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Law Goalie

The SMS or 'Reverse-VH' (RVH) Technique, from an Equipment Perspective

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We haven't historically talked a lot about technique in the Goalie Gear forum, but it struck me that some techniques could be used to start useful discussion of equipment. It's a very rainy day in Toronto, so it seemed a good moment.

From about the time Jonathan Quick won his 2012 Conn Smythe, goalies the world over have been experimenting with what the Swedes most aptly called the "Skridsko-mot-Stolpe" ("Skate-to-Post") or SMS position; Thomas Magnusson had included the technique in the Swedish "Goalie Bible" (Malvaktsparmen) for some time before Quick showed how far his remarkable athleticism could carry it. As the SMS gained recognition in North America, it acquired the alternate term "reverse VH" because of the way it effectively replaces the VH position (vertical-horizontal, aka one-knee-down [OKD], split-knee, or post-load, in Warren Strelow-approved USDP nomenclature) in which one pad is held vertically against the post while the other is down along the ice; the SMS, from a certain limited perspective, 'reverses' which knee is down and which knee is up relative to the post.

Yet this now-common alternative shorthand, RVH, implies that SMS is somehow or other a technique equivalent to the VH, which it absolutely is not. The SMS is not merely a reversal of the VH, but a superior technique in every respect. The sole exception to this is in the very narrow context of a pure blocking position against a low-angle shot on the glove side, where the ability to stack the cuff of the glove on top of the thigh of the pad gives moderately better coverage of the aerial angle (the hypotenuse defined by the line from the puck to the underside of the crossbar) than the SMS. The SMS, however, not only allows for a far greater range of athleticism, both in movement in and reactive saves, but also equal or better aerial coverage on both posts using active hand/glove position.

The curious thing about the SMS is that while it opens up a tremendous range of athletic possibilities, any goalie can quickly and easily learn to use it; in other words, it has a very shallow learning curve but an almost limitless performance ceiling. That said, the SMS technique as a whole does present some interesting equipment challenges.

For a start, a reference image from Jukka Ropponen at Goaliepro.com:

reverse-VH.jpg

Even though this is a solid reference image, there are a few things to note. First, it's not from the puck's perspective, so it doesn't give a true sense of how good the aerial coverage is; the puck would 'see' a lot less than the camera does, and quite probably nothing at all. In fact, this image shows that i is indeed possible to wipe out the entire shooting angle with the SMS. Second, the goalie in this image has squared his body considerably (though not completely) towards the lens; as you can see, the angle is so steep that he'd fill the whole shooting angle even if his body was square to centre ice (ie. squaring closer to a weak-side or generally off-axis opposing player). this is not, however, to say that squaring to the puck is always a bad idea in low-angle plays with the SMS. On the contrary, squaring to the puck can be an excellent tactical decision, if the aim is to trap the puck on the strong side (ie. short side, or front-side, as in this case, though these terms don't always overlap) and attempt to prevent any weak-side (back-side or 'far-side') leakage.

This introduction raises several significant equipment-related issues with the SMS that certainly warrant discussion here.

The first concerns something that the above image does not show clearly: how precisely the skate 'attaches' to the post in the SMS. Some coaches and goalies insist that the skate blade must be against the post. I don't deny that some pro goalies, in the heat of battle, end up with their skate-blades against the post, but I fail to see why that should make it a good idea to scrape your edges -- the only thing standing between you and almost total immobility, if not injury from a slip-out -- repeatedly against an iron bar, even if your equipment manager is standing by to swap blades during the commercial break. If you don't have an equipment manager or TV timeouts, it makes even less sense. Moreover, the placement of the skate-blade against the post -- especially if you use a taller cowling and/or blades, eg. a Bauer One100 with Step Steel -- creates an alarmingly puck-sized gap between the sole of the cowling and the post, and forces the goalie to lean that much further back to cover the angle above that gap. Coaches and goalies who insist on the 'blade-to-post' interpretation of SMS will tell you that this is a necessary evil, because without the skate-blade against the post, the goalie can't push off the post into a sliding butterfly or recovery. I question this assertion. For one thing, the very fine edges on hockey skate blades don't get a very good 'grip' on steel pipes, or other hard surfaces; if you don't believe me, make some goalies run on concrete in full gear, and see how good their edge-control is; I hypothesise it would be poor. For another, the ability of the goalie's skate-blade to push off post in a given direction is mathematically tangential-- limited by the radius of the post, the angle of the skate-blade, and the very small area of contact between the radius of the post and the radius of the blade's profile (not the hollow or ROH); in short, pushing off the post with a skate-blade is both inefficient and inaccurate.

The ideal attachment to the post in the SMS involves placing the toe of the skate against the inside of the post, with the toe of the pad on the front of the post; this will generally leave the blade resting firmly against the padded net-skirt, and the toe-bridge pressed firmly against the post (see below). This method of attachment gives perfect ice-level coverage and allows the goalie to push off in any direction with more power than having the blade against the post would. Additionally, this method of attachment effectively prevents the goalie from behind pushed into the net by falling or attacking players; if they try to push the goalie into the net, the toe of the pad on the front of the post resists. (More on resisting jam plays below, in the skate section...) Thus, a more accurate Swedish term might be Tår-mot-Stolpe,” toes-against-post, or TMS, with the plural 'toes' referring both to the toe of the skate and the toe of the pad; feel free to correct my non-existent Swedish.

This ideal SMS attachment points to a first and minor underlying equipment issue. If the goalie's pad is attached to the skate cowling very tightly (eg. with very tight inelastic toe-string or straps, and a very small or nonexistent toe-bridge), the goalie will be unable to get enough separation between the toe of the skate and the toe of the pad to have the former based inside the post and the latter braced against the front of the post. (In addition, a goalie with very tight toe-ties is putting enormous strain on his legs and hips, even in basic movements; it's a really bad idea.) Conversely, a goalie with very loose toe-ties (ie. lots of slack) or no toe-ties or straps at all will likely find the SMS much more agreeable. I've had zero difficulties using and teaching the SMS using a pair of pads with no attachment at all between the toes of my skates and the toes of my pads. From experimentation, I can also confirm that sliding toe-bridges are excellent for this purpose, probably second only to no toe-ties at all, since the sliding toe-bridge effectively becomes a longer, very sturdy point of contact between the goalie and the base of the post.

The second equipment issue concerns the goalie's ability to lean the strong-side shoulder and elbow and hip firmly against the post; this lean is why some people have started referring to the SMS as the 'leanback' or 'post lean', since the original Swedish acronym doesn't capture this important aspect. Before we can discuss the equipment that is actually on the goalie's body, we need to consider something more basic: the attachment of the post to the ice through the net peg. Some coaches and commentators have insisted that the SMS can only be used by pro goalies (and should therefore only be taught to pro goalies) because it supposedly requires a net secured with marsh pegs. This is not only nonsense but intellectually lazy nonsense, since the only conceivable refusing for refusing to teach the SMS to every goalie is that the instructor doesn't understand it well enough to teach it competently.

If your rink has marsh pegs, you can do this to your heart's content. Since few do, and most employ the decidedly inferior but ubiquitous semi-fixed 'nipple' anchors, there are some limits on how most goalies can use the SMS-- but they are easily tecahable and far from debilitating.

94d43e327d9303539cb1e2aac7032668_L.jpg

(A good comparison of regular steel pegs, the pro-issue Marsh Pegs, and a third alternative from the supplier of the image, GAgoalpegs.com, which apparently require you to drill the ice before placing the peg, but do not require special hardware installed in the pad itself, as Marsh Pegs do.)

Marsh pegs essentially allow goalies to exert as much force at the base of the post as they possibly can in full confidence that the net isn't going anywhere. For the SMS, this means you can do four things: 1) slide into the base of the post as hard as you like; 2) push off the base of the post as hard as you like (more later on); 3) use the base of the post as a fulcrum in transitioning to the VH and controlling your squareness; and 4) lean back into the post with your hip, elbow, and shoulder as hard as you like.

