Goaltenders: Blocking vs. Reacting Saves

Blocking-vs-Reacting for Goaltenders

Important tips for goaltenders


By Bob Janosz, Goaltender Instructor




Before we cover the technical aspect of how to actually make a particular type of save, we must determine the situation. The butterfly and its variations are the cornerstone of the goalie’s save skill-set, more specifically the goaltender’s “down game.” Simply stated, all saves are made by “staying up” or “going down.” The goalie should always strive to react to the puck but must know when a block or “seal” type of save is required.


Blocking Saves

Blocking Saves should be used when the goaltender does not have time to react to the puck. They should be used when the puck is in close proximity to the goalie. They are also used when the goaltender is screened or there is a risk of a deflection. Maximum net coverage on shots from the middle is obtained with a butterfly or butterfly block. Net coverage from bad angles can be used with a Post Lean or Post Load (VH or RVH). With all Blocking Saves, the goaltender should close holes but not “glue” their limbs to their body; they should always track and react to the puck, which helps to achieve the following:

  1. Maximum net coverage
  2. Allows the goaltender to make saves on shots in tight
  3. Eliminates pucks going “through” the goalie

Although Blocking Saves are necessary, they must be used properly and in the right situations: The timing, positioning, and technique of the block are all equally important. Many goaltenders overuse blocking skills because of impatience or weak puck-tracking ability.

Here are some problems associated with Blocking Saves:

  1. Loss of rebound control
  2. Block too early, resulting in opening up the top of the net
  3. Blocks when there is time to react

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Reacting Saves

Reacting Saves should be used when the goaltender has time to react to the puck. They are also used in unpredictable “scramble” types of plays when things don’t go as planned. The goaltender should strive to react as much as possible, but be able to incorporate a Blocking Save when called for. Tracking the puck sooner off the shooter’s stick will allow more time to react. Reading the situation and the shooter’s body language will also increase reaction time.

Here are some benefits of Reacting Saves:

  1. Improved ability to make the save by reacting to the puck
  2. Improved rebound control
  3. Increased agility by not being “locked” into a position

As with Blocking Saves, Reacting Saves are necessary but must be used in the right situations. Trying to react to every play is impossible and normally leads to what would be considered “soft” goals.

Here are some problems associated with Reacting Saves:

  1. Pucks go through the goalie
  2. A profusion of goals by tip-ins and deflections
  3. An abundance of bad-angle goals and ones from in-tight

There are many variables that must be considered when using either a Blocking or Reacting Save. Goaltenders may be closer to either a “reacting” or “blocking” goalie, but still must be able to use both save skills. Smaller goalies will have to react more; bigger goalies can block more. The athleticism and puck-tracking ability of the goaltender will also determine which part of the spectrum they’re closer to, but ultimately he or she must determine where they find the most success.

Bob Janosz runs the Janosz School of Goaltending In-Season Clinics and Private Lessons. For more information go to www.bobjanosz.com or call (716) 308-9224. Look for another valuable article for goalies from Bob Janosz, focusing on squaring up and getting set for the shot, coming soon!

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