On this page, I'll take a look at some goalie injuries, and to keep it interesting for me and for you, I'll also add some content on goaltending between clips.

July/18. I added clip 1 and a few injuries.

Here's Luongo's injury, Fall, '17. He doesn't widen out all that much, and if you watch the full clip on the web, you'll see the coach wondering what just happened. By the time goalies are about 24 or 25, they've reached full flexibility, and they'll progressively tighten through use and injury until something like this happens. It's a long story, and I'll have to explain it fully one day.



Here's Brian Elliot's injury, February, 2018, and initial reports say he's going to be out for 5-6 weeks to repair a core muscle. Some media said that the stick to his head had something to do with it, but I'm not so sure. Have a look and judge for yourself. If it got him in the neck, it could do some damage, but it would have to be a whole lot of damage to take him out of a shootout. The reports said core muscle, and that's the usual groin, hip, back thing. That makes it an injury like the others on this page - a bit mystifying - sort of. A core injury for 5-6 weeks means he has likely been carrying it for a while, especially if it breaks on such a simple move. When I was growing up, this never happened, but now it happens all the time, and the main culprit is the style of goaltending. I covered this years ago, it's on the site somewhere, probably on the Injury page, and I'm sure it's now common knowledge since I had a forward explain it to me in a dressing room a week ago.

I've watched Elliot for years now, and I'm not surprised by this, because he plays a 'super-sprung' style, meaning everything is compressed down low like a coiled spring. I don't like this style because it's very jumpy and you go down on everything all the time. You're so wound up that shooters know you can be faked with a twitch. And I doubt you react as quickly when your muscles are super tense and pulling inwards like this. Also, when you're super tight like this, the muscles are tense, very tense, and that means they are shortened. Hopefully, they'll loosen when you need to widen out, but I suspect they retain some of that tightness on a move, thereby reducing your flexibility or straining muscles more that necessary.

Philadelphia lost Michal Neuvirth a few days later to a similar injury, leaving them without a goalie. I've watched Neuvirth since he came into the league and always thought he was a superb goalie who could have been great, if he had stayed healthy. He had great form and really nice patience, but his superb flexibility left him vulnerable to injury; he was a marked man, and I'm not surprised he has gone from one injury to the next. Also, note that goalies are still getting these injuries at the same rate, despite the VH and Bauer 1 skates. I'll explain this later.

Between the injury clips, I'm going to throw in some goaltending info, and I'll start by focusing on reading the play to stay on your feet, both of which are very difficult. It's impossible to play goal without going down, you'll do it on almost every play, but the idea here is to delay until you need it. Sometimes, this means holding on just a split-second longer, which can be the difference between OK goaltending and being really good. Going down a split-second too early opens up all kinds of room up top, it gives the shooter more room for dekes, it forces you to widen out more on both shots or dekes, and it often creates a total mess. We'll see this on the Lunqvuist clip below. The clip is nothing special, there are lots like it every day, it's just the first one I looked at for this page. One quick note: I'll just say that Overdrive allows you to stay on your feet longer, if you develop the patience. It can give you a super-wide, solid stance so that even if you twitch on a fake, you can still hold your position and move out of it.
The strip below gives the basics of the play. I'm not picking on Henrik; we've all done this before and we'll do it again. If you take anything from this one, remember that the player who keeps his cool the longest wins.
So JVR takes the pass from Connor Brown, cuts in and goes backhand deke to the 5-hole. First - JVR is on his proper wing, and this will dictate how to play him. Also, note JVR's general direction or momentum (green line). On any play, a forward has momentum that makes it easier and almost forces him to go to one side more than the other. So let's get started. By the end, you'll have enough information to recognize this very common play and its variations. Step #1 is to stand and wait. Let's see why.

My first point concerns anticipating the play. There is no way Brown (making the pass) is going to shoot; everything about his body language says pass, so while Henrik's stance is perfect, I think he could safely anticipate the play by facing JVR more. All this would require is a shift of a few inches right and some slight rotation right, (in image 3, I moved him a bit and the green arrow shows the direction of the rotation that I couldn't put in.) Anticipating like this can make shooters pause and second guess themselves, hopefully pushing them into a mistake. If Brown saw Henrik poised and waiting for JVR, he might hesitate, thinking maybe he should shoot or try something else, or he might try to perfect the pass and possibly mess it up. If JVR saw Henrik ready and waiting for him, he might tighten up and not take the pass cleanly. Shooters are easily upset, just like you and me. This play happens from the hash marks in, so it is close and quick; milliseconds count for a lot. Learn to think strategically, overseeing the play the way you might read a map. Start making the save right away by playing with shooters heads. If your shot count goes down, you'll know you're screwing shooters up. Reading the play is what Gretzky was famous for. If he could learn to do it, you can too.