With regular steel 'nipple' anchors, there are things you can do to make them more secure. When you first go on the ice, scrape some snow into the existing hole or divot left by prior peg use, and mix in a little water; pat this down with a puck as you would any other damage to the ice. Go for a skate and let this harden as long as possible. When you install the peg, don't slam it into the ice, but gently tap several times to create a hole that just snugly holds the 'nipple'. (This is getting faintly perverse, but please bear with me.) Once the peg is in place, add a little more snow and water around the base of the flange, and then put the net gently on top. The less the net moves for the next several minutes, the more secure it will be. It'll never be as solid as with Marsh pegs, but it'll do just fine.

The important thing to note, however, is that it's easily possible to lean back as one does in transitioning into the SMS with no support whatsoever. The above reference image can easily be replicated with the goalie anywhere on the ice. This is because, at heart, the SMS is a wonderful combination of stability and potential power-- the very opposite, indeed of the VH, which is both far less stable (which is why many VH-happy coaches teach their goalies to cling onto the short-side post with the elbow or glove, restricting the goalie's movement and eliminating the glove from active play) and far less explosive.

At heart, the SMS 'lean' involves two underlying movements: placing the strong-side hip closer to the ankle (in effect, partially 'sitting down' on your ankle) and leaning the shoulder over the hip; once these are done, it's easy to get elbow to the post. It is possible that some goalies may be limited by underlying issues of core strength and flexibility. To test for this, pop on your pads, knee-pads, and gloves, grab your stick, and try the SMS in your living room (for instance) as a kind of dryland movement screen. If you can shape and balance your body more or less as above, you're physically capable; if you can quickly pop up to your feet from this position, even better; if you can leap out of this position into a lateral lunge, you're doing very well.

When trying the SMS as above, some goalies may notice that their pad-straps become a limiting factor, or simply a source of discomfort. There's a simple structural reason for this. When you lean back into the SMS, you are in effect pushing your thigh down along the lateral (outside) edge of your pad. Any straps that attach at or above your knee -- even if they are extremely loose -- will likely pose a problem in the SMS. As the thigh declines, the straps will 'bind' against the leg and resist its free movement, causing discomfort if not temporary disability.

If you discover that your upper straps (at or above the knee) are 'binding' against your leg in the SMS, try removing all straps above the knee, and angling all indispensable straps around the knee downward, so that they attach 'lower' (relative to the boot) on the lateral (outside) edge of the pad than they do on the medial (inside edge).

Illustrations of angled strapping:

15732246089_99c4fa202d_b.jpg

(In this example, the two knee-straps can clearly be seen attaching lower on the lateral (outside) edge of the pad (relative to an upright pad orientation, as opposed to the horizontal 'butterfly' orientation pictured; however, the elastic 'knee-lock' strap still runs straight across the middle of the knee-block, at right-angles to the pad face.)

IMG_2594_zps24cd3e43.jpg

(On this CCM E-Flex Pro pad with Carey Price-style strapping, we can clearly see that both the single leather knee-strap and the wider elastic Velcro knee-lock strap are meant to angle downward, well below the knee area.)

Angled strapping is now a common option, but surprisingly few goalies use it. If you're worried about being able to 'close your five-hole' in the butterfly, it's important to realise that the upper straps on your pads will never do this unless three conditions are met: 1) that the top of the pad bends/flexes incredibly easily, ie. at the gentlest touch; 2) that the straps are positioned at the very top of the pad, so as to exert meaningful leverage on the thigh-rise relative to the thigh-break at the top of the knee; and 3) that you keep this top strap so tight that the moment you sit down or lean back, the tops of your pads fold together. However, I would point out that a much easier and athletically sensible way to close the tops of your pads in the butterfly is to push your feet forward in the butterfly.

Even when the pads are eliminated as a source of potential problems, many fantastically flexible goalies with very strong cores (for example, one girl I'm coaching who has a considerable background in ballet and gymnastics) have trouble, at first, with the SMS on ice. This is almost invariably due to their range of movement being limited by their pants, and sometimes by the interaction of their pants and C/As. If your pants are even moderately snug in the thighs, groin, hips, or waist, and most particularly if you lace up the waist of your pants and belt them tightly, you may find that you can hold the SMS easily without your pants and almost not at all with the pants on; if you tuck in your C/A, it can be even worse.

If you are having trouble with the SMS on-ice, but not in off-ice 'movement screens' as described above, focus on adjusting your pants: try moving to suspenders, loosening the waist-belt(s) and laces as much as possible or removing them altogether, removing any extra padding one piece at a time, and untucking your C/A.

This brings me to the final point in my introduction, with respect to Jukka's reference image: controlling squareness, but also more than just squareness. The aspect of Jukka's reference image I like best is not the one to which the eye is naturally drawn. While the solid coverage along the post, at the centre of the frame, is very impressive, what catches my eye is the way that Jukka's demonstrator has his back-side skate (that is, away from the play) dug firmly into the ice at a steep angle, engaging the whole inside edge (generally speaking) with the ice.

This edge-control is the part of the SMS that goalies and coaches most often overlook, yet it is also the SMS' greatest strength. First, the backside skate allows the goalie to maintain a much more upright posture in the SMS, covering more of the aerial angle, and to quickly and powerfully respond to even a perfect high, short-side shot by pushing up as the blocker rises to meet the shot-- in effect, a partial or even sometimes a full recovery into the path of the shot. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, the backside skate allows the goalie to control his/her squareness to the puck or any other possible scoring threat, eg. a backdoor or centring pass.

The goalie can use the backside skate to pivot (with the toe of the other skate on the base of the post as the centre of the pivot) using nothing more than controlled pressure on the front and rear sections of the blade. Pressure on the back of the blade pivots the goalie toward the corner (ie. forwards), bringing the back-side foot away from the weak-side post; pressure on the front of the blade pivots the goalie towards the middle of the ice (ie. backwards) bringing the back-side foot closer to the weak-side post. (Quick and Price has both mastered this, but Ben Bishop seems unable to do it, possibly for reasons discussed below.)

Now, to be fair, this does require a degree of edge control and functional strength, but it's far less than you might think. Indeed, the limiting factor in most cases is not the goalie's body but the goalie's skates, or (somewhat less commonly) the interaction of the goalie's pads and skates. To put it plainly, if your skates don't allow for what is generally called 'high angle-of-attack (AOA)' movements -- that is, the ability to maintain full inside-edge contact with the ice, in full control -- you can't control pivot effectively in the SMS. This explains why Ben Bishop, despite being a very impressive athlete, has appears unable to perform this skating movement. Bishop is an enormous man with proportionally enormous feet; as a result, he's been forced to use the older Bauer Tuuk cowlings, which are much stronger structurally than the newer Bauer Vertexx cowlings, but do not allow for the high AOA that the Vertexx was designed to provide. (This is also apparently how Bishop got injured in the Finals, slipping out on his cowling.)

The medial (inside) edge of the cowlings is most often what prevents high-AOA skate blade engagement in the SMS; as the cowling comes into contact with the ice, the blade slips out, and the goalie loses leverage.

