<![CDATA[ROBGHERSON.COM - Blog]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:06:05 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[ROY HALLADAY]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 04:22:16 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/roy-halladay
Roy Halladay was my favourite athlete. I’ve written about him before on this blog. Most players who I have worked with have heard me talk about him. I didn’t know him personally, but he was my biggest athletic role model. His former manager John Gibbons was interviewed today about him and the things he said are the things every athlete wants to have said about them. “He was always trying to get better. He got the most out of himself. He was a great example to his teammates. He was a coaches dream. He never complained when I took him out of the game, even if he didn’t understand why. He was a student of the game. It wasn’t easy for him to get as good as he was and he never stopped working at it.”
Halladay dominated a Yankees lineup full of all stars.
There are a few stories for me that stand out about Doc’s mentality. On July 11, 2008, he dominated against the New York Yankees, a lineup that had 46 all star appearances among it. I was at the game and he put on an absolute clinic, holding the Yankees to 2 hits and a walk and striking out 8 on 113 pitches in a complete game. This was great, it was one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen, but to be honest, it was just what you came to expect every time he took the mound. The thing that blew me away was the next morning. I was living in downtown Toronto near the lakeshore bike trail at the time and I was still playing hockey. I would frequently run along the lakeshore, towards the Dome, as part of my training. Early that morning, after dismantling the Yankees lineup, I saw Roy Halladay running towards me. He was never satisfied and never content with being good enough. He always wanted to be better.
In 2006, Doc was cruising through another great season and (if my memory is correct) was leading the American League in wins when Jays right fielder Alex Rios did this:

The jays ended up losing by 2 that game. The 2 runs that scored on this routine fly ball were the difference in the game. In his previous start, Halladay took a 2-0 loss against the Kansas City Royals. He threw a complete game allowing 4 hits and 1 walk, but the Jays couldn’t score any runs off of someone named Runelvys Hernandez, a guy with a career ERA of 5.5 and only 1 career shutout, which came in that game. Roy had every reason to be angry with his teammates after the Red Sox game, but when asked about the fluky home run by reporters, his response was that he, himself was to blame. He walked too many guys and he should have made a better pitch on that play. His personal accountability was one of the things that made him such a great player. When you can admit your mistakes, you can learn from them and work to improve.

By now the story of Halladay’s rise to the majors and demotion to the lowest level of the minors is well known. In his second start he had a no-hitter with 2 outs in the 9th inning when Bobby Higginson hit a solo home run to break it up. His following season was respectable, but not what we came to expect from him. His 2000 season was a disaster. He holds the worst single season ERA in baseball for a pitcher with more than 50 innings pitched. The Blue Jays sent him all the way down to “single a” to remake himself as a pitcher. A lot of players would have folded. Halladay worked his ass off, changed his pitching arm angle and came back up to the majors to win a Cy Young award in 2003. Along with the new pitching motion, he developed a new bullet proof mental outlook. When she heard the news that he was being demoted to single-a, his wife went to the book store and bought every book she could find on sports psychology. One book, “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” by Harvey Dorfman, helped unlock something for Halladay. He read it cover to cover before every start. That kind of commitment to his mental approach enabled Halladay to do amazing things on the field.

He was an incredible athlete who, like John Gibbons said, “got the most out of himself.” He was, in my playing career and still is, in my life as a coach, a major inspiration for me. I often think to myself, am I working as hard as Halladay would? Would Halladay accept this setback? Would Halladay make an excuse here? The answer is almost always no, but it’s a good compass for any athlete and the bar we should all be trying to reach.
<![CDATA[Stillness]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 22:25:49 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/stillness
Simplify your game and focus on the fundamentals.
I recently read Shawn Green’s book The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH. In it, Green discusses, in great detail, his approach to hitting and how it evolved throughout his career. Through philosophical battles with manager Cito Gaston which eventually led to Green being banned from going to the batting cage without the batting, Green developed a routine of practicing hitting off a tee, which shaped his mental approach, which he describes as wanting  “…to approach pitches with stillness, patience, and no thought, just waiting, watching, and seeing.” After a number of swings Green would enter a zen like state, where his mind would clear. This idea of emptying your mind and performing, commonly known as “the zone”, flow or zen, is the mental holy grail that all athletes and performers are searching for, especially in a mentally demanding position like goaltending. Most treat the mental side of the position and the physical side of the position as separate entities, but I have learned in my playing and coaching experience that both sides speak to each other and that it's important to try and create that “stillness” in your physical game, to complement and encourage it in the mental side of the position.
Green talks about how when he had stillness at the plate, it “allowed me to respond to pitches, as opposed to my first few years in the big leagues, when I merely reacted to pitches. The difference between reacting and responding is subtle, but immense.” When I played in Hartford, goalie coach Benoit Allaire used to use the cue “give the right answer” (it's important to read this in a heavy Québécois accent like Benoit would) to describe save selection. I always liked this, because it implies that each shot is a question to solve. Also, that you have the right answer to give for every shot/question. On the ice, just like when writing a test, the best way to give the right answer is with a calm, clear mind and not in a hurry. On the ice you have to read the puck off a player’s stick, watch the shot and respond to it with the correct save in a matter of moments. When you’re still in your body and mind, it’s much easier to give the right answer. When you’re moving or feeling rushed, your balance is off, your eyes are moving, your mind is focussing on more than one thing, so it’s harder to focus on the puck or reading a shooter’s release. This is why one-timers and shots after a pass are harder to stop. When you’re set and still, things become easier. You give yourself time and space to give the right answer. 

