It is important for goalkeepers to have polished technique, but there is a case in argument for the goalkeeper in hockey having forgotten how important it is just to battle and keep the ball out the goal. The modern goalkeeper in a lot of mainstream sports may be incredibly well drilled, dieted and psychologically sound (well, sports psychology wise, the best/entertaining – read as you prefer – goalies are always a little eccentric!!), but the champion goalkeeper who dominates the game and ends up being the best of their era is also a goalkeeper unafraid to throw themselves at the ball or come up with something unorthodox to make sure that they are never beaten no matter what. This desire to abandon the textbook to ensure the score line is kept low is something that true champions compete for.
And often what looks, to the casual observer, like a desperation save that is pulled off miraculously is less desperate and more reactive and intelligence, actually coming from strong fundamentals and the belief and inherent wish to stop themselves conceding at all! Just look at Peter Schmeichel or Dominik Hasek and the success they had in their sports. They didn’t always make everything look like overly pretty or out of a technical guide, but they fought for every save, fought every second of every game, and pushed themselves to play at their best all the time. And they were true champions, legends of their games, who will be remembered long after their retirements from the game.
And with everything getting so technical, coaches are seemingly forgetting the importance of having a goalie playing for them that will give everything they have to help their team. That will fight and battle and compete in every single game and end up being a difference maker for their team, so much so that they’d probably lose without them. And goalies should be open minded when it comes to doing whatever it takes to stop the ball (or puck or whatever else!). Carey Price for the Montreal Canadiens for instance has had a good track of looking polished and refined in the robotic movements he makes when stopping shots, but with a new coach in Rolie Melanson, has realised this need.
And hockey goalkeepers can learn a lot from other sports and the level of intensity that the elite goalkeepers who never ever want to get beaten bring to their game, game in game out, which allows them to be the best in the world. In the case of ice hockey, Tim Thomas is a perfect example of this, an NHL rookie at 29, but that didn’t stop him from being a truly elite goalie, and unlike Luongo who is robotic and unable to “raise his game” at the most important times, has a Stanley Cup ring to his name and was statistically the second best goalie for two seasons over the past few years. And then there is football, where goalkeepers are always going to be athletic, due to the goal size, but can often be called into triple saves like Mignolet’s great sequence early on this season. With Tim Krul’s dazzling display showcasing how coaches want their goalies to play all season long, it is going to take a battler to do that every game, making sure they don’t get lazy, over confident or complacent!
Here you can see Thomas making a lot of unorthodox but logical save making in his style of “street hockey” as commentators describe it:
And here Krul in the Tottenham game where he made the most saves in the Premier League, 14 I think, with some impressive goalkeeping:
A lot of the time these jaw dropping highlight reel saves are a result of strong positioning and angles, being spot on getting behind the shot, but then someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time analysing goalkeepers isn’t going to know this. It is possible to break down the save process to analyse and pinpoint the angle, depth, goal coverage, and then requirement for inventiveness to stop a shot through the legs or so on. Using their intelligence and ability to read the game at such a high level, things only true athletes have, the elite really can dominate the game. And this is something that should be coached in not out of developing goalkeepers with a lot of potential and talent. Like a lot of modern teaching methods, instead of allowing goalkeepers to think for themselves about what’s the best way to deal with an unpredictable shot and situation, goalies should be allowed to be inventive and think for themselves to be unpredictable (and therefore hard to beat), or find a way to stop the shot no matter water, if faced with an unpredictable shot or broken play!
Whilst other nations seem to be struggling with this case in point, Belgium on the hand looks to be emerging as one that doesn’t and knows what it takes to be an elite goalkeeper, or at least, are more aware of how to analyse goalkeeping performances! In Belgium, where they truly are developing a strong depth of talented and able goalkeepers, you can see these skills being put into reality all season long. Here you can see Gucasoff, Belgium’s second choice, at 1:28 demonstrating this attitude of merging positioning, attacking and inventiveness, in throwing his pads together to the right side as he goes down to block in close.
And hockey goalkeepers want to be unbeatable, which is something not to be forgotten as the game, and modern goalkeeping, progresses. And to be unbeatable, sometimes you have to throw away the rulebook of goalkeeping sometimes and battle, scramble, and fling yourself across goal to keep the team out of chance of getting back in the game. The best goalkeeper is the one who refuses to be beaten, who hates being beaten, who will do anything, anything, not to concede. And if a team wants to beat a tougher opposition, you need a goalkeeper that can “steal” you games as they say in America! Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you stop the opposition scoring, just that you stop them doing so, so maybe we should remember that fact and treat it with some respect!