Keys to a Perfect Hockey Goalie Positioning

Hockey goalies have one of the most challenging roles on the planet.

Imagine trying to stop a six-ounce piece of frozen rubber moving at speeds more than 100 mph (160 km per hour). Moreover, you’re wearing 50 pounds of equipment and dropping 5 – 7 pounds of your body weight in a couple of hours during a game.

Goalies manage to do all these things and more. 

Meanwhile, players and scientists study reaction time, mental preparation, and other facets of the net.

Many coaches believe that their goaltender is the most valuable player. For one, they have the challenging role of keeping the puck, seldom fired at incredible velocity, out of the net. And any error the goalie makes typically results in a goal against. 

If the goalie stops the first shot, they have done their duty. If they have to stop the second and third shots on the same play, their teammates are not defensive. This includes clearing rebounds and covering or moving opponents from in front of their net and the slot area. 

Basic Ice Hockey Positions Explained

An ice hockey team consists of six players, each with a specific position and job. The role of offense is to score goals, and the defense is there to protect the goal.

The following list explains each of the hockey positions:

  • Goalie: Possibly the most challenging position in all sports, the goalie is the one player who can control a team’s morale. His mission is to keep the puck out of the net, and if he’s good, he can take his team a long way. Great goalies win championships.
  • Defensemen: It would be best to have two defensemen, one on either side. Nowadays, there are three main varieties of defensemen. The first one is creative and offensive-minded; he likes to control the puck and lead the team up ice but is not too physical. Another is the defensive-minded, stay-at-home bruiser who performs a physical game and doesn’t often venture out of his zone with the puck. And there are those unique athletes who are a combination of the two.
  • Right-wing: He works the right side of the ice for the most portion. He requires to be a physical player who is right along the boards and in the corner. He is accountable for the opposition’s left defenseman in the defensive zone.
  • Left-wing: Normally a left-handed shot, although the NHL is seeing more right-handers playing this position now. A right-hander has a better angle to shoot from when he’s coming from his wing. Like the right-wing, he should be able to dig out the puck from the corners and battle in front of the net.
  • Center: He quarterbacks his club at both points of the ice. Thus, he must be comfortable with face-offs and passing, and it would be best if he’s also a good shot. Coaches want a lot of creativity in this job — and a lot of “hockey smarts”.

Stance is Important

A goalie must have fundamental arm and leg positioning. Plus, he needs to remain in the stance position throughout his moves.

Skating Skill

Goaltenders must be excellent skaters—not only forward skaters but backward and lateral skaters, too. 

They must be capable of skating and stopping like a goalie, not a forward. 

Also, stable balance and agility on skates is essential for movement, recovery, and positioning.


Even without the checking connected with other positions, goaltending is a demanding physical job. Being a great athlete makes everything so much easier for a goalie.


Many coaches believe that big is better than small. That’s not true at all! 

Tall goalies have pluses and minuses, and so do small goalies. In most cases, size is not a concern. Remember, Tom Barrasso is 6’3″, 210 while Curtis Joseph is just 5’10”, 185.


Also identified as “movement time.” Coaches, in general, believe that the faster, the better. That’s usually true, but it’s also only part of the whole package. 

While speed is a good model, it should only be considered one part of the goalie’s skills.


The goalie is the only player who plays the whole game. Therefore, he/she should be well-conditioned and ina very reasonable shape. 

An overweight goalie’s deficiencies expose themselves to other physical weaknesses listed above.

Mental Toughness

The ability to maintain focus and intensity and “shake off” being scored upon are valued skills. Be careful of goalies who use excuses, blame others, or who pull themselves from the net.

Overall, mental skills cannot be measured by rapid-fire drills or showdowns. Instead, you can measure it by running exercises that mimic game situations.

Fractions of a Second

Goalies have many unique features, one of which is excellent reaction time. 

In a game where the puck drives at high speeds, the difference between a goal and save can come down to milliseconds. And reaction time is a combination of genetics and training.

The Exploratorium’s Director of Life Sciences, Charles Carlson, also agrees. According to him, reaction time is a “genetic feature.” However, he believes that you can develop your ability to react through training since it is also a “memory function.”

Reaction Time

In a high-speed sport such as hockey, players’ reflexes are of the most excellent quality. 

A player’s reaction time can often decide the outcome of a game. A famous example of this is the reaction time of a professional hockey goalie. 

Many game fans were bewildered as the goal keeper’s limbs were flailing about saving pucks left and right. After watching powerful players rip 90 mph slap shots at the goal, most of the games remain comparatively low.

Playing Breakaways

Sooner or later, you will have to perform a breakaway where one forward comes in alone against the goalie. 

Move out to challenge the shooter, then gradually move back to the top of the crease. 

Stay in a standing position as long as you can and try to persuade the shooter by making him/her take the first move to either shoot or deke. If you’re the first to make a move and go down early, the shooter will either shoot high or go around you. 

Suppose you keep your position, always square to the shooter even when they try to deke you. The shooter will run out of the room and shoot at you or miss to hit the net nine out of ten times. 

Proper Save Selection

The ability to “read and react” to a situation affects the goalie’s capability to make the correct save choice. For example, a player is in front of the net and tips the puck; a half-butterfly move is better than a skate save attempt. 

However, the same shot from the same spot might be played differently based on where the other nine players are placed on the ice. In other words, a change in situation can formulate changes in the way a goalie must be positioned and the save selection required.