Being physically still on shots requires a lot of pre-shot work. If there’s a pass, you need to beat the pass. If the player is moving laterally, you need to shuffle with them, staying centred, both positionally and in your weight distribution, and you need to be ready for a shot at any time. When the player is about to shoot, you need to set your feet in your stance. When your body is still, your head and eyes are still and it lets you watch the puck all the way into your body. Once you do all that work, making the save is the easy part. That's why, when goalies are on their game, it tends to look easy. I've discussed this in the past in a post on Carey Price. His explosive pushes allow him to be ready and waiting for the shot on most plays.

The NHL game over the past few years has become very controlled in the defensive zone. Everyone knows where to be at all times and defensive teams are very good at keeping the puck to the perimeter. So, goalies have adapted. They play deeper in their crease now and they move a lot less. There's a lot less c-cutting backwards and more hard, strong pushes to beat passes. This lets goalies be more still in their games and leads to more mental stillness, which means more consistent performance. It’s important to try to rid your game of unnecessary movement. Those diagonal c-cuts where you’re not square, that little drift before a shot, any stance compression as the shooter comes closer to you, all get in the way of that physical stillness you need to reach the mental stillness of the zone.

Whatever your “style” may be, it's important to keep stillness in mind. More movement means more room for mistakes. In baseball, people often talk about a player having “a lot of moving parts” in their swing or pitching mechanics, making them more prone to slumps. A simple system is always going to be more easily repeatable than a complex one, and goaltending, once you figure out your fundamentals, is about repeating good habits. In practice, goalie drills don’t have to be overly complex. If you want to work on something specific, design your drills so you’re working on that thing, not a bunch of extra movement. If you want to come up with complex skating patterns, work them into your skating drills. Complicated doesn’t always mean better. In a lot of cases, I’ve found that you end up focussing too much on remembering the order of t-pushes, shuffles, butterflies and rvh’s, and the small details, which are often the most important, get lost.

As goalies we are judged on every shot we face. Good goals and bad goals count the same against your save percentage. Players can take shifts off, even periods off and make up for it with a goal or an assist at the end of the game. Goalies have to be on all the time. The best way I've found to do that is keep things simple and repeatable, both physically and mentally. Make stillness your goal in your mind and body and your performance will improve.

<![CDATA[DELIBERATE PRACTICE]]>Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:29:24 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/deliberate-practice
Practice makes perfect. It’s what every well meaning parent tells their children when they are learning a new skill. It stands to reason that more practice makes more perfect. In general terms, yes, practicing more will make a person better at a given pursuit, but the people who become the very best don’t become that way merely because they practiced more than others. Quality of practice is much more important than quantity of practice. In the book “Talent is Overrated,”  Geoff Colvin talks a lot about one thing in particular which separates the elite from the average in almost every endeavour; music, sports, business. That magic ingredient that separated Mozart and Tiger Woods from the rest of the pack is “deliberate practice.”

Essentially, “deliberate practice” is hyper-focused, driven effort to improve in a very specific area. It’s something the best athletes do everyday. It is usually guided by a coach, at least in the beginning before you know enough to be able to pinpoint the things you need to improve and work on them on your own. The examples below show how a few elite athletes have used deliberate practice to raise their games.
At the end of most MLB pitchers practice sessions, the area in front of the pitching rubber is a mess of cleat prints and worn down clay, dirt and sand. When perennial all star and one of the best pitchers of his era, Roy Halladay, was on the mound there were three marks. His right foot drags a straight line off of the rubber, his left foot makes a cleat print where he lands, and another mark beside it where his right foot lands on his follow through. You can see in this video that his practice sessions were so deliberate and precise that he hit the same spots with his feet on every pitch. Most people wouldn’t even think about your feet as important to pitching. This precision with his footwork made him so consistent with his pitches that New York Mets 7 time all star David Wright said in 2011, “I think what makes him so good is all his pitches look the same coming out of his hand…he's throwing 93 and one of the pitches is going that way [points left] and the other pitch is going that way [points right], you can't determine it out of his hand.”
The basket in this video, shot at the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility, gets a lot of action. Superstars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant practice their shot on it at every practice. Every day they drain hundreds of shots from all over the court. When the rest of their NBA record setting team practices their shot, Golden State coaches and staff run all over the court picking up rebounds, but when Curry and Durant are shooting they need one coach, who doesn’t have to move from the few feet underneath the basket. Not only that, but the mesh on this basket has to be replaced every few weeks. Way more often than the other nets at the practice facility and way more often than the nets Spalding uses to test durability with a proprietary machine designed to shoot baskets. They are literally beating the machine. You can see if you pay close attention that the other guys in the background are just kind of going through the motions with their shooting. They’re not moving much before they shoot, they aren’t hitting every shot. But Durant and Curry have intent behind their practice. They are hitting every shot, they are moving the way they would in a game, they are getting the ball up in a hurry. This is deliberate practice in action.
Finally, Sidney Crosby, one of the greatest players in NHL history, back to back Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy (given to the NHL’s top playoff performer) winner and arguably the best player in the world right now scores a ton of goals. When asked what makes Crosby great, his teammate Kris Letang said, "the details.” Former NHL great and current analyst Ray Ferraro tweeted yesterday “Day after Gm 5, Pens have total day off. Coaches have work to do so they go into office. Hear noise in weight room. 1 guy in there. Crosby” He scores some highlight reel goals, but one of the things he does better than probably anybody in the world is score goals that the goalie probably should have stopped. The way he does that is his willingness and ability to shoot the puck from any position he may be in. A prime example is the goal in the very first video of this post, a ridiculous one handed backhand after splitting the defence. I don’t think anyone in the building knew what happened until they watched it on the replay. It’s a play we’ve never seen before. It’s something he obviously works on and it’s the result of deliberate practice. In the video above you get a brief glimpse of what it looks like when Crosby works on his game. His hands are soft and quick, there’s intent to what he’s doing, he gets the puck off his stick quicker than anyone else and seemingly every shot goes bar down. He’s intense and precise. This is the epitome of deliberate practice.