There are two factors that control maximum AOA for goalies: the medial (inside) profile of the cowling, and the height of the blades attached. If you can replace your cowlings (or the whole skate, if you must) with ones that allow for high-AOA, like the Bauer Vertexx, the newer Graf 7500 cowlings, or the CCM RBZ cowlings, that's half the battle. If you can replace your current steel with taller steel (eg. Step Steel), and especially in addition to finding a more streamlined cowling, that's the other half. If, like Bishop, you're stuck (for whatever reason) with older, less streamlined cowlings, you can always take an Exacto knife and some sandpaper to whittle and sculpt the medial (inside) edge of the cowling to allow for improved AOA. To figure out where to start cutting, place the skate on a level surface, and tip it medially (inward, as in a deep stance) until the edge of the cowling touches the surface; the point of contact will always be on the medial edge of the cowling alongside the big toe (more or less), Then just whittle away, and keep checking the point of contact as above to guide your progress. Every once in a while, push firmly on the edge of the cowling to see if it's getting too thin, but bear in mind that even if you cut this area away completely, modern goaltending techniques do not, as a rule, expose the inside of the foot to direct shots; that's a relic of stand-up era kick-saves, making modern cowlings somewhat redundant in their protective covering. Nonetheless, I would suggest that you do not remove the entire inside edge of the cowling, for the simple reason that the plastic of the cowlings stands up to continual abrasion on rough ice pretty well, but the upper and outsole of the skate may not, especially at the point at which the ousole, upper, and toe-cap converge: a common stress-point in skates.

it is also possible that the goalie's pads may, interacting with skates that are otherwise capable of high-AOA manoeuvres, effectively limit or prevent the SMS pivot and other high-AOA skating. This happens when the goalie's toe-ties and/or boot-straps and ankle-straps are extremely tight, which has been well-documented to prevent or destabilise many fundamental movements in modern goaltending, from butterfly transitions and pushes to recoveries. If you're having trouble with the SMS and other high-AOA skating movements despite having cowlings/skates that are clearly capable of such movements, check the toe-ties and straps around the boots of your pads: they may be too tight.

You may also want to check the profile of your skates; a profile that is too long (ie. flat), or that is simply wrong (as in the stock Bauer Vertexx steel that frequently presents a gap in contact at the middle of the blade), may prevent you from executing this pivot.

The final point I want to address concerns the status of the SMS as a passive or 'blocking' technique. For those unfamiliar, a 'blocking' position is one in which the goalie contorts himself into a solid wall of equipment, at the expense of any subsequent reaction; such positions are generally used when a shot will breach the human reaction threshold, ie. be inside the net before the goalie can possible react, even with elite anticipation: think a Stamkos or Ovechkin one-timer in the lower circle, or a full-stride Chara 108mph slapshot from about 32'. (I actually did the math on this at one point, but I'm quoting myself from memory.)

Jukka's reference pictures above clearly show that the SMS has some value in this respect, and demonstrate one accepted variation, with the blocker and open glove (note: open) respectively pressed down on top of the lateral (outside) edge of the pad to fill the gap between the hip and the post. Another variation (which works better when the puck is closer) involves the glove or blocker behind extended down to cover the boot of the pad; this slightly lessens the coverage of the aerial angle, but takes away a few holes at the hip and gets the gloves closer to covering loose pucks:

maxresdefault.jpg(Robb Stauber and one of his students demonstrate this variation, from what is nearly puck perspective: notice that the coverage along the hip is improved, and the glove much involved, but even from this range (roughly 6' out) there is a shot available over the short-side shoulder that could only be covered by the goalie's head!)

Another less useful variation jams the glove into a partially or even fully closed position on top of the pad, as seen below; I have no idea why anyone would think this is a good idea, but it seems to be taught fairly widely, and even used, as below, in still promotional photographs:

green_sean.jpg

(From 1996 goalie Sean Green's 'profiler scouting report' on thegoalieguild.com, Notice, in addition to the collapsed glove, facing away from the implied puck perspective, Green also has the boot of his pad inside the post, behind the goal-line; this is not only sub-optimal from a coverage perspective, since it places the goalie's body about 6 inches further back toward the goal-line and removes the same amount of pad in coverage along the ice through the crease, it also means that the goalie much more limited leverage in pushing forward or diagonally, even if we assume his skate is resting (out of view) on a fairly rigid and well-attached pro-style padded net-skirt. This is not, in short, a very good illustration of the SMS; it is merely a clear illustration of this apparently inexplicable 'closed glove' variation.)

On the other hand, if the SMS is indeed a pure blocking position, the only thing we should care about is how much of the available shooting angle can be filled. The prejudice of the SMS is in fact so extreme that some otherwise extremely sensible people have evaluated it in very strange terms. Jeff Lerg, the director of FuturePro USA, a student of the highly respected Steve McKichan, and a real scholar of the game in his own right, clearly believes that the SMS is only valuable as a static or passive blocking position. You can read his January 2015 article here, but his photos tell pretty much the whole story, labelled 'Correct' and 'Incorrect' according to how Lerg thinks the SMS should be used: only as a blocking technique, and only at close range. Now, if I were feeling ungenerous, I might suggest that in using loaded, binary terms like 'correct' and 'incorrect' in evaluating complex athletic techniques, Lerg has already devalued his own analysis. I will not do this, but instead suggest that his use of a binary standard of 'correctness' illustrates how limited he has made his approach to the SMS technique.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-02-at-3.37.16-PM-223photo-1.jpeg

(Photos labelled as 'incorrect' uses of the SMS by Jeff Lerg.)

The reality is that even in the photos Lerg labels 'incorrect' because of the distance of the puck, the goaltender could easily have made a save on any shot by maintaining active gloves. Ask yourself: in both photos, can the goalie's gloves reach up to catch/block a shot into the available net?-- yes, of course. Indeed, when you look closely at the second photo above, you can really see that an active, forward glove position, with the hand pushed out toward the puck's POV, into the available shooting angle, with the palm and pocket square to the puck, would have covered a *lot* more net than the passive, blocking 'wall' as illustrated.

Now look back to the prior photos of the SMS as a blocking position, and imagine what they'd look like if the goalie held his glove out toward the puck, with the palm and pocket square to the puck (pocket up), and the cuff of his glove covering the 'gap' above the pad and behind the hip. (I don't have a photo, but I'll try to grab one.) As the puck gets tighter to the net, the goalie can draw the glove back until the cuff is actually resting on the vertical roll of the pad, completely closing off the gap.

The problems associated with transitioning to the SMS when the puck is at moderate distance generally appear only when the goalie 'deactivates' his/her hands, cramming them into a passing, blocking position when there is no reason to do so; when the hands are kept active, the same shots are easily handled.

The trouble, of course, is that his kind of very aggressive glove position requires two things: enough flexibility and strength in the forearm to significantly extended the wrist while pronated (ie. to 'open the palm' to face the puck), and a glove that doesn't restrict this extension of the wrist. If you can easily 'aim' your ungloved palm at floor-level objects with little difficulty, but experience resistance and/or discomfort when doing the same things when wearing the glove, you know it's the glove and not your arm.

If you have trouble opening your glove-palm (or blocker-face) to the puck, the problem is almost always the placement and/or tension (ie. 'tightness') of straps at or below the wrist.

What I recommend -- not on for this, but for other reasons -- is to try wearing your gloves off the ice with every single strap not only loosened but fully undone or actually removed from the glove. See how the glove works when totally unstrapped. Can you 'open' the primary surface to face objects in front of you more easily? Can you open and close the glove more easily? Is the blocker less restrictive to your wrist in shooting and stick-handling, or simply in rolling the wrist to direct pucks to the (imaginary) corner? Once you have a good feel for how the glove behaves with no straps, start doing them up one at a time, carefully dialling up the tension, to see what they actually do. It seems painfully obvious, but most goalies never check their straps in any kind of methodical manner; they just stick their hands in, pull the straps until they feel 'snug' or 'good', and then keep doing that forever, like a ritual.

The reality is that the primary job of your glove is to work properly, with full range of motion; any straps that get in the way of that should be removed or neutralised. Any remaining straps are only useful for two secondary concerns: adding leverage to the opening and closing of the glove, and keeping your hand in the glove. Neither of these, in my experience, are accomplished by straps below the wrist (that is, closer to the elbow), which are also almost universally responsible for disabling the goalie's ability to effective extend his/her wrist.

Thoughts? Comments? Teal deer?

