Ice Hockey Goaltending Style

Hockey goaltending is not a one-size-fits-all position. The so-called hockey advocates in favor of change blame the modern goalie’s physical stature and equipment size for scoring’s downward trend.

What they don’t seem to consider, though, is the apparent truth of the matter: today’s goalies are great. No position in any sport has developed in the manner hockey netminders have.

It is a combination of specialized training, positional coaching, and dedication to fitness.

While it is true that goalies are more significant than they’ve ever been and their equipment is more high-tech than it was a few decades ago, the same thing can be said about players and their gear. Yet goalies are at the epicenter of this dispute, and players are not.

The real reason goalies are noticeably better now than they were during The Great One’s era has little to do with size or equipment. Goalies today are disciplined. They establish what their skill set is at an early age, mold it into a specific style, practice, practice, and practice.

Goalies tend to develop their styles, and they become quite adept at that one style. There are significant pros and cons to each. Even though there are different styles, the professionals who use them excel at their selected styles.

So, if you want to be so good that people try to change the rules on you, then master one of these popular netminding styles. One’s a bit outdated, one’s state-of-the-art, and the other’s a combination of some.

Figure out which one works for you, and you’ll be on the fast track to the win column.

Standup Goaltending Style

The classic style of goaltending is the “standup” version. The granddaddy of goaltending, standup style netminders has been around as long as the game itself.

This style was common until the 1960s, and it’s rarely used in the modern game nowadays. That’s because most goalies now use a butterfly or hybrid style of goaltending, where they usually drop to the ice and spread their legs out on it to perform saves.

Goalies who play standup make the top half of the net a priority. They seldom drop to their knees and rely on quick reflexes to kick away pucks aimed at the lower half of the net.

This style is certainly on its last legs, as few goalies in the modern era are brave enough to play it. The last well-known pro who stood tall on shots was Bill Ranford.

A standup goalie is essentially just what it sounds like. The goalkeeper tries to stay on his feet while playing the position instead of going down to the ice.

When playing the standup style, the goalie will use his leg pads, stick, and feet. This is while attempting to make saves when the puck is shot along the ice or aimed at the bottom half of the net. 

A standup goalie tries to remain square to the puck to cover as much of the net and is usually positioned to cover the top half of the net. This style also enables the goalie to see above or around players that are trying to screen him.

The most challenging shots for a standup goalie to save are those that are along or just a few inches off the ice and in-close dekes on breakaways.

This style involves the goalie standing up to ensure that the top of the net is always protected. It also requires the goalie to use their feet to move pucks that come in low.

They have to rely on their ability to use a stick, a glove, and their feet to stop the puck. This type of goaltender is the least popular style right now as most professional goalies have moved away from it.

Butterfly Style

This style is the direct contrast to stand up. It requires goalies to drop to their knees when making saves, regardless of where the puck is headed.

It’s called “butterfly” goaltending because your arms are out to the side, and your legs spread slightly open. Thus, resembling the shape of a butterfly.

Moreover, this stance lets them move around their crease with matchless grace. Goalies like Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, and Sergei Bobrovsky perform this way.

This style earned its name because of the move that the goalie makes to stop the puck.

Butterfly goaltenders rely on positioning and timing to make their saves. The primary Butterfly position involves keeping the hips over the knees with the chest high and up.

This supports the goaltender’s balance when sliding, keeps them square, and improves their blocking area. The stance is much lower than Hybrid goalies, which assists them to get down into position faster. 

Butterfly goalies like to play from their knees, with toes pointed out to create a padding wall to cover low shots. They block pucks and deflect pucks into corners far away from the net.

On high shots, the Butterfly goalie plays the puck off the chest, shoulders, and arms to knock the puck away from the net. On low shots, the save preference is strictly Butterfly.

In all, Butterfly goaltenders will challenge shooters with the intention of steering the puck into a safe area. From the knees, Butterfly goalies use their edges to slide and make a second chance, or mobile saves. This is called a butterfly slide.

The goalie lands on the ice in a butterfly shape. The arms are outspread, and the knees are open, so the goalie looks like a butterfly.

It may not sound like it, but the style is rather graceful and extremely athletic. That’s because the goalie has to move quickly and with accuracy to block the shot.

Butterfly goaltenders have to move their bodies to stop the puck, so it is a more athletic style than the standup style of days gone by. It is worth practicing for modern goalies because offensive players will try to sneak a puck low on a goalie who does not drop.

But, butterfly goalies need to be able to quickly stand back up to get into position and move around the net and crease.

Hybrid Butterfly Style

This type of goaltending was developed in the 1960s. But it did not come into popularity until Patrick Roy dominated his opponents using it in the 1980s and 90s.