All of the players in the NHL, NBA and MLB worked hard and logged their hours and are blessed with natural talent. Halladay, Curry, Durant and Crosby’s attention to detail in their deliberate practice makes them the best of the best. For anyone reading this who wants to maximize their potential in any endeavour, focus on the details and work hard at them. That’s the secret to excellence.
<![CDATA[Embrace Failure]]>Sat, 03 Jun 2017 01:05:27 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/embrace-failure
One of my favourite drills to do when I run a team practice is a drill I call the “dots skate.” It’s meant to be done at full speed with lots of crossovers and direction changes. Usually, the first time we run through it most of the players stay in their comfort zones to make sure they don’t lose an edge and fall. After going through it once, I tell them I want them to fall. To push themselves outside of their comfort zone. The pace of the drill picks up after that and as we move through the season, players’ feet get quicker and their balance improves. Without that willingness to fall, the players don’t get much out of the drill.

That drill is a good metaphor for the way I think athletes need to act in pursuit of their athletic goals. Full effort towards the goal, without worry or fear of failing. In fact, I think failure early on in an athlete’s career is extremely beneficial. If you never fail, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough and you will never reach your full potential as an athlete. Failure is a part of every successful athlete’s career. How you handle it is more important than avoiding it. 

I have seen a lot of players go through youth sports and dominate at every level, then get to College, or pro and face adversity for the first time and not know how to handle failure. When it happens at those levels, it’s more difficult to handle. Often, the player is living away from home for the first time and dealing with big expectations from themselves, as well as coaches and staff whose livelihoods depend on winning. Coaches at that level expect players to perform and they will give playing time to those that do. 

Everyone takes longer to deal with their first failure. When that first failure comes in a win first environment rather than a development environment it can be very hard for a player to deal with. I went through it myself. Throughout minor hockey, I cruised, never facing much adversity. Even into my first year away from home, playing tier 2 Jr A. My first real adversity came in my third OHL start when I got shelled in Sault Ste Marie. We had a game the next night in Sudbury and drove through the night watching video of my biggest failure (to that point) over and over with running negative commentary on the bus PA system from our angry coach. It took me a solid few weeks to get back to the strong, confident mental outlook I had developed through a lifetime of being one of the best goalies in the small world of Toronto minor hockey. That whole season was very trying for me, but I learned how to handle it. I’m sure if I had learned those hard lessons earlier in my development, I could have handled that adversity better and bounced back more quickly.

Facing failure early in a career can help an athlete develop tools to deal with the negative emotions that come from that failure. If an athlete learns to handle and respond to failure early in their career, they can bank that experience for the next time they fail and use it as a shortcut to get back to whatever makes them successful. 

Parents, don’t shelter your young athletes from failure. Athletes, don’t be afraid of failure, try to think of your failures as necessary experiences that will fuel your future successes. Like rings on a tree, every one of your failures makes you stronger.
<![CDATA[Deep Thoughts Part 1]]>Tue, 31 Jan 2017 21:35:00 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/deep-thoughts-part-1
Once in a while, I am going to write some very wonky, technical blogs about trends in the position or breakdowns of save selections. I'll do my best to find videos to help with the explanations, but you may be stuck slogging through my prose on some of these concepts. It’s always good to warn people that a post might be boring in the first paragraph, right? I promise, though, there will be some jokes thrown in.

