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So, you didn't make the save?


Mike Stacey
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You feel it hit leather, but hear the whistle. Despite your best shot (or, rather, theirs), the puck got by you. You feel upset, swear, and get to thinking about why you're not playing well. 

It's incredibly easy to judge yourself as bad, unprepared, not what you used to be. You might think about all the missed opportunities this week to do off-ice, eat better, sleep, or hit a stick'n'puck. The most important thing you can do for your game is to 'let go.' 

There's nothing you can do at that time to make up for missed opportunities - or missed shots. Your best best is to let yourself be as prepared as you are and refocus on the game. It's a hard pill to swallow, but self-acceptance is a powerful tool to help yourself move on and focus on the next play. 

 

Have questions or want a specific mental game topic discussed, just send me a message! 

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I find that for myself, as a competitive minded ageing beer leaguer, you self-analyse a lot "should of this or that", "why did I cheat instead of just staying with the puck carrier", "why didn't I hustle, battle for space or positioning or puck control", "why did I hesitate so much on playing the puck on the dump or missed pass".

It takes a lot to let go. Much easier during pick up than in a real game where numbers and goals count.

Even harder to accept when you are a coach as well. Reminds me of a quote from a coaching friend that you can use should one of your students catch a glimpse of your bad goal: "do as I say, not as I do" :D 

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3 hours ago, MangoRhinehart said:

So much this, I have had a few games that just snowballed this summer from being in my own head and not fully resetting from a previous goal.

That word. That one goal that starts the uh oh crap and no matter how much shit or pep talk you give yourself, you're shook. It's hard to reset sometimes.

Edited by RichMan
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10 hours ago, RichMan said:

That word. That one goal that starts the uh oh crap and no matter how much shit or pep talk you give yourself, you're shook. It's hard to reset sometimes.

I learned it from watching Tristan Jarry. 

All kidding, I was playing for two teams this summer, one team is in a "draft" league, and I was picked up by the same team ive been playing with for 3 years just about. First two games we had full benches and we won, then people stopped showing up, and we played a lot of games with no subs, or with two guys in their 60s as our subs. I saw a ton of shots but it lead to some bad habits, where I would be completely gassed, and let up one goal, then another quick one right after, because there was no way we were winning those games and the other team wasnt letting up at all despite the games being out of reach by a lot. 

This started to bleed into my other league which is much more competitive as I just wasnt as focused or reset after a goal as I should have been. 

I ended up taking about 5 weeks off since August due to my knee feeling a pressure build up and pop like I felt I was shot in the leg.  I play the last game for my competitive team tonight and Ill likely be more focused.

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Snowballing.  I hate that.  My worst games are ones where my team dominates and I don't see much action.  A few guys have a tendency to stop playing D or stop skating back to help on D.  Then I start getting a ton of odd man rushes and breakaways.  Goals start going in.  I get mad.  Things start snowballing from there.  Next game we play a better team and I may let in something I know I should stop.  I start cheating or playing deeper, second guessing myself.  Snowballs more.  Next game more of the same and then I am in my head even worse.  I start thinking about what my guys are thinking about my play.  And then finally a game comes like last night, where we are dominating play for the most part but the other team is getting enough chances that I can start to get into a rhythm and start feeling good about myself again.  Even though it almost started to keep snowballing.  We were up 2 or 3-0 early in the 1st.  Other team gets a breakaway after a neutral zone turnover and I notice neither of my dmen are hustling back.  I made the initial save.  Puck bounced back into the slot, just out of my reach.  I tried to pull it into me to cover but their trailing guy, who was hustling to follow the breakaway, was able to pull it away from me and bury it.  I thought to myself here we go again.  I made a really nice breakaway save and then this happens.  I ended up playing really well.  It helps when the guys acknowledge that too.  For me it helps A LOT.  Hopefully last night was the start out of the climb out of my current valley climbing up to another peak.  Unfortunately I am stuck at work tonight and have to miss game 1 of the championship.  

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3 hours ago, SaveByRichter35 said:

I start thinking about what my guys are thinking about my play.

This gets me the worst

My very first ever official league game was in A-League with some people from work who thought we would be fine. I basically said I am a newbie, first league yadda yadda. We got curb stomped and I got quickly booted off the team.

Then I was on another team that I randomly found and we played together for a while, won two championships then they were taking a season off after going winless. What they meant was I am not on the team but they kept playing. I got invited back after a season of them going winless again. 

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18 minutes ago, MangoRhinehart said:

This gets me the worst

My very first ever official league game was in A-League with some people from work who thought we would be fine. I basically said I am a newbie, first league yadda yadda. We got curb stomped and I got quickly booted off the team.

Then I was on another team that I randomly found and we played together for a while, won two championships then they were taking a season off after going winless. What they meant was I am not on the team but they kept playing. I got invited back after a season of them going winless again. 

That must have made work pretty awkward.

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5 hours ago, SaveByRichter35 said:

Snowballing.  I hate that.  My worst games are ones where my team dominates and I don't see much action.  A few guys have a tendency to stop playing D or stop skating back to help on D.  Then I start getting a ton of odd man rushes and breakaways.  Goals start going in.  I get mad.  Things start snowballing from there.  Next game we play a better team and I may let in something I know I should stop.  I start cheating or playing deeper, second guessing myself.  Snowballs more.  Next game more of the same and then I am in my head even worse.  I start thinking about what my guys are thinking about my play.  And then finally a game comes like last night, where we are dominating play for the most part but the other team is getting enough chances that I can start to get into a rhythm and start feeling good about myself again.  Even though it almost started to keep snowballing.  We were up 2 or 3-0 early in the 1st.  Other team gets a breakaway after a neutral zone turnover and I notice neither of my dmen are hustling back.  I made the initial save.  Puck bounced back into the slot, just out of my reach.  I tried to pull it into me to cover but their trailing guy, who was hustling to follow the breakaway, was able to pull it away from me and bury it.  I thought to myself here we go again.  I made a really nice breakaway save and then this happens.  I ended up playing really well.  It helps when the guys acknowledge that too.  For me it helps A LOT.  Hopefully last night was the start out of the climb out of my current valley climbing up to another peak.  Unfortunately I am stuck at work tonight and have to miss game 1 of the championship.  