EDIT: one additional point, by way of a coda.

It may be observed in several of the above pictures that the goalie's frontside ('down') pad is tilted forward; in several examples, and most notably in Jukka Ropponen's reference images and Robb Stauber's demonstration, this forward tilt has opened up considerable gaps at the ankle or 'boot-break' of the pad (hidden by the goalie's glove in the Stauber photo) and at the top of the thigh. These gaps can easily be replicated on any modern pad built around sheets of foam, and especially if the pad is very rigid and has a pronounced taper in the boot, as Brian's pads (for example) often do, as in the 78-degree taper on the SubZero line. As the pad tips onto the tapered toe, the thigh-rise comes off the ice proportionally; it's simple trigonometry.

large_jambieres-03.jpg

(Passau Hockey's excellent illustration of various roundings of the boot; for reference, the Warrior Ritual's rounded boot (via the Smith SP6000) is much closer to square (#1) than Passau's example #2. For an angular taper, as on Brian's pads, just imagine a straight line from any point on the toe (top) to the medial (inside) edge of the ankle-break, where the curved lines converge above.)

This forward tilt is commonly but very misleadingly called 'under-rotation' in the goalie community. The term 'under-rotation' is based upon a spatial confusion that is, in my view, equivalent to insisting that the sun orbits the earth. The sun appears to orbit the earth, from a perspective on the earth, but this does not make the geocentric model of the solar system correct. Similarly, modern goalie pads do not rotate around the leg when the goalie moves from stance to butterfly. The pads stay facing straight ahead the entire time; the goaltender's knees, shins, and feet rotate behind the pad. (This same confusion applies equally to the term 'over-rotation', which refers to a pad tipped backwards.)

However, even a pad with an absolutely square boot (see Passua example 1 above) can be tilted forward by four things: 1) excessive pressure on the toe of the pad, usually generated by toe-ties or other attachments that are too tight; 2) pants with thighs that are too wide, jamming against the back of the pad (square-thigh pants were notorious for this, but have thankfully been outlawed); 3) the goaltender's thigh and knee twisting or 'binding' against straps at or above the knee area, especially in 'straight' (non-angled' strap configurations; and 4) the goaltender leaning against the rear lateral (outside) edge of the pad, as can happen in the SMS, and most particularly when the goalie tries to compose his/her body into a blocking position.

If you find your pads tilting forward as in the above example, check your toe-ties, the thighs of your pants, your upper straps, and your body position.

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Thanks. I’m a goalie, and this was actually pretty fantastic as a piece. Could have been taken out of a legit publication like InGoalMag, and I wouldn’t have blinked. I gotta commend you.

What’s interesting is that I was chatting with my brother, who played Junior A in canada, and is a pretty short guy (5’7”), and it’s been a while since he kept track of the latest goalie techniques, and when I talked to him about this article, and the SMS/TMS position in general, what he said surprised me a bit.

He essentially said “this technique as they use it is really only useful if you’re big. Guys like us, we couldn’t be lazy like that and drop like that, and lay and pray.” He was much more of a user of the VH position in his day, and still believes in it, especially if you’re a shorter guy (I’ll explain this more in a bit. I pushed him a bit on the size thing, and he explained to me how he used it, and what came out was he had a much more hybridized approach to the VH than is traditionally taught.)

We got to chatting about it, and i slapped on my pads and we took a few pictures around a doorway to analyze for ourselves this position further. I’ll post my findings tonight when I can organize the pictures.

Great post.

Edited by minnsy

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The first thing I'd like to ask you about is the vertical coverage question. Is this viable for a short goalie, at anything greater than short distance?

Here's a pic for reference, of a guy like me, who's pretty short.

censored%20vh_zpstgcmljsb.jpg

The black tape on the wall is the 4' mark, i.e. height of net.

There's a lot of exposed air up there. Could you reiterate to me how a small guy could cut down on that?

Edited by minnsy
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LG, your insight on the world of goaltending is quite helpful, especially to novices like myself. Would you do a breakdown like this weekly? The new techniques would help many of us on the board, as I'm sure that most of us do not have access to goalie coaches.

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Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Bender. I can certainly do more of this sort of piece, if it's useful and entertaining, but I don't think I can commit to anything like that kind of regularity. (In academia, a year or two between publications in the same peer-reviewed journal is considered very good form, so I admit my standards are a little bizarre by those of ordinary journalism.)

Minnsy, that's a really good off-ice reference shot: nicely conceived, especially in using the doorway as the short-side post. (And I'm glad to see James is still making pads: nice Vipers!)

The curious thing about the SMS is that even enormous pro goalies can be sniped; as Lerg points out in the article linked above, Ben Bishop's been picked high-short-side a few times, and Corey Crawford's last GA (against Nashville) before Scott Darling took over and went on a tear was exactly that kind of shot. The SMS is, in that sense, something of a leveller; it certainly scales well for larger goalies, as just about every other technique does, but only if they use it effectively. The best and heaviest SMS user in the world continues to be Quick, and he's generously listed at 6'1"; I think 5'11" would be more accurate for him. What makes Quick so effective isn't sheer size, but how and when he employs the SMS as a tactical decision, and how he handles shots and plays that are intended to beat it-- and, to be frank, the kinds of shots that the Kings' D is designed to eliminate; they'll let people shoot from outside the dots on him all year long, or make all the plays they want tight to the net, but they ferociously attack anyone in between. And so to your picture...

Two really quick points to begin: in order to nail that shot, I'd need you to bring your body forward so that the toe of the pad was resting on the front of the door-frame (placing the entire pad in the room), though we can do that imaginatively based on your current photo; if we then mentally paint in your C/A (7" wide arms) and pants, the SMS starts to fill in.

Once you've mentally added the C/A (probably 3"-4" on top of the shoulders), brought yourself further int the room and thus closer to the 'puck' (ie. the lens) and slightly lowered the perspective of the camera -- which you've got very close to puck POV, but not *quite* there -- you start to eat away at that high short-side opening. If you then lean your head over onto your shoulder, another good chunk disappears. If you then add just a tiny bit more leverage down your your backside foot, you can push everything another inch or so higher-- and higher again if you react to the shot by pushing up further. (Admittedly, that's a reaction that needs to be trained.)

This approach, however, still treats the SMS as a pure blocking position. Goalies who were trained in the VH, and who think of the SMS as the 'RVH', that is, as an alternative but basically equivalent blocking technique, tend to think as your brother does; Lerg, for example, who is a really bright guy, and keeps up with current techniques as part of his vocation. I'd suggest something a little different.

If you turn your chest to square up to the lens (puck), lean forward slightly, and extend your hands/gloves toward the lens, as I discussed in the final section, how much of the available shooting angle would they eliminate? Would you be able to 'cut the beam' of the hypotenuse from the puck to the underside of the crossbar, while maintaining decent coverage along your body? If your gloves were 'active', out towards the puck, and the shooter tried to put the puck around them, would you be able to make that much smaller adjustment? Those are, in my view, the keys to the SMS. When goalies lock their hands into blocking positions when the puck is at distance, or generally when it can 'see' too much of the net, elite shooters (or even just competent shooters playing below their level, with plenty of time and space) eat them alive. When goalies keep their hands in the foveal (forward/central) visual field, ready to react, and use them to actively 'cut down the angle' to the puck's perspective, the SMS becomes, in essence, an extreme version of a shifted stance, which is exactly how Quick uses it, rather than a blocking position like the VH.