Above is another look at the angles. In the left shot, Brown has released the pass and Henrik is covering the left side of the net, where there is minimal risk. If Henrik were anticipating the play, he would be near the left blue dot and rotated a few inches to his right, a good position to wait for JVR.
Also, I'm no big fan of the poke check when a player is coming in straight, but when he's cutting, it should be an option. The poke check is something you must practice, knowing the difference between a player on your trapper and blocker side, and knowing how to read the play. JVR is a prime candidate for a poke check, but you would have to be on top of the crease (right blue dot) and get him as soon as he receives the pass (above right) so that his momentum takes him into your stick. You have to be quick, gutsy, and precise, otherwise you'll look like a fool, therefore, practice.
Learning how to anticipate the play is something that takes practice, everything does. You have to develop a feel for when it is safe to show net and get ahead of things, and you'll make mistakes. But it's a valuable tool, and it works, so be active and start messing with shooters as soon as they cross the blue line. On this play, even if Henrik didn't anticipate, there is no reason to panic. Let's see why.

JVR is a left shot on his proper wing, so he'll be taking the pass on his forehand. This means that the chances of a one-timer are slim because the pass is not into his wheelhouse; a one-timer here would resemble him shoveling snow. Instead, he has to receive the pass, control the puck, and prepare to shoot. This takes time and space, so by the time JVR is dangerous and the puck is shoot-able, he'll be near frame 7 above. From receiving the pass in frame 1 to becoming dangerous in frame 7, he has moved about 2 or 3 feet in maybe a half second (a guess). If you have read the play perfectly, you'll be ready and waiting for something near JVR's frame 7 position. Now it gets tricky, because JVR has 4 main options.
#1- A quick shot, likely high short side. If you read the 'shooter' pages on this site, you'll figure out why going short side high is very common, a standard play that you see all the time, every night.
#2- Backhand 5-hole, which JVR does.
#3- Backhand far side, which has goalies wondering if they can pull the big lateral move. This move can create the 5-hole opportunity in #2.
#4- A cut to Henrik's blocker side, involving a hard, sharp cut, and likely taking him into the crease because of his momentum.

Any option requires the following method. First, establish a firm right edge to take away the shot. You can't cover the whole net but make sure short side, especially high, is a low-level opportunity. Next, wait - ON YOUR FEET. Just by holding a tight stance, you take away #4, because it only works if you are faked to the left side of the net.

The first problem is that Henrik goes down, way early. Shooters love this. Remember - cool wins. The next problem is that Henrik gives up his depth (below). He starts the play near the top of the crease, and remember that if he had anticipated the play, he would have been over and rotated a bit. But he immediately retreats to his right post, and this opens up a highway for JVR (blue line). If he had stayed at the top of the crease, he would have cut the angle for a short side shot and been better positioned to cut off JVR, because look in frame 3 below how little room he has to cut through with the D on top of him. And this is the big problem. I did a whole page on working with your D, but I didn't cover this, which is a crucial strategic element that far too many goalies, even pros, ignore. By opening up that avenue for JVR, he has hung his D out to dry. You must team up with your D and use your positioning to create choke points, and they can happen all the time. If he had stayed near the top of his crease, Henrik and his D would have closed that door shut. A simple poke might have done it. Your D will love you for doing this because it makes their job so much easier. Smart goaltending makes good D. Look how little room JVR ends up having. Momentum and speed close things down quickly for forwards, but you must look ahead and do some math to see this.

By going down early, committing to the right side, and leaving a gap for JVR, Henrik invited him to cut across, which is what JVR does. Henrik is down, his momentum is leaning right, and any attempt to cover left will be awkward and open him up. When you're on your feet and go down, you can cover laterally and keep things tight, but when you're down, the 5-hole slides open and leaves you helpless. That's another reason to stay on your feet and time your going down for when it's needed.