The idea behind the Hybrid style is that goalies need to protect where the majority of shots are taken. Since the players who shoot the puck rarely lift it to make a shot, the goalies need to below.

Most shots are made on the ice, so that is where the goalie and his pads should be. Roy won a handful of Stanley Cups, so his style became the style to use.

The Hybrid style combines the Butterfly and the Stand-Up. Roy combined the idea of standing up to cover the high shots but dropping to the knees to protect the low ones.

This style has become popular because it allows the goalie to cover every shot, no matter where it happens. The goalie must be extremely attentive at all times and develop a good sense of timing.

Today, it is the go-to style amongst professionals. Hybrid goaltending, as its name suggests, is a mixture of the standup and butterfly techniques.

The goaltender will make tough decisions based on the shot coming at them in a calm, cool, and collected demeanor.

The majority of today’s NHL goaltenders use this tactic. And some do it exceptionally well, including Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, and Carey Price.

The Hybrid goaltender relies on his reflexes and quick movements to make saves. The stance is not as low as a pure Butterfly, but it does include many Butterfly techniques.

Hybrid goalies trap the puck with their body, trying to eliminate the possibility of a rebound.

On high shots, Hybrid goalies like to use their glove to catch the puck. In some instances where seeing the puck is not possible, the blocker is utilized to steer the puck. Off the pads, rebounds should die and stay close to the goalie to be smothered. 

Hybrid goalies are much more random in their save selection than Butterfly goalies. In one-on-one situations, Hybrid goalies challenge shooters.

Hybrid goalies are more willing to dive or go on their stomachs to get across their crease. In addition to the Butterfly slide, Hybrid goalies shuffle and T-push to move around the crease. All these factors add a level of uncertainty when shooting on Hybrid goalies.

Confidence is key to hybrid goalies. If you trust your timing and reactionary decision making, then this style is for you.

It demands high athleticism levels, yes, but the number one tool for a hybrid goalie is between the ears.

If you’re interested in adopting this style, start working on it in practice. Look for tells with a shooter.

Where are their eyes looking? Do they have a passing option? Are they winding up or leaning in? Make your decision to stay up or go down based on your analysis of the scenario in front of you.

Profly Style

The Profly style offers much better coverage. You get a tight seal along the ice, and the full 11″ width of the pad is used for coverage. The pads’ tops meet to close down the 5-hole (this is even easier if you wear tall pads).

There are no gaps, and you can quickly pull rebounds into the pads without worrying about the puck slipping under you. If your knees open up, you not only have thigh boards for coverage, but you’ll even have the inner knee pads help out along the ice.

If you remove thigh boards, you’ll get almost the same coverage when your legs open up. It’ll just be your knees doing the covering.

The NHL effectively outlawing thigh boards was too careless. They were the best protection yet devised for a challenging and sensitive area.

If they felt some thigh boards were too big, then limit the height. You only get about 6″-8″ of the pads’ height, and a rebound can go almost anywhere. The 5-hole coverage is inadequate.

Because of the leg angle, it’s harder to get a complete butterfly when you’re on the pads’ face.

There’s also a nasty hole that forms at the ankle. Pucks will run the length of the pad and then hurry through.

With that hole, the pads almost work like a funnel. The same goes for the split butterfly. Even with Overdrive, moving out of the split butterfly requires practice and a solid grip. It is tough on the face of your pads because of the greater friction.

The right pad hasn’t flipped. You can see that a deflection could quickly run along the inside of the pad.

With the pad in a profly, the knee would roll in and reduce the 5-hole a bit. The inner knee flap would lie on the ice, and if there was a deflection, it might stop the puck from scooting through. Compare with the Patrick Roy shot above.

Mobility is much better with the profly because the pads’ side offers much less friction with the ice. It would not be easy to get much distance on the move like this using the traditional Butterfly.

You couldn’t do it because the legs don’t slide out very quickly in the old style. The profly allows you to get as wide as your body will allow.

Not all goalies are “profly,” but everyone uses it; everyone has to. When you’re down, beyond a certain width, the pads naturally flip up on their sides. You can’t get very wide with the pads face down.

Mobility can also be more effortless because the foot’s position puts the blades closer to the ice, so it’s easier to recover or move while down.

No matter which style is right for you, practice is necessary. During a game, you should not think about which save the selection to use. Instead, it would help if you instinctively reacted to the play.

In all, the various styles are meant to offer tools that can be used in situations to help you make the save. Moreover, the different styles provide guidelines on where to begin when starting as a new goalie.

Once you have the basics, you will start to develop your style and figure out what works best for you.

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