There were, indeed, several ill-conceived attempts to bring the VH into line, conceptually, with the shifted stance. Perhaps the most notable was Zach Sikich's ProHybrid "system," in which he claimed there were "set-ups" essential to goaltending: the stance, the butterfly, and what he called "the hybrid," which was simply the VH as a 'stance' without respect to the post. There was a time when many goalies, including Fleury and Price, tried to use the VH as a shifted stance against angled or even straight-on breakaways; it didn't go well for them. The reason is that the VH is, at heart, a true blocking position; it sacrifices athleticism for body-art, specifically the construction of walls. In order to move laterally out of the VH, you have to first internally rotate the hip, bring the knee back to roughly where it would be in the athletic stance; when you internally rotate the hip in the VH, you pull the pad off the post. Pierre Groulx attempted to solve this with the 'dead-arm OKD', a variation on the VH that InGoal fell upon rapturously, but which Price never used often, and abandoned altogether shortly after he began to experiment with the SMS. The 'dead-arm' acknowledged that the VH was locking goalies' hips and delaying any movement out of the VH, and attempted to allow the goalie to get a little internal rotation by using the arm, extended down the lateral (outside) surface of the pad, to cover the gap along the post. But the essential problem remains that, contrary to what Sikich insists, the VH is not a strong athletic position. The only force you can exert without internally rotating your hip is straight up -- a variation on the pistol-squat. In fact, the relative aerial coverage of the VH isn't actually that great, in practice, because it places the chest so far back behind the pad.

So, to recap, if you can add the following to your next 'door SMS' shot, we'll get a better idea:

1) move your body forward into the room, so the toe of the pad is resting on the front of the doorframe;

2) push yourself up a little taller, using your backside foot;

3) square your chest up to the to lens (puck), and lean forward slightly so your shoulders start to cut off the aerial angle (hypotenuse);

4) similarly, extend your head a little forward into the shooting angle, chin tilted down (of course);

5) reach out toward the puck with your hands/gloves, keeping the palm and blocker-face square to the lens; and

6) a late addition: maybe throw a puck on the floor in front of the lens, for reference; it may help you to adjust the lens position to get closer to puck perspective.

Naturally, as the puck moves into areas and ranges where blocking saves are more appropriate, you can shift the SMS more and more into 'blocking mode', but the key is to think of it less as an alternative VH than as a shifted butterfly that adapts continually to low-angle plays. For instance, one of the things you'll see Quick do quite often in the SMS is to lower his chest and chin down very close to the ice, using the SMS to look under traffic (through legs and sticks) when the puck is on the boards, from about the hashmarks down. If you think of the SMS as a pure blocking position, this is completely insane: Quick is opening up the entire top half of the net to a shot from distance. The point, of course, is that he isn't using it as a blocking position; the moment he sees someone get the puck free into a shooting position, the chest comes up, and he's ready to reach up or pop up into any shot. Even a 4'7" goalie can reach up to touch the crossbar from the butterfly or SMS.

Now, to be fair, I'm really not suggesting the VH is totally deprecated. If you watch Quick, he still sometimes uses a remarkable contortion on the glove-side post that is, in essence, a VH with an internally rotated hip (allowing explosive movement off the post), a paddle-down wrap, all the way around his body to the glove-side post, and a very aggressive glove position with smothers the entire short-side angle. He's admittedly used this less since he got comfortable with the SMS as a symmetrical tactic, later in the 2012 season, rather than an asymmetrical alternative to his 'Gumby VH-wrap' on the glove-side post.

I would add, though, that another area of considerable weakness for the VH, the goalie's ability to grab or smother pucks close to the post, feet, and knees, is one of the greatest strengths of the SMS, where pucks can easily be grabbed with either hand.

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Actually, Bender, I'll just ask this:

What would you (and others) like to have me address in the forum? Even if I can't commit to one a week, I can certainly take requests. I'm by no means an authority on this stuff -- my doctoral work is definitely not in anything useful like physiology or sports science, which is where I rely on people like Maria Mountain, Mike Boyle, Dave Marcoux, and Steve McKichan -- but I'm happy to give you the best advice I can, and I can promise that it will be excessively detailed.

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Well, speaking solely for mysel of course, I'd like to see things in different techniques. Everything I've learned has been from game/practice experience. I've had zero coaching, so I'm afraid I have nothing to fall back on, other than doing whatever I can to keep the puck out of the net. Which, admittedly, doesn't work too well just yet.

Showing the pros and cons of different techniques and positions, as well as the correct time to use them would be immensely helpful. I actually was practicing the VH and SMS this morning at a clinic, something I would have never known to do without this thread.

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I guess the more direct question would be this:

Would you prefer to see me deal with techniques that aren't widely discussed, like the SMS or the Hasek Roll (which, by the way, works really well out of the SMS), or would be it more helpful to deal with more basic movements like the shuffle and the simple butterfly (as a save movement) that are commonly used but not generally well described in the goaltending literature?

In the case of the shuffle, for instance, it is generally described as a push with the backside foot against a static frontside foot, but this isn't actually correct.

Similarly, I could deal with the rather odd idea that goalies have 'a stance', which is an idea (or more precisely an archetypal image) born out of the needs of instructors to simplify their curricula, rather than an understanding of the way goaltenders play the game. The reality is that 'the goalie stance' is a blanket term that covers a huge range of body comportment, and taking a snapshot at any given moment can be incredibly misleading.

It's really a question of what you (and others) might like to talk about. The discussion is more valuable than anything I'd write, in the same way that the frequency of the reading and citation of an article is the best indication of its importance to the discipline.

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Oh, and I just added a pair of images to clarify what I meant by angled strapping.

And a coda, discussing the undesirable forward tilt of the pads as evidenced in several of the photos. I'd say that's nearly comprehensive, now.

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Law, glad to have you back, was wondering when you were going to comment here.

You are the best most comprehensive poster on ANY board I read on a regular basis!

I'm not even a goalie but love your posts (articles) thanks for taking your time to do it.

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Cheers man; always nice to hear.

(Hint: this is also, in effect, a guide shooters can use to defeat the SMS. WaitwhostherewhyareyouhittingmewiththenewVaughnpadsfkjhwl34...)

Redacted by the Legitimate Goaltenders' Club. Have a nice day.

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This is a ridiculously in depth and well written piece of advice. But I disagree with a few points. I still the the VH is useful if you do it correctly and it shouldn't be completely eliminated, and the technique described here shouldn't always be your first instinctive move. I constantly see beer league goalies use this and the VH and get scored on, in fact when I am playing out and see goalies do this or the VH it puts a smile on my face.

Most of the time high short side is open but I find VH users cover that than better than RVH, then if in RVH passes out front get them completely burned and stuck. Everyone who is pro RVH says it allows a more athletic goalie cover the front of the net on passes. Yet countless times this year NHL goalies go into the RVH and get stuck when a pass is made into the slot. I feel in the VH I can get a much more explosive push towards the middle (not to mention the leg is already up and in the ready to push off position).

Another thing that beer league goalies have to remember is that while these moves are easy to learn they still take time and practice to actually master. A lot of the small details that make the save selection useful can be completely missed without the proper practice time, and lets be real here most beer league goalies get to practice during shinny sessions and that is it. Too many people will remember the save selection and use it and get burned. I've had to tell multiple goalies on my team to stop using the RVH or move their glove positions because it is leaving them too open.

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I skated this morning at a stick and puck, and I'm starting to incline a little bit against the idea of SMS/TMS against anything except in tight situations as a static block. I'll need to think more about your response though, and take a few more pics as you suggest, and see what things look like.

That being said, you say that "If you then lean your head over onto your shoulder, another good chunk disappears". It seems as though your purposely using the head as a block instrument. I'm not sure this is what I want to do, or teach other goaltenders to do. Sounds...reckless and dangerous. The number of goalies i grew up with who got concussions from shots is > 0.

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Actually, come to think of it...why not use the head as a blocker? :rolleyes: It's dangerous to some extent, but...hey, that's why we have expensive head gear, right?

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JesL-P.gif

Personally, my favorite use of TMS/VH is in the way lundqvist uses it. He does the Toe on post thing you mention as well, which it always helps to have some validation of your point by one of the greatest goalies alive today.