Today, I'm going to discuss the trend of goalies playing deeper in the crease. Up front, I am going to say that I love this technique and I believe it is right up there with the butterfly in terms of effectiveness and impact on goaltending and how we see the position. 
I started as a goalie at the tail end of the stand up goalie era. Kirk McLean was still in the league and there were a lot of goalies whose styles could best be described as "whatever I need to do to keep the puck out of the net." Most goalies did not have a coherent system and the people who were coaching minor hockey had, as their goaltending archetypes, guys like Tony Esposito and Ken Dryden. So, as a young goalie learning and implementing the butterfly style, I would hear a lot of "he goes down too much." One of my favourite early introductions to the realization that "man, nobody except goalies understands anything about goalies” came when I was 8 years old and the owner of the AAA organization I played for, came on the ice to “work with the goalies.” He spent the entire hour, teaching me to hold my stick 6 inches up the shaft away from the paddle.
Someone, seriously, once suggested I try holding my stick like this!!!!!
He was a very old man, and I remember being incredibly frustrated and confused, but smiling and nodding and trying to implement his asinine idea, because I was 8 years old. Back then, it was very obvious, who was learning the butterfly style and who was playing a more reflex and stand up style. Us butterflyers were better, obviously, and it was mostly because of the technique. If any old school guys, like Youtube commenter Ed Mcstinko, want to argue about the positive impact of the butterfly, I suggest you take a look at Kirk McLean’s career save percentage and compare it with any butterfly goalie today.
If you're looking for a perfect strawman, go to youtube comments. Their name might even be EdMcstinko.
Back then goaltending positioning was all about coming out and challenging the shooter. The goalie’s job was the first shot and you came out to take away as much net as possible. It worked well, especially on the first shot, but gradually, the NHL game has changed. Defensive systems have smothered the middle of the ice and most shots now come from the perimeter, in low percentage scoring areas. Any cranky old coach can tell you that goalies shouldn’t get scored on from the perimeter. Even standing on the goal line, NHL goalies shouldn’t get beat on straight shots. The stats bear that out. The danger areas are in the slot.
I found this excellent chart here: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/analyzing-oilers-goalies-and-their-expected-save-percentages/
If most of the game is played in the perimeter and goalies don’t get beat from the perimeter, then what were we all doing playing out in the white ice on routine shots? If we moved back in our nets, we would probably still have those high save percentages from the perimeter, but now we would have to move less to get to the rebounds, and cross ice passes that constitute most of the goals. When Benoit Allaire, the current New York Rangers goalie coach who helped pioneer this style of play in the NHL, first explained it to me at New York Rangers training camp, the idea is that you might give up 1 or 2 more goals from the perimeter over the course of the season, but you will make dozens more saves on passes and rebounds. 

In my experience, after an initial adaptation period, goalies don’t end up giving up those 1 or 2 more goals from the perimeter. The flip side of being deeper in your net and cutting down less of the angle is that you have a few more feet to react to shots. In MLB, most hitters stand at the back of the batter’s box in order to give themselves a few more moments to recognize and swing at pitches coming in at them at the same speeds as NHL shots. The same principle ends up working for goalies who stand deeper in the net and with an average size over 6’2” and 201 pounds, goalies already fill up a lot of net, so they don’t have to extend too far to reach the corners. And on the flimsiest of excuses to post this, take a look at José Bautista’s back leg in this “random” gif I found. It’s practically on the back chalk line of the batter’s box. More time to react and see the puck/ball gives you more time to save/crush the ball/puck into the glove/bleachers and make the opposing team/Texas Rangers hang their head/cry.

Rebounds and Cross ice puck movement

Going back a few years to before the beautiful city of Vancouver tried to burn itself down after losing game 7 to the Bruins, there is a great example of the drawbacks of old school extreme challenging vs playing deeper in the net. Vancouver scored this goal to take a 1-0 lead in game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. 

After the game Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo was asked about the goal and he said “it’s an easy save if you’re in the paint.” As we know, Vancouver then marched to victory and their citizens had a nice, calm, respectful celebration a few days later.
All joking aside, Luongo was completely correct on this point. Especially, because the 10 foot tall Slovak Defensive machine, who blocked roughly a million shots a game in this series and cleared every rebound with his 50 foot wingspan, they call Zdeno Chara, was on the other side of Thomas and his circuitry wouldn’t allow him to get over to block the rebound in time. Had Thomas been deeper in his net, with his quick recovery, he may have been able to get to the post in time to thwart Lapierre. 
One of the concepts a lot of goalie coaches use when talking about coming out to cut off the angle is heels at the top of the crease vs toes at the top of the crease. If Thomas had been standing with his toes at the top of the crease on the initial shot, rather than the much more aggressive “toes at the bottom of the circle,” he would have had at least 2 feet less distance to travel to get to the rebound off of the end boards. Not only that, but when you have less distance to travel, you also have more time, which means you can arrive at your destination, more calmly, and in most cases in better blocking position. But, everyone’s favourite “alt-right” goalie was challenging hard and had no chance on the rebound.

