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.”
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.
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.
Thanks 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.
The whole reason I came to the small (10 000 000 people) town of Qingdao is to coach the CCIHA Black Horse hockey under 10 and under 12 teams in the Qingdao tournament. The tournament got off to a bit of an inauspicious start for me. My co-coach and I were trying to spend some time exploring Qingdao, when we got a phone call informing us that there was a meeting we had to be at at 6:30 pm. No big deal, except that we were at the other end of the city and it was 6:40 pm. So, we hurried into a cab and showed the cab driver the card from the hotel with the hotel address on it. Usually, this was a foolproof method to get where you needed to go with a language barrier, this time however, somehow the cab driver managed to communicate to us the fact that he was having trouble reading the card because HE WAS BLIND. So, on came the seatbelts and out came the phones to call someone who could speak mandarin and give him the address. Like I said, we were late. Beggars can’t be choosers. A blind cab driver in the hand is worth ten in the bush. If I’m being completely honest, he wasn’t even the worst cab driver I encountered in China.
We got to the meeting fashionably late and we were brought into the offices of the arena. Inside, the coaches of all of the other teams and the tournament organizers were waiting for us, so they could begin their rules meeting. In Mandarin. There were only a few seats available, so I sat in the front row centre, for the rules meeting. In Mandarin. I tried to pretend I knew what they were saying, but I don’t think my active listening approach was very convincing. Apparently, there’s a picture of me in the meeting floating around somewhere. If I can find it, I will post it.
The next day we started the actual game play portion of the tournament and it turned out that the rules meeting must have been primarily about not enforcing any of the rules of hockey that I have ever seen before. In China, the rules in hockey, just like in traffic seem to be merely a suggestion rather than something that’s actually enforced. The Chinese game is much, much more allowing of body contact than we are back in Toronto. So much so, that at one point, I had to ask the one on ice official who spoke english if we were playing with body checking. He seemed shocked when I told him it looked like a Don Cherry video out there.
Another difference in Chinese hockey is that they don’t think twice about running up the score, or more accurately, it doesn’t bother them when the other team runs up the score. In our first game, we were up 6-0 after about 3 minutes of game play. Normally, at this point I would restrain the players a bit in an attempt to not embarrass the other team. Which I started to do. There was even some talk from our manager about trading goalies with the other team and finishing the game for fun. The response to this suggestion from the tournament organizers was, “why would you do that? You’re winning.” followed by “Your under 8 team might lose 15-0.” In spite of this, we did hold the players back a bit. We answered the Chinese physicality, once we realized it wasn’t going to be called and our under 12 team ended up going undefeated in the tournament and winning pretty convincingly in every game.
The under 10 team had a tougher road. The two teams we played against from Beijing were very strong and both beat us in tight games. The “little wolves” beat us 2-1 and the fire dragons beat us 4-1. Both teams played hard and probably outworked us for the most part. After a couple easy games to start the tournament, I don’t think our team was quite ready to face the test from those teams, but all the credit has to go to them and their coaches who were well prepared and talented.
A few people have been asking how I got this wonderful/crazy opportunity to go to China for 3 and a half weeks. I guess it's a good lesson on just saying yes to what the world brings you. That sounds way more hippy/spiritual/weirdo than I actually am, but I definitely believe in being open to new experiences and trying to say yes to every opportunity that may come along.
