How far should I come out – Optimal positioning Article 3/4

How far should I come out – Optimal positioning Article 3/4
23/11/2004 Juha Halmesvaara


This third article in our miniseries focuses on the main question most of (especially young) goalies have: How far should I come out? I am going to take a little different approach to this question and look at it from the a more modern perspective and talk about optimal positioning that focuses on the game from a more total view than just how to position yourself for a shot.

First of all the days when goalies did use to come out really far for shots are long gone (of course there are exceptions to this in some situations) as modern game requires goalies to be at optimal position all the time. What this means is that goalies are still coming out, but not to extreme distances as in the past. If you look at their movements you can see that instead of going back and forth all the time the movements are more limited to the proper/ultimate area where save readiness is high at all time. Make sure you notice that goalies are not backing deep into the net either.

So what has caused this change? Natural development of the game with faster pace where situations happen a lot quicker, smaller rinks in Europe, lateral movement and passes etc…

Overall we can say that there’s almost no time when a goalie can “relax” if the other team has the puck. One has to be in the optimal position & ready to make a save all the time.

In this video you can see ZSC’s Ari Sulander working with the shooter (Jan Alston) coming from the corner while Ari try’s to stay on his optimal position at all times. On the first shot he does give too much open space to shoot for.

There is not one answer to our main question, how far should one come out, but we can attack the issue from a bit different angle and give you the needed basics. Let’s look at the main principles.

  • First of all in the modern hockey game goalie needs to maintain his/her readiness at all times, which means that you have to avoid extreme positioning. This way you will avoid any radical movements you may have to execute if you misjudge a play or get caught out of position for some other reason
  • Create an optimal comfort zone for your movements and make sure you practice in that zone as that will also be the way you are going to play your games. This zone should be based on your skating ability, size, save techniques, condition/strength, quickness and ability to read the game. See the diagram that shows one example. Once you have created your zone to match your abilities it will become your optimal positioning
  • Avoid the most common mistake of backing too deep in too early. Avoid this and stay at your own comfort zone/optimal position
  • By optimal positioning you will force opponents for extra moves as they try to get scoring opportunities and this will help your defense a great deal
  • Understand the angles and how player sees the open space Vs. how the puck sees it (real view). Always base your positioning to the puck, not based on the player/body
  • Know where your posts and crossbar are in relation to your position and the puck

Here you can see 2 different views of Matti Kaltiainen’s positioning. Left image from the side/smaller angle and right image from the middle. Both are vies from the puck. Matti understands angles well and knows exactly where there is room and how much he has to move from these positions to stop any shot on his net.

I hope this short article answers the original question for you and gives better idea how far out you should play. In the last article of this series I will cover some drills and tips on how to train your positioning skills.