JVR cuts across, Henrik opens up, and the puck goes in 5-hole. Henrik just had to get square at the top of the crease, wait, and time a tight B-slide to the left. But don't be fooled by how easy that sounds. I've said it many times, but patience is the hardest thing for a goalie to learn. Just standing there and waiting takes some courage and a lot of practice, every day for the rest of your career.

About Option #3: I'm going to have to give that a section of its own because covering to the far side is one of the toughest goaltending moves and requires a lot of practice. Your B-slide must be tight with the stick in place over the 5-hole and be strong enough to take you across the crease, otherwise it will break open. You'll want it to cover short, then long. When they go long, there is an easy way to tell if you're doing things right - if you're reading the play and your patience is well-timed - and that is if you cover across in a small, almost boring move. Done well, this play does not look like a highlight reel move. It's just a simple pause and slide, even to the opposite post. If something is off, the move gets bigger and you break open.

So that's it for this play. I didn't cover everything, but I've given you enough to figure out more for yourself. If you understand this play, then you'll see the same thing happening on 2-on-1s and all kinds of other plays where a forward takes the pass on his forehand. In the playoffs this year (2018), I saw 2 game-killing goals go in on this type of play where the goalie over-reacted (check the Winnipeg highlights). Plays repeat themselves and fit into a broader pattern, so knowing them can simplify your game greatly. The play above is one of about ten standard plays that you must memorize if you're going to control your game. I'll try to cover more of them.

End of Clip 1


Here's Subban's injury, Fall, '17, and it came at a bad time, because he was dumped by the Bruins and Vegas picked him up, which had a bunch of goalie injuries that opened up a perfect opportunity for Subban. He was taking advantage of a chance that goalies often have to wait a long time for when this happened. He's young and he'll recover, but injuries don't ever really go away, and you only get so many of them before they take you down once and for all.




Left is a clip of Halak's injury, 2016-17, and again, it's a nothing play, When you get injured this easily, it means your core is wound up very tight. Actually, it's more like it has locked up, bit by bit, over the years, tightening like a vice until a move you easily did in your 20s becomes injury-prone. Could Overdrive have helped Halak here? Not on this play, because it looks like he was so close to an injury, he could have done it getting out of a car. But Overdrive could have helped him before this by reducing the widening out that got him to the point that his entire career was in question.


Further to the Halak injury above, what kind of plays got him to that point? Ones like this. It's Henrik on a shootout, and I don't know what to call this move, but let's say it's a super-dangle - we've all fallen for it. The key is Henrik's right foot, which slides out until he has widened into a total split, which is something you don't want an over-30 franchise player doing too often. On top of that, he throws in a wicked twist at the end that torques his spine in a way that it definitely does not like. Overdrive would have prevented this by holding the right foot in place, or if you get totally fooled, by reducing the slide by a whole lot. You'll see goalies doing wicked widening-out like this on shootouts.

Here's Matt Murray's injury, spring/17. We'll see if it costs them in the playoffs, but Fleury seems to have regained his mojo. Again, it's a simple move, not even a boot-out, just a warm-up butterfly slide, medium width, he's done the move a million times, and that's the problem. As one announcer suggested, maybe he didn't stretch enough beforehand, but Murray is no dummy, he knows how to prepare. All pro goalies are working with a tight core, and many of them are on the edge of injury. And the more flexibility they have, the more likely they are to go down like this. They worked very hard to gain that flexibility, and it will cost them. The current style of goaltending places so much stress on the core that it can't help but get tired, then sore, then strained, and finally injured.

Murray's problem is that he's only in his second season, and that groin is not going back to its pre-injury state; it never does because other things were strained besides the groin. By the time an injury like this creeps up, the body has adjusted and compensated and can't do it any more. A sore groin can create tightness in the hips, which can cause a tight back, and so on, back and forth. I think that these innocent-looking injuries are worse because they've had time to grow roots, and the roots go deep. There is a lot of 'retro-fitting' required to fully get over such an injury; it requires a ton of work because of how muscles lock out and set like steel, especially up the psoas and around the spine, (I'll get to this on the 'Back' page).

Here's an old one; I have lots. It's Curtis Sanford, who disappeared after this. The video is not great, but the injury is almost exactly like Halak's, a kick save to the right and Boom! All of the above applies.





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