Here’s Henrik Lundqvist, showing the Bruins up close, how playing deeper in the net, might have helped Tim Thomas make that save

Goalies have for the most part always played deeper in the net when there is an opposing player near the net. The standard was always to be level with the pass option. With most of my goalies I teach heels at the top of the crease if there is no pass option (in a one on one situation) and toes at the top of the crease if there is a pass option (two on one situation.) Many goalies are now pushing themselves to play even deeper in all situations and you can see in the diagram how much less they have to move on rebounds and passes. As we have already established, NHL goalies don’t and shouldn’t get beat on first shots very often, regardless of where they are in their crease, so whatever they give up in depth on the shooter, they make up in distance they have to travel to stop the rebound or pass.

There are many other benefits of playing deeper in the crease, but this post is getting too long, so I will call this part 1 and continue the subject in a subsequent post. off-label benefits
<![CDATA[Goalie School-Getting Set vs Charging Out]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2017 21:18:19 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/goalie-school-getting-set-vs-charging-out
Today’s blog should be a quick one. I want to show two examples of similar situations. In the first example, one which I really like, we have Frederik Andersen of the Leafs. In the second example, we will show Kari Lehtonen charge out to a puck in the slot. 
I really like the way Andersen is playing right now. I hadn’t seen him play much when he was in Anaheim, but I had heard good things. When he came to Toronto there were rumours that the Leafs had asked him to challenge more, and you’d see a lot of goals go in on second passes and rebounds where he wasn’t setting his feet and then he was off balance or not ready to push to make the save. It seems like he has settled down and isn’t overchallenging anymore. (When I was younger, if a goalie started playing too deep in his net, it was often seen as a sign that he had lost his confidence. It seems to me like with the trend of goalies playing deeper in their nets (which I love and used myself in the AHL), the new version of goalies losing their confidence seems to manifest in goalies challenging too much.) On this broken play, you see Andersen come out hard, on the loose puck in front of the net, get set and wait for the puck to come to him. He could have very easily charged out and tried to cover it here. He even probably had enough time to do it. But he was patient and waited, knowing the shooter could only go five hole, and made a rather easy looking save. This is a picture perfect example of “beating the pass.”

Goalies, Watch this gif over and over before your next game and try to emulate it.
This one is pretty much the opposite of the last one. A horrible turnover ends up in the high slot and Lehtonen comes charging out. He never stops, and seems to just hope the puck hits him. This is 1980s, old school, goaltending. Back to my theory on goalies overchallenging when they lose their confidence. This play looks like a goalie trying to find himself while playing on a poor defensive team. Because he doesn’t stop, he can’t see the puck well enough to react. Also, as he moves forward, he speeds up the relative speed of the puck, which gives him even less time to react and with his feet moving, he ends up off balance.

This was the best gif I could find to explain this goal.
<![CDATA[Carey Price is Calm]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2017 02:19:05 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/carey-price-is-calm
Carey Price is Calm. Usually.
Carey Price is calm. Watch any game he’s involved in and you will inevitably hear those words. Again and again and again. Commentators will say that his calmness helps him make saves, and that his teammates feed off of it and probably something about ice in his veins. It’s a nice thought and it’s all sort of true (except the ice in his veins, that sounds like a serious medical problem.) He is super calm in the net; I’m sure it makes his teammates feel good when he’s back there, calm as can be, stopping everything. Staying calm under fire is definitely an asset in net, especially on scrambles in front, but it is only part of the package. Calmness on it’s own doesn’t help you stop pucks. There is lots of work that goes in behind the scenes so that Carey Price can stay calm in net. In this edition of Goalie School, I want to show you why Carey Price can be so calm.
Here is a short clip of a few saves in a row where Price is calm amidst scrambly chaos. He uses his edges really well to stay in front of the puck on the second save off Van Riemsdyk. The thing I want to focus on here though is his push on the D to D pass after the initial rebound. 

It’s not an exceptionally hard pass, and it goes a long way. There isn’t a ton of urgency to the play, but he pushes hard, stops hard and is set at the top of the crease before the player receives the puck. This gives him time to be calm on the shot and then helps him on the ensuing scramble because he isn’t chasing the play around the zone. Any time we can be set on a shot, we have a much better chance of stopping it. Because, when our eyes are still we can see the puck well, and when our feet are still we are balanced and can more easily make the correct save choice and be under control for the rebound.

This next one is a pretty great save. I love how he uses the double push to get across on the second pass. This is text book scrambling. He is under control the whole time, because of his hard pushes and he makes an athletic, somewhat awkward desperation save because he is focused on the puck and adapts his slide, pulling his arm back into his body after sliding a long way with his arm outstretched in desperation mode.
Desperation mode. Blocker arm full extension trying to fill net.
Sometimes goalies can get too robotic on their slides and can’t adapt and make an athletic save. I talk a lot with my goalies about when you should be in block mode and when you need to “make a save.” This is a good example of going from block mode to save mode quickly. His blocker is outstretched to try and block as much of the net as possible, and then once he has filled the net he reacts and makes an athletic “save.”

This save really shows a combination of technique, athleticism and adaptability. 

