentrate on every shot in practice can develop bad habits of “looking past the puck” and focusing on where the shot came from instead of where the puck is going. This leads to inaccurate reaction save attempts and difficulty refocusing on where the puck is after the save. Another reason is that too many rapid fire or multiple shot drills will negatively train the goalies to make save attempts without watching the puck all the way into their body.
Reading the release is part of puck tracking. Good players try to open up goalies and change the shooting angle with a deceptive release. In order for the goalie to stay square and “in the lane” they must readjust to the shooters stick blade. If they do not readjust the shooter will have more available net to the side they moved the puck to. Reading if the blade is open or closed on the release will also help the goaltender determine if the shot is going to be high or low so they can make the appropriate save selection. The goaltender must be able to readjust from both a standing and a butterfly position since good players will also change the angle on a rebound or in tight attempt.
More concentration on tracking the puck as it leaves the stick will greatly improve reaction time. The goaltender should “slow the release down” and try to “read the writing” on the puck. They should also remember to watch the puck all the way to the body, and after the save, watch it away from the body. Reading the shooters body language and reading the puck release point in relation to shooter foot placement will help determine shot height and direction. Here are the benefits of improved puck tracking:
- Better positioning by always being square to the puck.
- More time to react to the puck
- Better rebound control by tracking pucks into and away from the body
Puck tracking is integral part of the goaltenders “react” game and can constantly be improved upon. Goaltenders weak in puck tracking tend to “block” more often than necessary; causing poor rebound control and ultimately an increase in goals.