Puck-Tracking Tricks for Goalies

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puck-tracking for goalies
Dennis Dalton

Puck-tracking is an important skill for goalies. It’s the art and science of focusing on the puck to anticipate where it lands next.

By David Franco

Puck-tracking is an important skill for goalies. Being a goaltender in hockey is akin to being the last line of defense in a high-stakes battle: the responsibility is enormous and the room for error is minimal.

In the NHL, one of the most critical skills that scouts look for is a goalie’s prowess in puck tracking—the art and science of following the puck’s trajectory with laser-like focus to anticipate where it will land next. Effective puck tracking can not only grab the attention of the scouts but also influence game outcomes—even to the extent that it might shift the FanDuel NHL odds in your team’s favor. 

This skill requires not just exceptional eye coordination but also sharp mental acuity to predict player movements, screen scenarios and even anticipate rebounds. Mastering puck tracking can be the difference between a game-winning save and a heartbreaking goal. This article delves into some game-changing puck-tracking tricks and drills that are designed to elevate your abilities as a goalie, thereby making you the unyielding fortress your team needs between the pipes.

The Importance of Eye Movements

The significance of eye movements is paramount for anyone looking to excel as a goalie. The eyes are the primary tool for puck tracking; they lay the groundwork for your body’s subsequent movements. Learning to govern your eye movements can significantly augment your ability to follow the puck and improve your overall game performance. 

One concept gaining traction in sports psychology is that of “quiet eyes”—the ability to fixate your eyes on a target with minimal movement, allowing for heightened concentration and better decision making. Studies indicate that elite athletes exhibit longer quiet-eye durations, which contribute to their superior focus and precision. For a goalie, mastering controlled eye movement translates to more effective tracking of the puck, better anticipation and ultimately more saves.

The Zig Zag Drill for Puck-Tracking

The Zig Zag serves as a powerful training tool for goaltenders aiming to fortify their puck-tracking skills, while enhancing lateral movements and positioning. In this drill, several pucks or objects are arranged in a zigzag pattern across the front of the net. The goalie begins at one post and slides laterally to the other, as they lock their eyes onto each puck or object along the way. 

Spending at least a second focusing on each object not only refines eye tracking but also instills discipline in your movements. The dual challenge of keeping your eye on individual targets while maintaining optimal body positioning adds a layer of complexity that mimics game situations. This multifaceted drill enables you to weave better eye movement and body control into your goalie skill set.

Visual Training Off-Ice

The pursuit of puck-tracking excellence doesn’t stop once you step off the ice. This technique extends into specialized visual-training routines that can be practiced in any setting. Whether it’s using vision boards or engaging with software programs specifically tailored to bolster focus and reaction time, off-ice visual training is a critical addition to on-ice drills. These exercises are designed to simulate high-stakes, quick decision-making scenarios similar to what you’d encounter in a live game. 

Visual training conditions your eyes to follow fast-moving objects and adapt to changing situations. The result is that it hones your eye muscles and enhances the neural pathways responsible for quick reflexes. By incorporating off-ice visual training into your regimen, you round out your preparation and maximize your ability to track the puck under diverse game conditions.

Hot Deals on Hockey

React and Deflect Puck-Tracking Drill

This drill is an essential exercise for goaltenders who aim to sharpen their reaction times while maintaining a keen focus on the puck. A shooter or coach is positioned a few feet from the net with a collection of pucks ready to be fired. The objective is to not just stop the puck, but to intentionally deflect it with your pads or stick while keeping your eyes riveted on it all the way through. This exercise challenges you to adapt to different shot speeds and angles, while maintaining an unbreakable focus on the puck. 

The React and Deflect drill prepares you for high-pressure, rapidly changing game scenarios where quick decision-making and flawless puck-tracking are imperative. This valuable technique serves as a linchpin for refining your reactionary skills and upping your save percentages.

Incorporating Screen Scenarios

Including screen scenarios in your training routine is a tactical move that prepares you for one of the trickiest situations a goalie can face in a game: being screened by players. This practice involves teammates or coaches standing as obstacles in front of the net, ”screening” you while shots are fired from different angles. The challenge is to track and stop the puck while navigating visual interference from your screeners. 

This simulation is invaluable because it mimics real-game scenarios where opponents often attempt to obstruct your line of sight. Training under these conditions enhances your ability to spot the puck through multiple layers of distraction, making you more adept at tracking it effectively. By becoming proficient in screen scenarios, you’re not just improving your puck-tracking abilities but also equipping yourself to stand tall under challenging in-game conditions.

Conclusion

Becoming a high-performing goalie involves much more than just physical prowess and quick reflexes. It’s also about sharpening your focus, honing your visual tracking abilities, and preparing yourself for real-game challenges that test both your physical and mental limits. 

By adopting a multifaceted approach to training—incorporating drills that enhance eye coordination, simulate high-pressure situations, and mimic the complexities of a live game—you’ll be building a robust skill set that not only improves your performance but also boosts your confidence.

Whether you’re on the ice or off it, dedicated practice in these areas will make you a valuable asset to your team—as well as a formidable obstacle for any opponent.

David Franco is a frequent contributor to CrossIceHockey.com. He is a sports fan and dedicated writer who has been analyzing teams, players and plays in order to provide the most accurate opinions around the sports universe.

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