One of the ways I provide independent goalie scouting services to the general public on a daily basis is through Twitter. In fact, my two-year anniversary was yesterday, and I’m even more excited for the next two years. I love to post scouting notes and analysis while I watch goalies, and I love answering questions from my followers. But the question “What is VHS?” has been asked so many times in the past week that I wanted to write a quick post and answer it for good.
VHS stands for Vertical-Horizontal Stance. It is a fairly new technique used to cover the post and eliminate wraparounds in which one leg is upright and vertical to the post, while the other leg is horizontal along the ice. For many different reasons, this technique is a very constricting, rigid, save selection. And the more goalies I scout, the more I continue see it being used erroneously and in inappropriate situations.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Turk – The Hockey Writers
Just look at this photo of Michal Neuvirth, who is one of the more skilled and athletic goalies in the NHL. His left leg is vertically aligned with the post, while the other is horizontal. This is effective in allowing him to eliminate wraparounds and sealing the post, while also allowing him to quickly push into a butterfly slide if a centering or back-door pass is made.
The current problem with the VHS is that, instead of being used in specific situations, it has become a victim of muscle-memory. That means it is being used as a reaction instead of a result of effectively reading the play. This issue has developed rapidly over the last year thanks to many misunderstandings by goalie coaches and extreme overuse by goalies of all ages.
So when exactly should goalies use the VHS save selection? Read my piece on the Elite Goalies website to learn more. It includes quotes from Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley and further explains, in detail, when to use it and when to stay away.
Overall, the VHS has many pitfalls that cause a goalie to appear rigid, constricted and vulnerable to many different kinds of shots. Unless you have the flexibility of an NHL goalie, you will probably exert too much energy popping into and out of the VHS. It will “freeze” a goalie and lock them into an awkward stance that doesn’t allow them to have a free range of movement and it can be very difficult to effectively cover back-door passes. It’s also not easy to stay balanced and in control when going into and out of the stance.
Other alternatives for covering the posts on wraparounds include simply standing up and leaning into the post with your hip, or simply dropping into a full butterfly and keeping the back as straight as possible. The key, as it is with all aspects of the goaltending position, is to read and react and do whatever feels most comfortable. There will be times when the VHS is appropriate and comfortable and timely, but in most situations, I see it being used in an ineffective and erroneous manner.