That being said, one topic I'd like discussed is the possibility of using all three post techniques: TMS, VH, and post lean. Seems like we could together come to some kind of system.


Since you put the call out for suggestions, here are a few ideas I'd like to throw in for you to discuss, if you feel so inclined:
1) Strengths/Weaknesses of glove positioning.
2) Inside-out goaltending vs. Outside-in, and how it affects skating/equipment
3) Can short goalies be effective in the modern style of goaltending? How can we adapt modern goaltending style to fit those who are physically limited vertically?
This is actually pretty exciting.
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That being said, you say that "If you then lean your head over onto your shoulder, another good chunk disappears". It seems as though your purposely using the head as a block instrument. I'm not sure this is what I want to do, or teach other goaltenders to do. Sounds...reckless and dangerous. The number of goalies i grew up with who got concussions from shots is > 0.

Not to cherry pick a single point, but it does bear addressing.

One of the longest and largest concussion studies in history (on which two more senior friends of mine were the among principal investigators) concluded that hockey goalies were less likely to get concussions than tennis players. You have a greater risk of concussion while riding a bike than you do on the ice. The same cannot be said for other players, reinforcing my belief that goalies are smarter-- or at least, more risk-averse.

Even on the most sensitive concussion protocol, what we would call a 'massive' shot to the head doesn't even register through a modern mask; it's sub-clinical, meaning that it doesn't meet the threshold for a concussion, and it's not even close.

Now, the next direction of research is into the effects of repeated sub-clinical impacts, especially with repetition in a relatively short time-frame; a smaller scale version of what we already know about the compound effects of multiple concussions. There is good anecdotal evidence to suggest that repeated sub-clinical impacts do accumulate, but we don't understand clearly how they do.

Is it possible to get a concussion wearing a modern composite mask? Sure. If the fit isn't great (gaps between skin and foam, or, conversely, too much pressure caused by a tight fit), or the padding is dead, or the mask is cracked, it can happen. It can also happen if you get caught from the side, which is yet another reason that goalies should never flinch or look off a puck-carrier who's in shooting position. That said, you are far more likely to get a concussion from getting run over by a forechecker, or falling down in the parking lot on the way into the rink, than you are from a puck impact.

I'd also point (only a little facetiously) to the number of superb goalies, including your example, who deliberately head-butt pucks.

---

I'm going to try to find time to speak to your points and Hills'; both of you present some really good counter-points and lines of inquiry.

The one thing I would stress, for the moment, is that I would try to get away, as much as possible, from thinking about the SMS as a blocking position. It certainly has the versatility to work as a blocking position, and I think, overall, it's a more useful blocking position than the VH; like all blocking positions, it is of course limited by the available shooting angle, and especially the available aerial angle, and the goalie's ability to fill that space (as you both rightly observe). That said, I'm much more interested in the SMS as a position which provides some blocking coverage but, more interestingly, a far greater potential for reaction and movement.

As a little test, if you've got some icetime coming up, go into the SMS with active gloves (ie. not jammed down into a blocking position, but freely up and out) and have a friend with a decent shot try to snipe you from the half-wall, at the hash: one of Jeff Lerg's example of 'incorrect technique'. Then try moving him in a bit. My guess is that until he gets a lot closer and more central, his shooting percentage will be way under 5%, and quite possibly 0.

I'd also be very interested to get some on-ice, puck-perspective shots (or even more doorway shots) of the VH and SMS from identical camera positions inside blocking range, so we can directly compare their coverage.

I love your suggestions for future topics. If you (or Hills, who clearly knows his stuff, or anyone else!) want to get those started, please do, and I'll contribute when I can.

The third question, regarding size, is particularly interesting in the wake of the draft. I'll give you a bit of a teaser as to where I'd go with an answer... Henrik Lundqvist has really short shins.

(I've also got to start using GIFs; that's quite handy, and exrx-esque.

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You should see if you can grab Wilcox on this one. I recall this (shorter shin) to be something that Belfour was hugely obsessed about when "we" courted him back in '03...

That is absolutely fascinating; I had no idea. I know Eddie was fond of a little gear obsession, now and then, but I didn't realise that was part of it.

Sadly, I'm not sure I do have any way to get in touch with Wilcox, at present. I remember Brent Woods saying he had left Vaughn in late 2013, and apart from selling a few pairs of leftover prototype pads and gloves in the summer of 2014 (and telling one GSBB member he was considering a move to Warrior, which seems incredibly unlikely given his history with Pete Smith), I can't find any trace of him. (Not that I'm in any position to complain about that.)

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In the original post, the technique of smoothing the area for the nipple, then gently putting in the peg, and then freezing the peg lets us push off against the post.

However, in the 2nd period or 1st overtime, the other team's net may not have been set up this way, and then we could be ineffective getting across. Or the net may come off its moorings slightly.

Also, could you comment on this Overlap Technique article, and how it might mesh with the SMS / Reverse VH technique? The article seems to focus more on how the Overlap Technique works with VH.

http://ingoalmag.com/video/overlap-technique-option-low-poor-angle-threats/

And, I'm going to try the angled strapping.

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I think I'll do the replies in reverse chronological order, and break them up over a few posts.

KT, you make a good point about being aware of end-changes, but the ice-repair procedure described isn't strictly necessary to use the SMS; it just helps a little. You can also make a point of getting to the other end as fast as possible between periods and trying to do the same repair -- or, if your league switches ends between warmp and the first period, do the first net in warmup and the second during the pre-first-period changevover -- but the best policy here is education. If goalies (and refs) peg their nets a little better, everyone wins.

To slide off the post in the SMS isn't pure push against the post; it's more like a butterfly shuffle (lateral movement with blades disengaged) that can be (but should not always be) boosted by a push off the base of the post, and a little by core movement. Even a full Quick-style recovery into a T-push from the SMS doesn't involve a huge push off the post, if you watch him frame-by-frame; it's more of a lateral lunge with a late-phase push off the post.

To illustrate this, try playing around with the SMS away from the posts. You'll find that you can perform many of the related movements, and hold your balance in the SMS, without the post.

On the subject of the Overlap, I should say first that I really admire Kory Cooper's work (he was a great presence at the OHL conference last summer, which was the first time they had ever done a goalie-specific stream) and Tomas Hertz is a wonderful contributor because of his training in physiology an human mechanics-- but I fear this is one case where enthusiasm may have ultimately lead them astray.

First, InGoal has actually done a follow-up to that original article (not with the original authors) that discusses the SMS (which the authors bizarrely insist on call 'reverse post integration') at greater length in overlap situations. This article, however, contains an enormous conceptual flaw, in that the entire discussion of the SMS-in-overlap is contextualised as a way for one of the authors' students, who complained of "a lot of discomfort at his hip and knee-area," to sort of simulate the SMS. Rather than attempting to remedy the underlying flexibility/mobility issue, they simply took the goalie's flexibility as a given constant ("this particular goaltender has a certain amount of flexibility and range of motion") and tried to bend technique to suit a goalie who needed help; this is complete nonsense, as Tomas Hertz would have told them. Flexibility is trainable at any age, and the stresses on the body involved in the SMS are among the lower range you'll find in goaltending; significantly lower, for example, than in a garden-variety butterfly recovery into a T-push. These secondary authors (not Cooper or Hertz) go on to say something really alarming:


Where some goalies will go to special off-ice training or seek measures to change their body, it’s not something that everyone has the means to do.

This is dangerously stupid thinking. If you can afford goalie equipment, you can afford a foam roller. If you can give up the time for hockey, including transit, you can do 15 minutes of stretching a day. Taking the body as a constant in athletics is a fatal combination of lazy and insane.

(Cooper and Hertz also say pretty clearly that the overlap, as a principle, "does not really compliment [sic] reverse VH.")

