Lacing up the skates and strapping on the pads can be a daunting experience for a first-time goalie. Even more daunting is the experience of stepping out onto the ice and trying to mirror what your favorite goalies are able to do on TV. Drop to your knees. Get back up. Slide over here. Now slide over there. Try this a few times when you’re starting out, and you might say, “Man, this goalie thing just isn’t for me.”
It’s important to remember that to be a hockey goalie, you need to practice, practice, practice, and teach your body to get used to the way you want it to move. The right muscles will develop and the muscle memory will come – I promise. So, to help you get started, develop a movement you might not have down quite yet, or just perfect the basic foundational skills all goalies should have no matter where you are in your career, here’s a comprehensive break-down of all the basic goalie movements you need to know.
Shuffle: What it is
A shuffle is the most basic movement there is for hockey goalies, and probably the first you’ll ever learn from a goalie coach. It’s crucial to playing the position, and the way players can skate nowadays, goalies need to use this fine-tuned movement to stay square to the puck at all times.
A shuffle is a short, side-to-side movement used to cover fine distances of space on the ice. Shuffles help the goaltender stay square, while keeping your body tight and minimizing the holes in your stance while moving, and keeping you in good stance to fall into a butterfly if a shot comes your way.
While shuffling, it’s important to know the difference between your “drive leg” and your “lead leg.”
The drive leg is the opposite leg of the direction in which you’re intending to move. This drive leg is used to initiate the side-to-side movement, or the leg you use to push yourself in the opposite direction.
The lead leg is the leg of the direction you’re intending to go. This lead leg is used to balance and stabilize you while you complete this side-to-side movement, and offers a bit of resistance and control to your shuffle.
Shuffle: When to use it
Shuffles are the most frequent movement goalies will likely use during a game. That’s why as simple as it is, it’s important to get it down and try to master it.
Like I mentioned above, shuffles are used to stay square to the puck when an opposing player is carrying the puck in tight in your zone, say, across the slot. When the other team’s player is walking the puck laterally, your best tool at cutting off the net is to shuffle with them, making small movements to stay square to them.
When the opposing team is in your zone, either cycling the puck to keep offensive zone pressure, passing the puck short distances on a power play, or one player is walking the puck along the ice, that is the right time to use the shuffle.
Make sure you’re square to the puck in your stance, and place your weight on the inside edges of your skates and the balls of your feet. Then, transfer your weight to the inside edge of your “drive” leg, and bring that leg back to regular stance position.
Then, focus your “lead leg” into maintaining balance and control, and place your weight on the inside edge of the lead leg to resist momentum and stop you from sliding too far. That’s a perfect shuffle.
T-Push: What it is
After the shuffle, the t-push is the most common movement a goalie is going to learn. While shuffles are better for covering small distances and following a single shooter, t-pushes are better for covering large distances in the crease and keeping up with long passes in your end.
A t-push is an explosive side-to-side movement used to cover the crease in a short amount of time. It allows the goalie to be ahead of the play, and be square to the shooter by the time the puck arrives on their stick. It also allows you to choose the proper save selection, rather than being forced into making a crazy save.
Much like a shuffle, t-pushes are done by incorporating your drive leg and your lead leg.
The drive leg, again, is used to initiate the movement, and the lead leg is used to carry your momentum through the movement.
T-Push: When to use it
Goalies should use the t-push to quickly cover a decent amount of ice in the crease, in order to get their feet set to stop a shot were one to come at them. Typically, it’s used when a shot is imminent, or when a team is cycling and passing the puck a lot on a penalty kill or during sustained zone pressure.
T-pushes should be quick and explosive. Turn your head and lead with your eyes in the direction you want to go, and then with your stick and gloves, so your upper body stays square. Then, bring your lead leg back and pivot with the drive leg, lifting it slightly off the ice after you push yourself so you slide nice and easily. Then, when you want to stop, turn to the inside edge of your lead leg to stop, and get set in your stance.
Goalies can also do a “small” t-push, which is done the same way, but effectively stopped short to cover smaller areas of ice in your crease.
C-Cut: What it is
C-cuts are a little bit different than the previous two movements, but just as crucial to learn if you want to feel as comfortable as possible in the goal crease. C-cuts are forward or backward skating moves that keep you square to the shooter and tight in your stance, without opening up holes or expending too much energy using a different movement.
Like I mentioned above, c-cuts can either be done forward or backward, depending on the situation. It’s important to learn both, so you never feel uncomfortable when having to follow the play in your zone.
C-Cut: When to use it
Use c-cuts when you need to stay square to the shooter, cover your net, and stay in position for the shot when it comes at you. Use it on breakaways to gain momentum and match the speed of the shooter while moving backward, and use it to maintain your stance position while the opponent is cycling the puck in your zone.
