Sunday, 8 June 2014

Gear sightings: Gudlesvkis boot strapping

Still pretty tied up (not literally thankfully!) and worn out so haven't been able to get much content up, but with LA looking like the could win another Stanley, the playoffs have been fun to watch. Always on the lookout for more goalie info, one of the hard-to-spot-but-worthy mentions was Gudlevskis unorthodox style of heel strapping.

Taking the strap at the boot which is normally looped through the skate space, and tying it round the back of the skate, he has come up with his own way of replicating Lundqvist's own modification which allows the toe of the boot to cover more space when driving down with the pad for the toe/boot save. The power of gravity helps with this, and the tightness of the strap keeps it in place and not loose (where it could slip off and get cut in two!) and is a basic but efficient way of facilitating this.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Rinne's stick grip

Another quick and easy mod to use if for a stick grip. I first saw this done by Pekka Rinne (the Finnish great who obviously isn't doing too well coming off an an unexpected layoff due to surgery complications) and thought it'd be worth copying. Always preferring a grip when playing in goal, I thought it would be useful and highly recommend it. Kind of acts as a minimal buffer against harder shots but also is handy for gripping the stick with a 'trigger grip', with the taped grip providing something to grip on to in the ready stance.

To complete the grip, I used a more buffed grip produced for field hockey sticks, to give a greater density to hold onto the stick with, then taped over with electric tape to clean up the edges!

Rinne uses this for his sticks. And Lundqvist does similar with his. Although you need to be beady eyed (like a hawk), you should be able to get just enough of a good look at Rinne's stick (especially when he drops it to 'ice' the puck with his blocker hand a la Hasek style!) in the video clip below:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Bringing intensity to your game

Although a lot of goalie schools and technical think tanks preach a more conservative, calm and cool deep in the crease approach to goaltending, due to being able to get across for in-close passed shots and to avoid getting sniped, I'm still a firm believer in attacking shots. Not negatively, but positively challenging the shooter and appropriately. Just like Jonathan Quick!

Intensity is what gets you nominated for Vezina trophies and is what wins them. You don't get called "The Dominator" (like Hasek) by being easy to beat. The more intense you are, the harder you look to score on and the tougher you are to beat. Killing two birds with one stone as you try and get in shooter's heads!

He's an example of "Bob" warming up with the same approach he had in every game of his Vezina winning season, whilst playing in the KHL during last season's lockout:

  • Never quit on the play: don't ever, ever give up!
  • Battle until the puck ends up over the line
  • Push out explosively; the harder you drive, the quicker you get to places, but this obviously needs precision and control
  • Want it: if you want it badly enough, you'll make it (and that's for anything in life really!)
  • Be hard to beat; not just giving up soft goals but really push shooters to work to be able to score on you
  • Fight for space, fight to see the puck and fight against the shot
  • Position aggressively and challenge the angle and shooting space 
  • Play like "it's your last game" - sounds a little random and morbid, but play like there's no tomorrow and you'll soon see an improvement in how hard you battle!
Although Tim Thomas is often compared to a street hockey goalie, he is a definitive competitor. His story of how he got to the NHL is extroardinary, but he got his head down, knuckled on with it and look how far he went! Dwayne Roloson too, a late bloomer, but one game away from a Stanley Cup ring. Or Niemi who went from zamboni driver between periods whilst paying his way to play in Finland, to a rookie winning a Stanley Cup with Chicago, all out of hard work, drive and determination.

In my opinion, having an intense approach really helps you "get in the zone" every game, which is arguably where you want to be to play your best. And it also helps you stand out from the crowd at trials and camps. Why? Because you're the hardest working goalie out there! It's worth a thought if not anything else!

 And for some motivational videos, just watch Rinne and "Bob" and how much they hate being scored on!

Cable ties: the new dangler tying method!

Something proving newly popular is using cable ties instead of skate lace for tying plastic danglers to masks. I'm not sure which equipment manager cottoned onto the idea first, but . I first noticed Sergei Bobrovsky (of Columbus Blue Jackets atm) using a set-up like this a while back and it looks like there a few goalies cottoning on to the idea. Robin Lehner has also made the change very recently amongst others.

They don't bounce around, unlike when using skate lace to tie the dangler in place and then material is strong and tensile/flexible enough to deal with impacts! With the security of having the dangler in a fixed position, it also means that the dangler will stay in a constant, fixed position; there will be no massive shifting up or down as you move your neck around to look for the puck whilst in your stance, given you more confidence in having it there to do its job - of protecting your exposed neck - in the first place.

Which means there's no excuse for saying they're too loud and noisy, banging around causing too much irritation as reasons to not wear a dangler, which is no now more, all thanks to: cable ties!!

Below you can see my own mask with cable ties wrapped round the central bar and the side gaps to fix the dangler in place:

The method is well recommended; it works and is a great alternative to using skate lace!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

USA's Olympic picks: Quick vs Miller

With America looking to go the distance as they did in the last Winter Olympics, but go one step further and get that gold since the glory days of "the miracle on ice". And with a goalie battling to prove himself going into free agency and a goalie recovering from a surgery/injury layoff wanting to show the desire and proof he has "still got it" despite any possible rust, America can be safe in knowing that with the offence in front of their goaltenders, they can easily make it out of the group stages.