To return to Cooper and Dr. Hertz, who are on much more solid ground, I agree wholly with their central premise that so-called 'excess coverage' (be it 'double-coverage' in the goalie's body position, or what they call overlap in relation to the goal) is not necessarily a bad thing. Situationally, there are plenty of times that this happens quite naturally, some of which they discuss: sliding to stop a low-angle one-timer, sliding past the post (especially in a 'Euro-Y' prone spread position) against a breakaway deke, and so on.

C & H are also right on when they say that in low-angle situations in the stance, especially a shot-ready stance, overlap is unavoidable if the goalie is centred in the shooting angle; the same is true in the butterfly.

They are also quite correct to note that in overlap situations, by definition, the goalie (assuming centrality in the shooting angle) and in particular the goalie's torso is closer to the puck on the shooter's stick than in the VH or SMS.

They are absolutely correct to say that an overlap position on the post is quite secure against strong-side (ie. short-side) jam plays, since the goalie's pad and the goalie cannot be pushed into the net. However, the same is true of a proper SMS, in which the goalie's backside skate (planted powerfully into the ice on the inside edge) can easily exert more leverage against the post than a player; the goalie is always going to be lower, and thus harder to move. I'm a reasonably large guy, and I can't move a well-trained 10 year-old off the post in the SMS if he/she gets proper leverage through the backside skate. In terms of jam resistance, the overlap offers zero advantage over the SMS, and the SMS has the added advantage of active athletic resistance instead of passive resistance (that is, using the net, rather than your legs).

The real problem with all versions of the overlap is secondary-- but very, very important. Surprisingly, neither article mentions it. The problem is what happens away from the strong-side (front-side), on weak-side passes, rebounds, wraps, etc.

First, notice that in every image in both articles that shows an overlap tight to the post, the goalie's heel is effectively hooked around the base of the post. In order to move laterally, the goalie has to first free himself from this position. If the goalie fails to unhook his heels, and pushes explosively, he's going to rip his groin in half. In fact, the number of times Ben Bishop did exactly this -- attaching a hooked heel on the post -- in the playoffs makes me suspect he had already riddled his groin with micro-tears before it finally gave out on a seemingly innocuous play. (NB: not an MD, have not examined Bishop, etc., etc.)

Second, it's a simple fact of geometry that the further your weak-side (or back-side, relative to the goalie's body) foot is from the weak-side post, the further you have to go to cover a weak-side play, but it a pass, rebound, etc. Thus, the more you overlap, and the more you square up to a low-angle threat -- and squaring to the low-angle threat is an implicit part of the overlap as described by C & H -- the more you 'overcommit' to the low-angle, strong-side threat and open put the weak side.

The great thing about the SMS (as the authors acknowledge in referencing Mike Valley's analysis) is that it allows you to effectively wipe out the short (strong) side shooting angle while giving yourself excellent coverage of and mobility to the weak-side. Any overlap in your position takes away from this significantly.

In short, overlap is less a useful technique than something that just happens in some low-angle attacks. If the primary threat on goal is a direct shot (low-angle one-timer, etc.) ending up in overlap is not only good but quite beneficial. If the primary threat is not a direct shot, overlap is tactically unwise.

As a final point, smart shooters (and I'm thinking of elite examples primarily, but I've seen it in Atom AAA) have begun to deliberately exploit goalies who find themselves in overlap situations as soon as the puck goes below the goal-line-- and to deliberately create overlap situations to exploit. They do this, quote simply, by shooting (as in the 'Detroit-rebound') or simply skating the puck around the net on the goalie's strong side; they will then look to either A) get the puck quickly to the weak-side, hoping the goalie hooks his heel on the post, or B) throw the puck back on the short (strong) side in hopes of catching the goalie blind. The Red Wings do this all the time (they really hurt Fleury in the Finals repeatedly with it), and Patrick Kane is always looking for it.

Cooper and Hertz seem to acknowledge this by admitting that the "reverse VH [sMS] may be be more effective with the play unfolding below the goal line," but again, this would apparently limit the SMS to plays originating below the goal-line, implying that the overlap (in whatever mode) poses no problem on plays that go wide on the strong side. The second article doesn't even consider it.

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This is a ridiculously in depth and well written piece of advice. But I disagree with a few points. I still the the VH is useful if you do it correctly and it shouldn't be completely eliminated, and the technique described here shouldn't always be your first instinctive move. I constantly see beer league goalies use this and the VH and get scored on, in fact when I am playing out and see goalies do this or the VH it puts a smile on my face.

Most of the time high short side is open but I find VH users cover that than better than RVH, then if in RVH passes out front get them completely burned and stuck. Everyone who is pro RVH says it allows a more athletic goalie cover the front of the net on passes. Yet countless times this year NHL goalies go into the RVH and get stuck when a pass is made into the slot. I feel in the VH I can get a much more explosive push towards the middle (not to mention the leg is already up and in the ready to push off position).

Another thing that beer league goalies have to remember is that while these moves are easy to learn they still take time and practice to actually master. A lot of the small details that make the save selection useful can be completely missed without the proper practice time, and lets be real here most beer league goalies get to practice during shinny sessions and that is it. Too many people will remember the save selection and use it and get burned. I've had to tell multiple goalies on my team to stop using the RVH or move their glove positions because it is leaving them too open.

First off, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the compliment and for the informed disagreement. Consensus is dull.

I absolutely agree that the SMS, like the VH, can be overused and misused. In particular, the SMS is especially vulnerable to lazy misuse: goalies who slump down as early as they can against the base of the post as if it's a rest position, let their hands drop, and basically stop tracking the play. On the contrary, the SMS requires greater focus on the play and attention to body position than a upright low-angle stance or the VH. You're right to point out that I assumed that level of focus in my original post.

I'd also certainly acknowledge that physical and mental fatigue make the SMS potentially riskier as a result. Of course, you can let in soft, low-angle goals in an upright stance too.

We're also totally in agreement with your final, related point about the learning curve of the SMS: it's easy to start learning it, and to start using it in limited situations (for example, on wraparounds, where it's basically flawless and far better than anything else), but that mastering it to the extent of someone like Quick or Price takes an enormous amount of work. You're right to suggest caution, but I'd also suggest a little courage to experiment and try things out in free skates, pick-up, and so on, while gradually building it into 'real' gameplay.

As to high short-side, I'm not so sure the VH really does give better aerial coverage than the SMS, even though this is a widely held belief. The only way we could really prove it is with some puck-perspective photography, and since I tell everyone to take the summer off, I'm unfortunately off too. (I've deliberately never run a summer camp, partly because I don't have time, but also because the kids would be better off playing tennis or chasing cats.) That said, think about where the chest is relative to the vertical pad in the VH. Even if the goalie really pushes his shoulders over the top of the pad, his chest is still behind the pad, which is against or *just* outside the post. If the goalie keeps his chest flush with the post in a blocking SMS, there's no advantage, but if the goalie extends his shoulders and chest forward, beyond the post, and does so with an active, forward-positioned glove, the SMS starts to eat into that aerial angle quite a lot.

I also want to stress, again, that I'm thinking of the SMS less as a pure blocking position than a reactive stance which can turn into a blocking position relatively seamlessly. When the shooter's outside blocking range (ie. outside the reaction threshold), the SMS lets you keep the gloves up, out, and engaged; you can simply catch or block/deflect a high short-side shot, and much more easily than in the VH, especially on the blocker side but also on the glove side. However, as the play approaches and the aerial angle shrinks, the goalie can lower his/her hands into a blocking SMS gradually.

Your third point, about goalies, even elite NHL goalies, getting 'stuck' on the post in the SMS is a very interesting one. I've seen that happen too, and I think I know why. I'll come back to it in a minute.

I want to really address what I though was the key sentence in your post, and which aptly sums up a lot of the preference for the VH over the SMS:

I feel in the VH I can get a much more explosive push towards the middle (not to mention the leg is already up and in the ready to push off position).