Anyway, here's what happened: A month and a half ago, Kelvin Lee, who coaches the aa Markham Islanders in the same 2005 age group as my aaa Majors team was at our tryouts looking to find a few final kids for his team after I finalized (to quote Homer Simpson) "the easiest part of any coach's job. The Cuts." Kelvin and I were standing near the boards and I was letting him know which kids would make the team, and which kids were likely to come to Markham for aa. As we watched the boys skate Kelvin pointed out a goalie who had come out to tryouts and impressed, but ultimately wouldn't make our team this year. It was very tempting to take him though, purely because we could have had the best goalie tandem nickname in hockey. The boys name was Eric Wu. Had he joined one of my other goalies Jayden Tang, we could have had the Wu-Tang Clan between the pipes for us, which as we all know would have been nothin' to F**k with (censored in case any of my nine year old hockey team reads this, as if they don't know what that means.) 90's rap group nicknames aside, I am very happy and confident with my real goaltending tandem of "Shayden" (Shea Lauren and Jayden Tang.) Without a better segue to end this digression, I'll just get to the point, Kelvin had pointed out Eric Wu as one of his goalies for a tournament team he was coaching in China. As a joke, I said to him "do you need an assistant coach?" he said, "actually, yes we do," which I didn't think twice about. There was no way I was going to China. A few days later, I got a text from Kelvin asking if I wanted to meet with Ling, who was organizing the trip. I said yes to be polite, but still there was no way I was going to China.
So, Kelvin arranged a lunch meeting for the three of us in China, I mean Markham. I say it that way, because in the Pacific mall area where we met, I was literally the only non-Chinese speaking person at the restaurant. I got there early to a very crowded, chaotic restaurant during the weekend lunch rush and wasn't even sure how to get a table. It was overwhelming to say the least. Kelvin was late (as usual) so I waited outside like a scared little kid until he got there. He showed up said a few words to the host in Chinese and we had a table in no time. He and I ate lunch while we waited for Ling.
Ling came along and told me that they were for realz serious (sorry for writing that) about me coming to China with them. In fact, if I were willing to go for 3 weeks, they already had lots of interest from China for me to run a goalie camp. It was a difficult decision, because who can drop everything and head off to China for 3 weeks with a month's warning, not to mention the worry over who will cook for my girlfriend while I'm gone. (Do they make those big, time delayed feeding things for humans the way they do for fish? I'm asking for a friend.) In the end, obviously I decided to make the decision to go to China. I'm not sure if I ever would have gone without this opportunity and I plan on making the most of it.
I'm planning on one more blog post before I leave. I am going to write about my expectations for my trip. I think it'll be fun to have that to look back on when the trip is over. Thanks for reading this far.
Welcome to my blog. I started this website to document my trip to China from June 28, 2015-July 21, 2015. I am heading to Shanghai, Qingdao and Beijing with the CCIHA to coach in tournaments in Qingdao and Beijing, as well as running a goalie camp and private lessons in Shanghai.
I am looking forward to the trip and am eager to experience Chinese culture and hopefully develop a new network of friends to help me learn more.
I hope to be able to help teach a new generation of Chinese kids the joy and art of goaltending as well. One of my favourite parts of goaltending is the ability a great goalie can have to quietly dominate a game over time. A forward or defenceman can take over a game with one or two great plays, whereas a goalie has to take over a game brick by brick, save by save. If you make a great save on the first shot of the game, and let in a bad goal on the second one, the bad goal not the save will most often define your game. So, as a goalie you have to let the play come to you, and a lot of the game is out of your control. You have to learn to control what you can and let go of the other stuff. You have to learn how to enjoy the games when your team doesn’t show up and you have to keep them in the game one save at a time. You have to be content with games that you lose but did everything you could to give the team in front of you a chance to win. You have to take what comes and try to make the best of it.
My take on this trip, and China in general is to approach it the same way. I don’t know what will happen or what to expect, but I am going to enjoy it all; the good, the bad, the unknown and take it as a new experience to make me a more well rounded person, and if you want to read about it I hope I can convey that experience to you. Please leave comments and I’ll try to comment back.
Rob Gherson is a former NHL draft pick of the Washington Capitals. He played 5 years of professional hockey, winning an AHL championship with the Chicago Wolves in 2008. He represented Ontario in the 2000 World Hockey Championship, winning a silver medal. Since finishing his playing career he has worked with hundreds of goalies from age 5-25. Along with running his own goalie school with former NHLer Chris Beckford-Tseu, he is the goalie coach for the prestigious private school Upper Canada College. He also coaches in the GTHL having coached AAA, AA and A, as well as Sterling Hall School’s under-12 and Under-14 team who has won 2 silver medals and a gold in the 3 years he has coached there.