Selection approach
There is a lot of talk focusing on the larger ice surface in comparison to the American major leagues and the contemporary approach taken by goalies, affecting who the selectors' ultimate decision over who to take with them. European goalies more used to the pass-first, cross ice lateral plays having to be more patient and wait for the shooters to make the first move, is an easy switch back to the ice rink size of their homeland. But others question whether this is the best approach. And in America's choices they show the opposite of the passive, deep in the crease approach made famous by 'King Henrik' (Lundqvist), with a choice of two goalies who prefer to attack the shot constructively with aggressive positioning challenging out, even to their third choice in Jimmy Howard who likes to really force the shooter to work to beat them.

1: Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller was the goalie that took the US to the finals the last time around and was unfortunate to be the on the wrong side of his nation's hopes and dreams as Canada came away with another gold. Buffalo hasn't had the same celebrity status of goalie since Hasek left town, but Miller has been stoically doing a grand job for them between the posts and considering the numbers he's putting up in front of a team that are playing poorly, he's not doing a bad job of things. Loyal but ambitious and getting criticism for being disappointed with his team mates' effort (or lack of), Miller has got a bit of flack from the media, but is channeling this into his play on the ice, looking to get noticed and silence the critics as he builds up to free agency. A guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, his performances are being pushed to the next level, and though it's been a while since he saw Stanley Cup round action, he's a franchise goalie carrying his team with Olympic experience, something the other guys competing for his position plain simply just don't have.

2: Jonathan Quick
A goalie whose entire game is based on a battling instinct, which helps challenge shooters, that has seen great success, getting LA their first Stanley Cup ring in his breakout season, Quick is battling the fatigue and rust of injury as Matt Jones took over his sport with some astonishing play and a series of shutouts from a calm style (quite the opposite of Quick's approach). This aggressive style is a lot like Miller, although Quick takes it one step further with his unique style like a coiled spring at face-offs and screens, as he battles to see the puck however possible and whatever it takes.

And this aggressive style and 'big game' capability, is what the selectors have gone for. Given that he has not represented America internationally as much as Miller and that he is coming back from injury sees him as a 1B option to USA's chosen incumbent first choice. His ridiculous levels of flexibility and athleticism, as seen in his splits saves, recoveries and stance at screens, is what helps him get the edge and play this well, with a well rounded overall game making one of the best elite goalies in the world even in spite of Olympic status. Combined with his fighting desire (rather than battling as a result of poor positioning; important to remember!), this makes him often unbeatable, and America have a world beater should Miller have trouble 'starting out the gate'.

3: Jimmy Howard
Howard has been putting up good numbers on a Detroit team that is not enjoying the luxury of great defence in had in front of goal since the days of Cujo/Hasek/Osgood. Forced into a role where is made to 'carry' his team more, his strong play has gotten him noticed and bailed his team out multiple times. Being third choice he can offer positivity to the goalies ahead of him and help his team out in training and so on, as a benefit to squad and country. Style wise his aggressiveness in coming out of the blue paint, challenging angles and shooters, sees him fit the mould and system well for what America is looking for when they drew up the plans for team approach and system way before Sochi.

Jimmy however doesn't have the 'big game' experience of Quick who has played in the Stanley Cup finals, or Miller, who has played in the last Olympian final, as mentioned already, making him a slim pick for the squad. A decent choice on any other team, he won't be seeing much (if any!) action as a result of having to stud options ahead of him. At least he can enjoy the experience and get some practise in whilst the rest of the NHL goes on the Olympic break!

Excluded options:
Tim Thomas is often lambasted for his political viewpoints or his decision to vocalise opinions or take a year out (after committing his life to his career and making enough sacrifices to need a break with his family, but there you go!), but the former Boston starter gives America further options, had they chosen to include him in the final cut. A wise head on old shoulders, having spent his whole career battling adversity and having to prove his ability every step of the way, before putting up sparkling numbers in Boston, he offers a calming influence to his team mates, as seen with Florida right now, which could really settle any nerves for the Sochi team.

Ben Bishop was being considered and though he has been putting up decent enough numbers with a poor Tampa team, it's not enough to be a difference maker. His tall lanky frame and approach sees him fill space easily, with a style more akin to the other passive system goalie analysts and coaching staff are looking at for the Olympics. Craig Anderson is another goalie coming off injury and whilst Colorado and Ottawa fans both know, is capable of looking superhuman some nights and a total dud another, might not have the mental stamina to cope with the pressures of this level of play. 

Sochi analysis

With the Winter Olympics underway at Sochi, it's a good chance for me to have a go at trying my hand at offering some analytical insight. Other than some random looking antics involving wheeling goalies along on trolleys to get from the changing room separate from the rink, to get there for training, it gives the goalie obsessive a lot of opportunity to analyse and comment on the performances on the world's best goalies in action! So I'll give it a bash and see what I can come up with. I know most about the men's game (as expected I guess thanks to stereotypes, coverage etc.), but I'll see what I can cover in the women's, although a little late (as ever!) getting started as games are already underway!!


To get started, I might as well start where it all started! Which was playing inline hockey, then getting the chance to play ice and falling in love with gliding around and stopping pucks at the same time.

I have played in goal in so many sports it sounds silly and random. But I love it and having a photographic memory and selective muscle memory means I can play different sports alongside each other over a season without having any trouble, plus I like broadening my horizons and always learning, so playing a multitude of sports keeps this going. Other than being able to theoretically get a game, being obsessed with all of the parts of the position (technique, psychology etc.), and goalie styles, I also have writing ability (apparently!). And witot in mind and the opportunity to write about what I enjoy, I wanted to give it a go starting to write about ice hockey as well, for practice, for readership (for all you other goalie fanatics out there!) and to help others (whether with technique or just finding the desire to being used as target practise at beer leagues by those annoying knuckleheads!).

So, here we go!