From The Crease: Getting The Nod

By Dave DeSander (guest writer) –

Being part of a team as a goalie means that sometimes you won’t always be the starter. Regardless of whether it’s because of a recent sub-par performance, politics, lack of experience, etc, a coach will have a certain goalie labeled as the backup. Due to the unpredictability of the game of hockey, there are times when the “backup” will be called upon to play. View this window of opportunity as your one and only moment to shine and run with it. In last year’s NHL playoffs, several coaches gave “the nod” to their backup goalies to replace their starters. Whether it was because of under-performance, injury, or the need for a momentum swing, the head coaches made the decision to change the most important player on the team. When they did, they won the very same game or the following game in which the backup started. Take a look at this list of teams that made the switch:

Philadelphia replaced Sergei Bobrovski with Brian Boucher, Anaheim replaced Dan Ellis with Ray Emery, and San Jose relieved Antti Niemi with Antero Niittymaki. (Exception: Vancouver replaced Roberto Luongo with Cory Schneider due to injury).

All of these “backup” goalies were thrown into the fire that is the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs without warning. What’s noteworthy about these stories, for all of you goalies reading this, is the astounding ability of these “backups” to perform under the most intense pressure and scrutiny of the season. Here are a few things to take from the recent success of the labeled backups in the NHL:

  • When you’re backing up in any game, stay mentally sharp while on the bench. Play the game in your mind and be ready at any time.
  • Develop the ability to “flip the switch” and be ready to play. You could get the nod from your head coach in any situation at any time.
  • Spend extra time in practice working on rebound control, battle drills, and working your butt off in the event that you’re called upon. Coaches will see that you’re ready and prepared. 
Half of success is being prepared for anything; the second half is delivering. A smart goalie will prepare himself for the possible scenarios and situations in which he might be called upon. If the event occurs, make sure you’ve instilled confidence in your coach by preparing yourself, so he has no hesitation to give you “the nod.”