Game Mapping For Ice Hockey Goaltenders Volume 2

Goalie Map Dustin Manko KCCrease Goaltending

In my previous article I introduced the concept of game mapping, philosophies behind it and expectations of the process. Today’s article is going to break down a sample map and discuss common techniques used by goalies in each specific zone. Again this is a sample map, please remember that each goalie is unique therefore their maps should be customized to their strengths. This sample map can serve as a starting off point to generate ideas and spur conversations about what works best for the individual goalie in any given situation.

The map is broken down into 6 zones. Each zone represents unique scenarios and design must be approached to reflect that. For this map, Zone 1 is a semi circle directly in front of the goalie.  Typically in this zone most goalies choose to employ a style known as a blocking butterfly. The blocking butterfly is designed to seal the ice and body so that nothing is able to get under or through the goalie. The thought process behind selecting a blocking approach in this zone is that typically the opposition is in tight with limited time and space, meaning they are less likely to be able to shoot around the goalie. Therefore, if the goalie can prevent shots from getting under or through them (opposed to around them) then there should be no available net space to the opposition.

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Zone 2 is the space directly behind the net in the trapezoid area. In this space the biggest threats to the goalie are passes out front for a quick shot or wraparounds. One of the most common tactics employed here is the RVH (reverse vertical horizontal). When used properly, the RVH will allow the goalie to create a seal on the post and along the ice, resulting in the goalie covering a good amount of the lower portions of the net. The potential disadvantage is that if the goalie fails to maintain proper box control, then they could be giving the shooters the upper corners of the net. Additionally, the goalie is willingly leaving their feet which could be problematic depending on the situation.

Zone 3 is the area between the trapezoid (zone 2) and the corner, below the goal line. Many offensive systems tend to run cycles in this zone (and to some degree slightly outside of this zone), with the intent of the puck carrier finding an offensive player who has been lost by their defensive coverage. Goalies have lately begun to use RVH in this zone, but my opinion is that the goalies should be standing on the post while the puck is in this area. With the puck further away from the goal, RVH can be ineffective (as explained in zone 2). Due to the myriad of passing options this zone offers, having the goalie maintain their feet to get to those points efficiently is paramount.

Zone 4 is the area that forms a triangle above the goal line from center net to about the bottom of the faceoff circle. The distance this zone extends will vary from goalie to goalie. The bigger the goalie, the farther out this zone would typically extend.  In this zone RVH, VH, & overlap are the most commonly employed techniques. When to use each will depend on multiple factors such as (but not limited to) the direction the puck entered the zone, and backside pressure.

The VH (vertical horizontal) allows for a solid top to bottom post seal, but the goalie potentially sacrifices being able to hold the post while the opposition is digging around the net front. The RVH will allow for a good seal along the ice and post but potentially sacrifices the top corners of the net. The overlap allows the goalie to align their body from the post to the puck and allows for a more “traditional” save selection, but goalies need to be aware that this save selection can lead to being drawn out of the net. It is important to note that these three save selections are not mutually exclusive. Goalies should be aware of how to move fluidly between these techniques. Finally, while it is no longer a common save selection for this zone, I maintain that there is still a place for the goalie to remain standing up on the post.

Zone 5 encompasses the area above and outside of zones 1 and 4. In this zone, the goalie will traditionally employ an active approach, as there should be time to read and react accordingly. As this is the largest zone, there is the greatest number of potential shot scenarios so I won’t go into specifics of that here. When dealing with shots from this zone, we remind goalies to hold their feet as long as possible and not to drop before they read the shooter’s release. Depth (the amount the goalie challenges the shooter) will depend on backside positioning of the opposition. If there’s threats on the backside the goalie will likely need to be less aggressive with their depth than if there was no backside pressure.

In our sample map, the goalie has elected to add a sixth zone above the faceoff circles. Our hypothetical goalie feels that any shots from this distance allow enough time and space for reading and reacting that there should be no rebounds allowed from shots from this zone. That could mean that all shots along the ice are directed out of play with the stick or that every shot from this zone will attempted to be frozen upon arrival.

It is also important to understand that mapping out potential save selections does not prohibit goalies from deviating from those selections in certain situations. It is always recommended that the goalies read the play and react accordingly. For example, zone 1 was labeled as a blocking zone, but there is certainly a time where an active approach would be a more appropriate save selection. The map is not intended to limit the goalie to only the save selections listed, but offers goalies a foundation from which to build off of and a default to go to in times of uncertainty. Goalies need to understand and plan for how they will prepare their maps for rushes (both odd and even numbered), zone play, and special team situations.

As I wrote in the previous article, the will to prepare is what separates the good from the great. Take the time to think about your approach to the game.  Understand how your team’s defensive structure works. Know your opponent and their tendencies. Build yourself a map and have a game plan ready. After all, you either fail to plan or you plan to fail.


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Dustin Manko is the owner of KC Crease & Director of Goaltending Development with Carriage Club (KCYHA). You can follow KC Crease on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & YouTube. When not at the rink, Dustin likes to spend time with his wife Heather, their daughter Isabel, and their two dogs, Titan & Jack.