This gif lets you see another one of Price’s hard pushes and what it does to the shooter, when the goalie beats the pass. Most of the time on this kind of play, a team is looking for a quick pass to an open man, a shot with traffic and then crash the net and try to bang home a loose puck. When Price uses his hard push to get in position early, it causes the shooter to start thinking. Most of the time when a goalie gets a shooter thinking, it’s bad news for the shooter. They tend to bury it into your chest, miss the net or force a pass or extra move that is easily handled by the defence. It’s one of those hockey intangibles, but I really believe that a goalie who consistently beats passes and gets in position early can suppress shots through the effect I just mentioned. 

On this play, Montreal’s defence is unfortunately, not as calm as Price and they allow two passes through the slot, which I’m sure they had to watch again on video the next day with an angry coaching staff. However, the point still stands, when you consistently beat the pass, and make the opposing player think too much, you force them to make great plays to beat you. Price made a great save in response to that great play, but the more you force the other team to make great plays to beat you, the fewer goals are going to go in. 

Price is calm because of his excellent pushes. He is successful because he puts himself in position to be set early and waiting rather than chasing the play. His calmness isn't an accident, it's a result of getting his work done early with his pushes, so that he can be calm when the time comes to make the save.

<![CDATA[Goalie School- Tyler Parsons]]>Thu, 05 Jan 2017 23:25:24 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/goalie-school-tyler-parsons
After two posts and three goals analysed, it’s probably time to discuss a few saves. The problem with analysing saves is that alot of the “fantastic saves” you see on highlight reels and on the nhl.com video page usually start from a mistake, or aren’t something you want to see as a goalie coach. When I played, a lot of times when I made a “great save” that got a big crowd reaction, I would be swearing at myself under my breath, or embarrassed that I had made a mistake and got away with it. One time in Chicago, I hadn’t played in a few weeks and I was a bit rusty, and somewhat nervous at the beginning of the game. Long story short, I caught an edge on the first play of the game and fell, while following a puck carrier across the zone, so I had to kind of slither on my side along with the guy, swearing and hoping he wouldn’t get a shot away or my teammates would bail me out. He took a shot that should have been a routine save, I reached up and caught it and then looked over at the bench where Ondrej Pavelec (my goalie partner) and Wendell Young (our goalie coach) were laughing at me. Things got worse when that save made it onto the team highlight reel on the jumbotron before every game and I had to remember falling on my ass and butt shuffling around the net.

As a coach and a player, I prefer my goaltending to be boring. My favourite thing to watch is one of my goalies in perfect position getting hit in the chest protector with a puck absorbing the rebound. So I chose this sequence from yesterday’s wild US vs Russia Semifinals at the world juniors. 
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I was really impressed by the way Tyler Parsons played in this game. He made a bunch of really solid saves, where he did his work early and got into great position to get hit in the chest by good shooters in prime scoring position, but the TSN online player where I watched the game doesn’t let me rewind for some reason and most of those saves don’t get into the highlight reel, so I had to use these two great saves, which were all over twitter because his helmet fell off. 
The first thing, I want to point out is his positioning on the post with the puck in the corner. He’s standing up, facing the front of the net with both feet on the goal line, totally in control of the play behind the net. His stick is in the crease, taking away any passes through the blue ice. In this position, he knows nobody can sneak anything through from behind the net and he can take a look at what’s going on in front of the net, where the real danger is. One thing I always found helpful was keeping a mental count in my head of how many guys I could see, so I knew if there were 3 guys in my view, I only had to find the other 2, and then you don’t waste time looking around for guys who aren’t there. 
Here we see what happens when you know where guys are on the ice. The pass gets through to a guy who is wide open in front of the net, but Parsons knows where he is and doesn’t overreact and open up holes. He butterflies, centred and square and makes a rather routine looking great save.

