If the first goal allowed in the 2014-15 NHL season is any indication of things to come, then I’m legitimately scared for all of us.
Yes…I’m being over-dramatic…but only for the sake of teaching.
At the same time, I’m shocked we’re not even 24 hours into the regular season and this whole “Reverse-VH Fail” thing has come up. I didn’t want to write this report. I didn’t want to be the guy that said, “I told you so.”
But this is the type of goal that nightmares are made of, and it was clearly unacceptable for a goalie of Jonathan Bernier‘s caliber.
On the positive side, this play acts as a key teaching point for the entire goaltending community. It’s a chance to try and reinforce the notion that there is no single ‘failsafe’ technique when it comes to post integrations. It’s also important for younger goalies to see that, even at the highest levels, these types of goals are being scored. It happens. For goalie coaches, it’s a chance to reinforce some teaching points that will help eliminate these issues sooner rather than later.
So I just wanted to quickly discuss a few aspects of this goal on Bernier as it pertains to post integrations, establishing a strong seal in tight, and how shooters are much smarter than we think.
First of all, remember that the Reverse-VH is mainly used on wraps and jam plays. This play isn’t originally established from along or below the goal line until moments before the shot is released, something to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the Reverse-VH ‘tool’ in your toolbox.
Secondly, what Bernier did was not wrong, it just wasn’t as effective as it could’ve been. And a big part of that was due to a keen move by Max Pacioretty.
On this play, Pacioretty starts gaining speed way back on his own blueline. The attack is established from the left half-boards and he continues to subtly gain speed after maneuvering around Dion Phaneuf. He looks smooth, but he’s moving fast.
The release point is how you can tell that NHL shooters already understand what the RVH is all about. Instead of trying to cut in front of the net on his forehand for a jam, or across the top of the crease area (a second defender is trying to cut off that lane anyways), Max pulls the puck back and quickly releases the puck just outside the Trapezoid line.
This catches Bernier in the act, and when the puck comes off the blade, he’s still dropping the post knee to the ice. Because of Pacioretty’s move, Bernier’s execution took too long.
When I was in Madison at the Elite Goalies NHL Pro Camp, I was on the ice with Joe Pavelski and saw him watching Reverse-VH drills with a close eye. From there, he strategically worked on Pacioretty’s type of move during team practices. It took zero time for him to successfully pull it off in scrimmages, and voila…other players picked up on it.
So this is what shooters are starting to do against the Reverse-VH, and we need to pay attention to it right now.
Pacioretty’s move accomplishes two things that work against goalies.
1. He creates space for the puck to be elevated in tight. Obviously the puck can be just a few feet away from the goalie and still be ‘roofed’ if the shooter has time to get under it, but for the most part, shooters need a little space between the puck and the goalie in order to get it under the bar. Pacioretty doesn’t lift this shot shoulder high, but he created the space to do so.
2. Pacioretty stole valuable time from Bernier by pulling the puck back to his forehand and releasing a wrister all in one motion. When the puck is being released, Bernier is still dropping into the Reverse-VH. In tight, goaltending is a race against time. And this is a race that most goalies will lose.
Those two things together are murderous moves for a goalie trying to execute a clean and smooth RVH technique.
The next thing I wanted to discuss is the type of RVH Bernier executed. He opted to go skate on post, which again, is fine. But there are components to skate-on-post that are important to understand when you’re in a race against time. If you feel like time isn’t on your side, or you anticipate that you’ll have to execute this move quickly, I suggest you get comfortable with the ‘scoop-in’ RVH technique.
NOTE: From now on, I’m calling the ‘scoop in’ technique the Pad-Into-Post technique. So you have Skate-On-Post, Pad-In-Post, and the toughest of them all, Toe-On-Post (toe bridge).
When you go skate-on-post, your knee and hip is pushed further away from the post than if you go pad-in-post. This puts more strain on the entire post-side of your body, because you have to lean your shoulders and core back at a further degree in order to seal the space above the leg pad and the post. There’s more of a significant lean back, and this not only takes more time to accomplish, it’s harder to pull off quickly.
When you go pad-in-post, all of that strain is eliminated because every part of your body, from your leg to your hip and ribs and chest, are so much closer to the post. So it takes less time to accomplish a seal from the ice to the crossbar joint, it puts less strain on your body, and it eliminates the need to lean back with the shoulders to establish that seal. Your entire spine is in better alignment, your shoulders are square, and you’re simply there.
Obviously choosing which route to take in order to drop and seal the ice is a matter of muscle memory, reading the play, and knowing how much time and space you have to work with. But in this specific situation, I feel strongly that Pad-into-Post would have likely stolen time back from Pacioretty and given Bernier a better chance to make this save.
From my own personal and observational eye, as I broke this play down, I noticed how Bernier’s back ‘anchor’ foot came off the ice just moments after the puck crosses the goal line.
To me, this is visual proof of how substantial and severe that upper body lean into the post can be when you go skate-on-post. This is even harder for guys who have longer femur and tibia bones, as this pushes the hip even further away from the post. This is the issue I run into personally, as I have long legs in relation to my entire body, and I simply feel like it takes too long to drop into a skate-on-post RVH. I still use it, but when I’m in a race against time, I’m pad-in-post.
Case in point: there are so many miniscule teaching points with post integration techniques. You have so many things that need to be done right in order to establish a perfect seal, and that’s not even discussing how to create a perfect ‘push-off’ point when the time comes to either bump across to the far post, or project forward to the middle or top of the crease. And on top of it all, you have to execute this move as quickly and fluidly as possible.
It’s not easy. It takes time to get it right. The muscle memory does not click overnight.
But no matter what type of RVH technique you choose in any given moment, the one piece of advice I’ll constantly give is this: maintain an active and reactive mindset.
Remember to lean slightly forward, get your head over your body, and most importantly, activate your hands. If you’re dropping on the glove side, give yourself a chance to gain proximity with the glove. If you drop on the blocker side, give yourself to go paddle down and mirror the puck with your stick.
At the end of the day, as greasy as this goal appears to be, Bernier’s decision was not wrong. There were many ways he could have integrated into his post and come up with a save. But that’s up to him to “figure it out” (one of my favorite sayings when I’m coaching), and for you to learn from.
Please, for the sake of my sanity, don’t let this happen to you.