Aug 15, 2013

Chicken or Egg

I'm frustrated.

Playing for two different 'D' league teams these past few months there's a trend of me giving up between 7 and 10 goals every game. With no signs of this changing, my frustration level is growing with each game.

Are my teams bad because I'm a bad goalie or am I a bad goalie because I'm on bad teams?

This is a puzzling question. After each loss, I lie awake in bed replaying the goals in my head, looking for common denominators- looking for answers.

1. Short benches- more times than not, we've got less than two lines of forwards and 3 defenseman. The result is a chart that looks something like this;

2. Opponent Pressure & Shots- the obvious result of this energy output crash is my teams spend more and more time in our own zone as the game goes on. With no ability to break out and an offensive rush, it becomes a shooting gallery. In one of my leagues, I've faced almost 30 more shots than the next closest team with almost 100 more than the third team in that category.

3. I resemble a manatee after the save- It's been a few months since I first started working on my butterfly pushes but yet my brain is not clicking in game action. Time and time again, I drop down for a save and watch helplessly as the rebound goes towards an opponent's stick while I remain frozen in position, making some type of swimming/bounce motion with legs. Nothing resembling the butterfly push I complete in practice.

*Author's interpretation
So its not as cut and dry as pointing the finger at my team or accepting all the blame for a GAA north of 7. In fact, it's all of the above and more. It's lack of experience and skills. It's age. It's luck. It's a team.

Hockey is a team sport. I'm on bad teams because I've been playing adult hockey for 8 months. My teams have me on the roster because they're a collection of aging beginners, skating and playing their best. I've got to accept my share but no more and try to enjoy the time on the ice- no matter the score.


Mike Massey said...

Here's my opinion from experience in the past 12 months. I don't really think there is an answer to it, as the answer can change game to game. When this happens to me, I first ask myself the same question; was it me or was it them? I hate to even try and figure this one out because it's a team effort. But if you think about it, it's split up into YOUR effort and their effor. I'm sure its better to just forget and move on to the next game but I think as goalies we try to find a solution so we can do better next game. I try to assess the team effort and many times it IS your defense's positional play and skating effort that is allowing you SO many shots against you. Play the odds, with 30-50 shots a game, some of those are going to go in. Its going to happen. Often times the 3rd period is the worst because with a short bench (like you said) guys just get tired and dont skate like they did in the first. In my case (in I league) I have goals go in off rebounds simply because of poor communication after the shot or we are not covering the potential rebound shooter. More often than not, I "think" I have the puck somewhere in my pads when in fact it is behind or beside me and hear nothing from my team as to the whereabouts of the puck. Other times there is a juicy rebound right on the stick of the opposing team with none of my defenseman covering him. And a few other times it's a deflection off my own defenseman because of their placement in front of the net. These are the cases where it is more of your team as they should have covered the ice (physically and verbally) for you better. Secondly, sometimes I replay those goals and honestly ask myself, could I have tried harder or done something smarter that would have saved the goal? The answer is always yes for me. Goalies are hard on themselves. I know I should have been more square to the puck and not the shooter, could have pushed over quicker for that one-timer, should have had my 5 hole closed more. Its easy to criticize after the game but you have to remember, every game has its own tempo and every shooter is different. It's hard to adjust on the fly when you have SO many different skill levels on the ice(between I and D league). I think its important to learn from what went wrong but DO NOT be too hard on yourself. Lastly, I learned something a couple weeks ago. For a goalie, this game is a mental battle. If you are not talking yourself up, thinking positively, visualizing your saves, telling yourself that will make this save, then cue Murphy's Law. Its happened to me recently and before that I wasn't a believer in the mental aspects of the game, but now I am. I get focused before the game, watch some highlight videos, listen to music and zone out on what I'm going to do in the game and so far it has worked. Will it everytime? Nah, but it helps. The key is being positive no matter what about your play.

Rafter said...

Great comments Mike. Thanks for taking the time to post them.

I think your comments are spot on and I am curious, what was the source of your newly found focus on game prep and mental attitude?

When I was playing competitive tennis, I found self-talk to be an advantage in my play. Since playing hockey full-time, I seem to have lost that. Perhaps even though goaltending is a solitary position, the team aspect of it has caused me to ignore the benefits of positive self-talk.

Anonymous said...

Okay, there's a lesson here from competitive shooting which has more in common with playing goalie than you might imagine as it's almost all mental after getting the basics down.

When you start you're hitting 10's, 9's all the way down to 1's. Do you get better by getting more in the 10? Not really. You improve by getting rid of the 1's, then the 2's etc. Eventually you'll be hitting only 10's and 9's; further improvements come from cutting out the 9's.

So how does this relate to goalie? You don't need to be making more phenomenal saves (10's), you need to be cutting out the softies (1's). That way you get better and more consistent. Don't obsess about the total number of goals going in. Start to pay attention to how many softies (5-holes, brain farts, unders and throughs) go in. Start trying to cut down on the softies. Do this for a few weeks and you'll see an improvement in your GAA and your outlook on the position.

One other point. For a reasonable goalie there comes a time when playing in novice (pinball) can start to hurt your game and it gets easier to play against better players. Better players are more predictable and the flow of the game is smoother.

Hang in there. I enjoy reading about your journey as it parallels the one I'm taking.

Smokeynall said...

It's all relative brother. I once played a game where I gave up 22 goals on 125 shots. The scorekeeper came to me after the game and said he may have lost track but that was his best account. All you can do is try to live for the next save. I've been on some really amazing teams and some really deplorable teams and all you can do is put yourself in the best position to make the first save. Remember, it could always be worse. The worst day playing hockey is still better than the best day at work.

Mike Massey said...

I had a D league game which we were up by 4 goals in the 3rd. All the sudden we gave up with a few minutes left and the opposing team came HARD at us and scored 4 in the last 2 minutes to tie the game. We ended up losing in a shootout...... My confidence level during and after the game was an all time low and I vowed to focus more on staying positive and not beating myself down. I found myself thinking "what if they score X more goals and beat us?" and this is truly why I think they came back. Maybe they were just good shots but in my head, I was responsible for this. 2 one timers from in front of the crease, 1 low glove side off the far side post, and one top shelf glove side from nearly the side of the net. This was the game I was referring to. I don't know if you watch Family Guy, but there's one clip where Stewie says "Whether you think you CAN or you think you CAN'T, you're right." (quote from Henry Ford) I always remembered that for some reason.

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