Here is the rebound save from the opposite side.
On the rebound, Parsons does a great job here, getting his power leg out in front of his body, so he can push without having to pivot too much and gets right back to the post. Rather than chasing the puck, he takes the shortest route to the post and beats the puck to the post. (Don Cherry voice: to all you goalies out there, when you’re scrambling, don’t panic and chase the puck all over the place. Use your power leg and take the shortest route back to the post.)
One nitpicky thing I would tell my goalie on this play is to lead with the stick a bit more. His stick and blocker didn’t need to go back towards his glove side on his load. It’s not a big push and probably didn’t need to be such a big load. As he gets older and stronger and develops the body control that comes with that, hopefully that will sort itself out. 
I love the extension here on this save. I think as our position has evolved and we’ve realized how effective the butterfly and butterfly slide are in stopping pucks, we have become a bit too robotic in our hand positioning.  You see alot of guys try to make these saves in perfect butterflies, and get beat to the corners. I always tell my guys that these situations are desperation saves until you get into position to make them routine butterfly saves. You need to extend and fill the holes quickly however you can and once you’re there, you can move into that brick wall butterfly, everyone uses as a logo. This save doesn’t happen without this full extension and Canada is probably playing Russia today in the finals.
<![CDATA[Goalie School- Corey Crawford outdoor game]]>Tue, 03 Jan 2017 20:56:52 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/goalie-school-corey-crawford-outdoor-game
Photo Credit: J.B. Forbes / TNS
These outdoor games seem like alot of fun. The players seem to really like them, but I wonder how the goalies really feel. People don’t realize how much the environment can affect a goalie. Everything from lighting in the rink, to the colour of the seats, even the ads on the boards and those banner lights they have that go around the bottom of the upper bowl. Next time you’re at an NHL game, pay attention to the way the light changes, when that banner ad changes. That change at the moment a shot is released can really mess with a goalies eyes. It’s not an excuse anyone wants to hear, but it’s something to think about and it’s perfectly valid. One analogous example I can think of is in baseball, where the Houston Astros installed new LED lights this season and everybody hated hitting there. Houston pitchers had the most strikeouts at home this year and were 18th on the road, with 186 more strikeouts at home than on the road. Their hitters were 3rd worst at home and 11th worst on the road, a smaller difference, but one which may be attributable to the Houston hitters getting more time with the lights and getting used to it than the visiting teams did. It may be a coincidence that Astros pitchers set mlb records for strikeouts in a 3 game series (52 against Baltimore) and a 4 game series (61 in a painful series against my blue jays) this season, but I doubt it. Anyways, enough of me being an apologist for the 2016 blue jays, on to Goalie School.
Today, I’m going to do two goals against Corey Crawford from the outdoor game against St Louis. The first one is on a play that I just absolutely hate. It’s a play that almost every goalie in the NHL and every other level uses now and I really do not understand why. It mostly doesn’t end up with the puck in the net, because defensive zone coverage is so good, but it is a play where the goalie turns a low percentage scoring chance by the shooter into something much more potentially dangerous.
 I don’t want to spend too much time on this one, but check out where Bouwmeester (the puck carrier) is in the video. According to the graphic below NHL shooters have a 4.4% chance of scoring from there, and I suspect it’s probably lower from that exact spot on the ice and not even worth the math to figure out what the shooting percentage is from below the goal line.
The new trend, for some reason is for goalies to go down and seal the post on these situations, preparing for a wraparound attempt, which most of the time doesn’t come and if it does is not a difficult save to make anyway. I will definitely go over wraparound technique on here at some point, but I may need to make a video on ice for that. So, another time. 
For now, I want to point out Crawford’s head in this screenshot. With Bouwmeester in a terrible scoring position, he should be glancing around at the front of the net, trying to take in as much information as he can about who is in front, where they are and what hand they shoot, even, body position and whether they can shoot from that position. Any NHL goalie can absorb this information in a momentary glance. His head is straight on the puck this entire clip, his body even facing partly below the goal line. Bouwmeester makes a good pass and he has no idea where Berglund is in front of the net and has no chance on what could have been a rather simple save. If any goalies or goalie coaches read this and want to defend Crawford or the general strategy on these plays, please tell me how wrong I am and why. I really don't understand the logic here. 

The second goal is a tougher one. A good pass to a great goal scorer in a good scoring position, who shoots the puck back the other way with a quick release is a tough scenario no matter what.
Throw in potentially bad ice conditions (Crawford said his pad stuck to the ice on one of the other goals) and the aforementioned lighting and atmosphere issues and this becomes a much tougher save. But, in Goalie School we don’t make excuses we figure out how we could have made the save.

The first thing I notice on the goal is the big shuffle he makes on the pass. That pass went from the top of the circle to the edge of the other circle and although Tarasenko (the shooter) made a great play to corral it, he didn’t catch it cleanly. I love the big shuffle on short passes that stay on the same side of the ice, but when you cross the ice, the angle changes and you can end up unsquare (there has to be a better word for that). Not only that, but you tend to slide on your skates more than stop, which makes you less crisp and more prone to drifting.
You can see in these shots that he’s centred to the puck, but his left leg is slightly back from his right leg in terms of squareness, his right foot is clearly in the white ice, while his left foot is in the white ice, but it looks like his heel is back on the blue ice just a bit. Not a major thing, but against a goal scorer who’s running out of room to shoot, it’s a killer. I think this happens because of the big shuffle. Had he T-pushed, he could have been more precise in his pivot and been more square because of it.

​In this gif, you can see that it takes Tarasenko quite a while to handle the puck, and in fact he never really handles it at all, he shoots as soon as he’s able to. Every shooter should watch this and see what those quick shots can do to a goalie. I don’t love Crawford’s glove positioning on this preshot. There’s room underneath his glove and the top of his glove is more than likely above the net from the puck angle. Notice that he never stops his feet either, he just kind of goes down and drifts at the same time. His unsquareness leaves him kind of chasing the play on this one. To call back the beginning of this piece, perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable tracking the puck with the outdoor conditions. The best thing to do on those days when you don’t feel comfortable tracking the puck is play strong positionally and block. His positioning let him down here and he ended up just sort of stabbing at the puck.