To perform a forward c-cut, place your weight on your inside edges, leaning forward with your toes under the body. Then, cut the letter “C” into the ice while keeping your weight on your inside edges, and transferring it out while you form a C.
To perform a backward c-cut, follow the same steps, but transfer your weight as needed while backskating.
Butterfly Slide: What it is
Butterfly slides are the most essential movement a goalie should learn on their knees, in butterfly position. Butterfly slides effectively eliminate the lower part of the net, while keeping you balanced and maintaining your ability to recover quickly onto your feet if you need to.
There are a lot of benefits to a butterfly slide, most notably that it allows you to be balanced and control your movement. It also limits excessive movement (sliding too far), and is more efficient and is easy to recover from. In tight, there’s no better move.
But, as you’ll read below, there are some discrepancies to be aware of.
Butterfly Slide: When to use it
Goalies are best served using a butterfly slide when the puck is being played close to their net, and they need to cover distance in their crease while cutting off the bottom part of the net, where the puck would most likely be shot in that situation.
There are a lot of things that goalies do wrong in this movement, though, most of all: sinking your butt back to the heels of your skates, or even to the ice. Not only does this limit your net coverage, but it also leads to poor recovery time and balance, and opens up the five hole if you lean back far enough. Because of this, it’s important to practice a few good habits.
To properly execute a butterfly slide, keep your chest up, shoulders straight and square to the play (and the puck), keep your pads flush against the ice and practice a wide butterfly stance, and most importantly, keep your butt up! It’s also important to keep your gloves up and extended out in front of you, and make sure the blade of your stick is flat on the ice, so as to cover your five hole and ramp pucks up into your belly.
Slide to Recovery
Slide to Recovery: What it is
Performing a slide to recovery is about as easy as it sounds: from a normal stance, slide into a butterfly, and smoothly recover without staying on the ice too long.
First, you’ll want to get into your regular goalie stance. Then, you’ll want to move your head and eyes in the direction you want to move (typically to the shooter receiving the puck in a game situation), and follow with your hands and legs while sliding straight into a butterfly. The next move is to recover, which I’ll describe in detail below.
Slide to Recovery: When to use it
A slide to recovery is an interesting movement, because it is almost always situational, and there’s no one right time to use it in a game. But, there are plenty of times in a game when it could come in handy, and the more you practice it and develop the right muscles, the easier and less exhausting the process of going down and up again will be.
Let’s say you’re playing a game, and your team is killing off a penalty. A player from the opposing team is walking down the wall, and is looking for the pass in front the net, where one of their teammates is waiting for the tap-in goal.
Once that player lets the pass go, you know the net-front player’s only option is going to be an ice-level tap-in, so you move and slide into a butterfly to get to him in time. They fan on the puck, and the puck keeps going to the opposite half wall. In this case, you would recover out of your slide and back to your feet, so as to stay in the play and get back into your stance. That’s a slide to recovery.
Full Recovery: What it is
A full recovery is similar to a slide to recovery, but not quite the same. A full recovery is used to efficiently recover onto your feet after dropping into a butterfly, or a half butterfly (hybrid) position. Once again, it’s important to remember which leg is your drive leg, and which one is your lead leg.
The drive leg will always be the one you use to initiate the movement, and the lead leg will always be the one that takes you where you want to go.
Full Recovery: When to use it
Full recoveries are used when you think the play and the puck are coming to you, but they go outside after you’ve already dropped to make the save.
In a game, make sure to establish your drive leg and lead leg in every movement; these will always depend on the direction you are looking to move in. When recovering to the right, your left leg is the drive leg. When recovering to the left, your right leg is the drive leg.
Rotate your waist and bring your drive leg in front of your lead leg’s knee, and rotate your body with this movement. Then, lift your drive leg’s skate onto the ice, and transfer your weight to the inside edge. Quickly rotate yourself, and keep the lead leg extended while moving to fill space. That’s a full recovery.
Takeaways and Conclusion
Every goalie learns at their own pace, and every goalie has their own play style, in practice and in games. Chances are, you’re going to choose to use the movement that you think is the best for you in that moment to make a save. It’s a split second decision that you’ll have to make countless times in your career.
That being said, there are some fundamentals that help every goalie be sound and smart in the crease, and these basic goalie movements are the six pillars of making sure that happens. Learn them, practice them, and employ them in games. You’ll only get better over time. Good luck, goalies!
- Cory Schneider overhead image from Mark Blinch, via NHL.com
- All embedded YouTube videos from YouTube