First, I think it's worth considering that goalies who are really comfortable with the VH generally "feel" like the SMS doesn't work. This is one sense in which calling the SMS 'the reverse-VH' really is apt, because it flips a lot of the conventional wisdom about the VH on its head by disengaging the opposite blade from the ice, as you point out.

The conventional wisdom about mobility in the VH is that because the skate-blade of the pad on the post is engaged, when the play shifts to the weak side, the backside skate is ready to push. As I mentioned (albeit briefly) in the original post, this 'truism' isn't entirely true, and is in fact rather misleading.

In the orthodox VH, with the pad on the post truly vertical, the goaltender has, in fact, the same lateral mobility as a goaltender in a 1950s-style knee-together stance. The argument for this seemingly inflammatory claim is pretty straightforward. When the play shifts to the weak-side (or when the goalie anticipates a weak-side play) and the leg on the post becomes the backside leg relative to the play, the backside's skates inside edge is minimally engaged: it's sitting straight up and down, exactly as in a 1980s-and-earlier stand-up save.

Here's Jim Craig during the 1980 Miracle, holding a knees-together stand-up save on a low-angle shot, precisely where you'd suggest the VH and I'd suggest the SMS:

jimcraig_zpsb83c8298.jpg

If you dropped Craig's glove-side pad to the ice, the blocker-side of his body would be more or less identical in the VH: pronounced hip flexion, but effectively zero internal hip rotation, and the strong (short) side skate-blade more or less vertical, making the inside edge effectively disengaged. If Craig or a goalie in the orthodox (straight vertical) VH wants to push to cover the weak side, they have a long way to go and significant adjustment in body position before they can make that push.

Now, of course, goalies who are skilled in using the VH (as I have no doubt you are) can get around this by internally rotating their strong (short) side hip as they anticipate the movement of the play to the weak side, preparing what will be the backside leg to push across. This is where the 'dead-arm OKD' (OKD, one-knee-down, being for those who don't know yet another name for the VH) comes into play, as I mentioned. In fact, you can even see the general idea of the dead-arm at work in minnsy's Lundqvist GIF. When Lundqvist switches to the VH from an upright stance (after recovering from the SMS), he keeps his strong (short) side hip internally rotated to a small degree: just as much as his blocker and blocker-arm can cover. This of course, slightly erodes his short-side aerial coverage, but it gets him closer to being able to push laterally.

However, and this is really important to remember, even in this modified VH (that is, not orthodox, straight up-and-down on the vertical pad and skate), Lundqvist is not in optimal position to push laterally on his strong (short) side skate. That can't happen until his leg hip internally rotates enough to bring his skate-blade to roughly a 45-degree angle, at which the force exerted through the ice-surface is at its highest. Of course, the force begins to peak a little earlier than this, so you don't need to get al the way to 45, but you need to be past 60, and certainly not at 90.

In short, while the strong (short) side leg is always "up" in the VH, in no version of the VH that maintains short-side coverage is it "in the ready to push off position."

The real advantage to the VH (and if you go back to some of the earliest discussion the VH, this was the focus) is not what it does for the strong (short) side leg and skate, but that it gets the weak-side pad down on the ice early. The thinking was that when you did eventually push across, you already had the frontside leg in a position to slide, already presenting a wall to the new shooting angle. The VH built around about eliminating eventual frontside resistance, not optimizing backside power.

Here, too, the SMS has distinct advantages. While the (eventual) frontside pad (covering the weak side) isn't on the ice, it's right at the maximum AOA, keeping the inside edge engaged (to control squareness), but ready to slam down and remove that resistance as soon as the play moves to the weak side. Moreover, the ability to control squareness in the SMS with that weak-side leg (as opposed to having it fully disengaged, as in the VH) means that the goalie can aim himself/herself far more accurately to address the weak-side threats.

This brings me back to the question of goalies getting stuck on the post in the SMS. It's worth noting, I think as you do, that goalies can also get stuck on the post in the VH. It's also worth noting that even pro goalies -- and sometimes especially pro goalies -- can struggle with new techniques. When you've spent that much time training one kind of movement, and you have that much success with it, you adapt in a pretty strong way; when somebody asks you to flip it on its head (in effect), you may not want to, or may not really get it. The reason Price got so good so fast in the SMS -- and I think we can certainly agree on this -- is that he worked at it more diligently and intelligently than anyone else; his underlying athleticism makes that excellence possible, but it's nothing without his commitment to learn and grow.

When goalies get 'stuck' in the VH, it's for the reasons above: getting caught literally flat-footed (or rather, flat-edged) with the backside leg straight vertical as the play moves to the weak side. When goalies get caught in the SMS, it's generally because they've overcommitted to the strong (short) side play: leaning or reaching too far, and losing balance. An unbalanced SMS is every bit as much a trap as a rigid, blocking orthodox VH: you're stuck. (The only way I've found to break that 'lock' in the SMS is to move into a Hasek Roll, but that's not for everyone, and it's an even trickier technique to learn.)

The solution, of course, is not to reach or lunge from the SMS, but to maintain balance.

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As a follow-up to Hills' well-reasoned concerns about misuse of the SMS, I wanted to through out a couple of videos that speak to one of the dangers of sliding into the post in the SMS, from the very well-respected Dave Wells of Performance Goaltending in Toronto:

Now, before you play those videos, bear in mind that these are from 2009, and thus considerably pre-date Dave's work with SMS, and indeed almost anyone else's, even in Sweden. As such, we have to keep that context in mind.

These videos showcase one major concern with the SMS: that if you slide hard into the base of the post and make contact at your frontside (lead) toe without active control over your frontside leg and, in particular, without internally rotating the frontside hip to 'flare' out that foot to reach for the post, you run the considerable risk of 'spinning out' on the post into a hugely over square position: in some cases, facing behind the net. In short, if you throw a narrow butterfly into the base of the post, you're probably going to spin out. It's simple physics: conservation of momentum, linear into angular. Unless your frontside (lead) leg acts as a shock-absorber and stabilizer, you're going for a spin.

Now, I would argue that the SMS deprecates Dave's clever 2009 solution: sliding into the base of the post with your knee instead of the toe of the skate. Sliding in with the knee does have some advantages: namely, that it gets your shoulder right to the post without any lean, that you can't spin out, so your slide doesn't have to be quite as perfectly accurate as to the toe of the skate and pad together, and you don't have to be quite so athletic with your frontside (lead) foot.

However, going knee-to-post has several huge drawbacks. First, you arrive at the post much, much later in the movement: instead of your toe getting there first, you stay vulnerable on the wrap/tap-in, and even to a deflection in off your lead pad, until the moment the knee of your pad gets inside 3" from the post (puck-width). Second, going knee-to-post leaves fully two-thirds of your pad inside the net, instead of extending the entire pad out into the crease. This is one of the greatest strength of the SMS: that it effectively prevents pucks from leaking through the crease to the weak-side far better than any other technique in plays tight to the net. Third, though going knee-to-post gets the shoulder to the post more easily, the coverage on the short-side is no better than a properly-executed SMS, and leaves a lot more room on the weak (far) side if the shooter pulls the puck out and flips it up to the top corner on the other side.

Even so, Dave's points about using knee-to-post to push off the post and regain centrality quickly are still very much applicable to the SMS-- indeed, better, since the SMS places the goalie almost two feet further forward in the crease, providing superior depth and better centrality.

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Duncan- could we discuss how to properly execute a Hasek Roll? I know it is not a California Roll with Lobster and flaming sweet shrimp with Srichacha on top, lol.

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Definitely. I have some really good video somewhere; let me dig it up. There's some really fun situational tacticianship involved.

The one difficulty is that it is only commonly executed moving from glove-side to blocker-side (glove-to-blocker for short), and while it's never going to be a truly symmetrical technique, it can 'roll both ways'.

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