Of course, we all know that this is frame by frame and easy to take apart after the fact. At game speed in the show this is all way harder. I will definitely find some good saves to analyse next. Don't want to make the players feel too good about themselves.
<![CDATA[GOALIE SCHOOL- Martin Jones]]>Mon, 02 Jan 2017 13:28:56 GMThttp://robgherson.com/blog/goalie-school-martin-jonesThanks for checking out my site. The plan for these "Goalie School" blogs is to analyse goals and saves from the NHL and hopefully put some more goaltending IQ out into the world. As all goalies, and goalie parents know, there is a dearth of knowledge out there in the hockey world about what it is goalies do, what our process is and what makes a good save versus a bad goal. If you learn anything or have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment.
First, I want to acknowledge that this is a fantastic shot from a really good player. I am lucky enough to have first hand knowledge of just how good Jeff Carter is, as I’m pretty sure he had 5 hat tricks on me in the house of horrors that was the old Sault Ste Marie barn. One game, I looked up at the scoreboard after finally covering the puck on a mad scramble early in the game to see 19:00 on the clock and the shots at 10-0 for the Soo. (10 shots in 1 minute!!!!!!)

As goalies, we like to believe that we can stop anything that comes our way, no matter what. That’s the attitude you need to have, because sometimes you get left alone by your team and you need to keep them in the game. Sometimes, though, you need to tip your mask after a great shot, accept that you couldn’t have done anything on the play and move on with the game. This is pretty much one of those ones. Carter made a nearly perfect shot from a prime scoring area, with speed, as he changed the angle moving across the ice. There were breakdowns on top of breakdowns before the puck got near Jones (What was the right defence-man doing in the neutral zone?) Having said all that, this is goalie school and we’re going to take a look at what Jones could have done differently on this play.

Before I get into the frame by frame analysis, I want to call your attention to Jones’ skating on this shot. Instead of staying square and shuffling, he kind of c-cuts diagonally across the net. That leads to him moving out of “squareness” as he keeps moving, and it also makes it harder for him to stop on a dime and get set when Carter releases the shot.
In this first screenshot, you can see that the puck is rolling and Carter is moving across the ice slightly to Jones’ blocker side to get into position to shoot the puck and also trying to get Jones to move. Players in the NHL know that if the goalie is moving from side to side it opens up holes and makes it easier to score. In this picture, Jones is in good position, he looks big and Carter probably doesn’t see much net to shoot at.
In screenshot number 2, Carter has moved all the way over and is loading up to shoot the puck. Jones is in good position still, his shoulders are at crossbar height from this camera angle, most likely above the crossbar from the puck angle, and he’s mostly centered, maybe a few inches too far to his blocker side, but it’s hard to tell from the angle we’re looking at. He also, may not be completely square, perhaps thinking about the pass option on his glove side. However, in this pre-shot frame he’s in good position and Carter probably doesn’t see a ton of net. Take a look at Carter’s head in this frame though, he is clearly looking at the net thinking about where to shoot the puck.
This screenshot is where you can really see a few cracks in Jones’ armour. They’re definitely not major, and without them if Carter takes that same shot, he probably still scores. It’s hard to tell from the screenshot, because the puck is already on it’s way to the net, but the puck hasn’t really changed angles from the pre-shot in screenshot 2. Carter is further over to Jones’ blocker side, but that’s just something he does, as he knows how to use his long reach (once again, it pains me to have first knowledge of Carter’s long reach.) He’s good at moving his body around the puck without moving the puck, creating the illusion of movement, and opening up bigger holes. Comparing Jones in this picture versus the last one, his blocker side skate is a few inches closer to the post than it was, opening up even more room on the glove side. He’s still not really square either. It also leads to a slower stop and set when Carter does take the shot. But the biggest change is the compression in his shoulders.

In this screenshot the tops of his shoulders are in line with the crossbar, now that the shot is coming, Jones compresses in his stance and there’s lots of daylight between the crossbar and his shoulders. So, Jones isn’t in his true stance prior to the shot. He’s about half a foot lower. I’m not sure if this is something Jones wants to do. It may be just a bad habit that he knows about, but it also may be somewhat strategic, where he tries to look bigger pre shot to give the shooter less to shoot at. My issue with that as a strategy is that NHL shooters can change where they’re shooting at the very last moment, not to mention video and scouting reports would definitely be able to catch that, so you’re not really gaining any edge there, especially against a guy like Carter with that much time and space. (Dino Ciccarelli used to tell me when a goalie held his glove high, he would shoot right at the glove, because he knew it would drop when he shot it. Players are smart! (sometimes)) 

On top of that, Jones’ head moves 6 inches right as the shot is being released. A shot like that is difficult to see and save, without creating optical illusions because your head is moving. Any sport where you rely on hand-eye coordination requires a level of stillness at the point of contact, or things get more difficult. When your eyes are moving, it’s much harder to have the fine detail in your vision required to stop a puck moving at 90+ miles per hour.
In the final screenshots here, we see Jones down in an awkward 80’s style toe up kick save. This tells me he was mostly guessing here. I think his head moving at the last moment made it impossible for him to see and stop this great shot. 

So, to sum up the play, Carter takes a great shot and scores a really good goal. Jones made a difficult play harder on himself by skating diagonally backwards instead of shuffling, which led him to being less square and less centred on the shot than he could have been, his upper body compressed right as the shot was being taken, which caused his head and eyes to drop 6 inches right at the critical moment to see the puck, he then had to guess where the puck was going and made a hesitant one pad save attempt with his toe up.