Save Execution

Goalies make several different varieties of saves, depending on the situation. Stick-saves, blocker saves, glove-saves, and kick-saves are all part of the hockey dictionary. 

Which variety of savings does a goalie employ? 

The answer appears to be that when he only has a portion of a second to stop the puck, he utilizes whatever part of his body or equipment is closest. If you watch a goalie makes a save near, you’ll notice that if he’s in the position, he’ll need to move only a very short distance to stop the puck.


The goalie must be open to new ideas and constructive reviews. This is often a problem if the coach is not perceived as a reliable source by the goalie.

There’s much that goes into being a strong goaltender. A judgment should not be made based on one struggle, ten breakaways, or a series of rapid-fire shots. 

Work Habits and Heart

To put simply, you practice as you play, you play as you practice. A goalie should have excellent work habits while setting a work-ethic example for the rest of the team. 

It is easy for a goalie to relax during many parts of practice. If he or she does, you should wonder just how badly that person desires to be a better goalie.


It’s a must. Confidence is essential for all players, but many goalies are downright cocky, and that’s not so bad! 

That cockiness may also be an essential part of the goalie’s emotional make-up. The coach must then consider that “part” and determine if he can work with the goalie and how the team will respond to it. 

Remember, the goaltender, while a different being, must still be part of the team.

Little Things

Look for stuff like the ability to break up centering passes, freezing the puck, stopping pucks dumped in, rebound control, moving the puck, etc.

Overall, when considering physical skills, the goalie should be capable of doing everything with one leg that he/she can do with the other. Everything that can be done from a stable position should also be done moving both forward and backward.

Good Goaltending

Positioning is one of the critical elements of good goaltending. If you are in the right position to stop the puck, it will hit you 99 times out of 100.

The goalie must be placed in a square or 90 degrees to the puck when it leaves the shooter’s stick and goes to a square position to stop any rebounds. You should keep your eye on the puck at all times, even when it’s at the opposite end.

Nothing is more critical for your team than giving up a soft long shot because you weren’t looking at the puck. 

Another critical element of goaltending is cutting the angle. The goalie must move out of his net past the goal crease to cut the angle to make the net appear smaller to the shooter.

The shooter has to tip the goalie if he will shoot. All he needs to do is look down at the puck to make sure that it is on his stick in the right shooting spot. Move out one to two feet further towards the shooter when he’s about to do this to make the net seem even smaller. 

Try to catch every puck shot at you, even on the blocker side. This way, you stop any possible rebound and can get a stoppage in play if needed. 

Stay up on your feet for as long as you can. If you go down, try to get your legs spread out towards each post in the butterfly style to stop low shots from going in.

Remember, the whole puck must cross the goal line to count as a goal. 

Young goalies in Mites and Squirts will go down quickly to try to stop the puck. This is not a bad thing to do, as most players in this age group cannot shoot or lift the puck up into the top corners of the net yet.

But as players get older and more efficient in shooting, they will shoot high to the top corners. And the goaltender will have to stay in a standing position longer. 

Controlling rebounds will be another hurdle for the goalie. If the goalie prevents the first shot and the puck rebounds, he must be ready to fall on it. Another option is to direct or shoot it into the corner to stop the opposition from getting a second shot at it. Your defensemen and forwards should also remove any rebounds away from the net. 

Let your defensemen know if a player is open in front of your net or if you are screened. Also, let them know if a forechecker is following them in the corner or if they have time to produce a fair play. Remember, if you help them, they will help you. 

Professional Positioning Strategies

Imagine your body is divided into four main sections: Two in the top and two on the bottom.

The goaltender should have a robust Visual Attachment on the puck, fastened to every movement that it executes. The puck should be straight in line with your head, evenly between your gloves and your stick. Moreover, micro-movements should be used to keep squareness to the puck.

On the shot, the goalie should quickly identify the angle that the puck is traveling, otherwise known as the Puck Trajectory. This movement will allow the goaltender to react to its Vertical or Horizontal Angles.

The goaltender needs to become an expert in using the glove, blocker, glove, and stick but incorporate your main body frame. The goaltender will use the Point of Decision Making to position his/her body to block the shot.

Key Points to Remember

  • The Vertical Angle is positioned slightly above the waist of most goaltenders. On the shot, the position of the player’s stick at the point of impact will begin to show how and when the puck will rise. The same goes with the Horizontal Angle.
  • Gloves should always be in front of the goaltender’s body in the surface range of vision. This is one of the common errors that goaltenders make. And this can cause massive problems with balance, puck and rebound control, squareness, and positioning.
  • The Gloves will represent the high posts and elbow of the net. Every skate means horizontal posts.
  • As the goalie starts to cut down the angle, the Net Space reduces, and the shot eliminations become very economical.
  • It is crucial to remember that each of the 5 Zones creates lanes to your net and drastically affects the Net Space.
  • The shapes vary from Narrow and Tall in Zone 1, Wider and Tall in Zone 2, and Wider and Shorter in Zone 3
  • Your body should be positioned to cover the proper net space. 

Zone 1 is for the Toes of your skates, Zone 2 is for the Heals on the edge of the crease, Zone 3, 1 Stick Blade Length on top of the crease.

Choosing a team’s goaltenders is a big choice that affects everyone on the squad. When the goalie follows these guidelines, he can develop an up his save percentage.

Hopefully, these essential tips will help new goaltenders and their parents learn the demanding skills required to keep the puck out of the net. 

So work these tips into your evaluation method, and good luck! Because after everything’s been explained, you still need some luck.

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