Keep going man. I am in a similar rut myself with my "good league" starting up in the next week or so. Safe to say I'm a little nervous to start playing at that level at the moment. But like you said - you just need to climb out of those valley's we all find ourselves in from time-to-time. 

 

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The snowball effect is real and is probably the most dangerous mental trap to fall into as a goalie.

One thing I've massively improved on over the past 2-3 years is my resiliency against goals against. I'm confident in my skill level, know where I'm supposed to play at, and know when and when not a goal is on me (despite what teammates say). Knowing yourself and what you're capable of can be a massive aid in moving past a goal. Especially once you get used to the idea that the guys you go against are as good, if not better, than you. 

It's only inevitable that they're going to score and you're only one guy.

Another massive benefit I've found is limiting the amount of accountability that I'll take on for a goal against. If it's a bad goal, I'll tell my defense it's my bad, give them a tap on the shins, and we move on. Pretty similar how a defense man would react to himself giving up a golden opportunity that leads to a goal.

Everyone knows how a goal goes in. Whether its your fault, the defenses, or the wingers. Everyone has a role and it's a team game after all.

I know it's easier said than done, but getting past that initial "self doubt" portion of a bad goal quickly is paramount to negating the potential of it snowballing. Usually it's through another shot against or by making a joke and relaxing from the initial shame.

As I get older, I may not be as agile as my early twenties, but I'm a hell of a lot calmer and my play has improved considerably.

 

That and a healthy mix of vodka and juice in the ol' water bottle helps me move past goals against pretty quickly.

Edited by coopaloop1234
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I think what resonates with me the most about this thread is the the simple title… “So, you didn’t make the save?”

More than anything I find myself getting frustrated when I know I’ve “made that save before.” True as it may be… something was different this time. Attacking player positioning… defenseman positioning… or as simple as I’m older and can’t quite do everything I used to be able to do. 
Whatever the case… I do find that having a little something to refocus has helped. A little message on glove & blocker… and quick figure 8 between the dots to let me think about what happened… understand what could have been done differently… and move on. 
I’ve found too that the higher skill level you play with… the more the guys around you recognize what was and wasn’t on you per se. In those nice breakaway saves like @SaveByRichter35 mentions… the fellas know that generally speaking the first one is you the rest it on them to help cleanup. 
Lastly when stuck in a real rut… and as much as I’m someone who likes to see lots of pucks… taking a week off can make all the difference. Not from league games… but from the in between skates. Gives me a chance to rid myself of reinforcing bad habits… and I find when I come back I have a much clearer mindset of keeping things simple. It’s just me staying in front of the puck. Worry less about how… and more about do. Lead with eyes and hands… And let things flow from there. 

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On 9/14/2021 at 11:06 AM, coopaloop1234 said:

The snowball effect is real and is probably the most dangerous mental trap to fall into as a goalie.

One thing I've massively improved on over the past 2-3 years is my resiliency against goals against. I'm confident in my skill level, know where I'm supposed to play at, and know when and when not a goal is on me (despite what teammates say). Knowing yourself and what you're capable of can be a massive aid in moving past a goal. Especially once you get used to the idea that the guys you go against are as good, if not better, than you. 

It's only inevitable that they're going to score and you're only one guy.

Another massive benefit I've found is limiting the amount of accountability that I'll take on for a goal against. If it's a bad goal, I'll tell my defense it's my bad, give them a tap on the shins, and we move on. Pretty similar how a defense man would react to himself giving up a golden opportunity that leads to a goal.

Everyone knows how a goal goes in. Whether its your fault, the defenses, or the wingers. Everyone has a role and it's a team game after all.

I know it's easier said than done, but getting past that initial "self doubt" portion of a bad goal quickly is paramount to negating the potential of it snowballing. Usually it's through another shot against or by making a joke and relaxing from the initial shame.

As I get older, I may not be as agile as my early twenties, but I'm a hell of a lot calmer and my play has improved considerably.

 

That and a healthy mix of vodka and juice in the ol' water bottle helps me move past goals against pretty quickly.

Bold is something I have always kind of been good at.  I know when I am in a game where I am out of my league and just hope that my guys would realize that and process that accordingly.  I am also confident enough in my own skill to know when a goal is on me and when it isn't.  My problem is knowing if everyone else knows it or not too lol.  And I am not one to want to point fingers to say it wasn't my fault.  Even when something happens that isn't my fault, I still say "my bad" because I want to take the blame away from them for their own mental questioning.  I rarely ever get that leg tap as if to say "sorry dude I left that guy all alone back door, that's my bad" which bothers me but I struggle to make that known to everyone.  It sure would help to know they feel the same way about their game as I do mine.  I wanted so badly to have a private conversation with my team "leadership group" before our championship game last night but I bitched out and didn't do it.  I wanted to say how I could really use some words of encouragement tonight to help me get comfortable mentally but I didn't.  Thankfully I played really well last night.  I stood on my proverbial head in the second and third periods keeping them in the game.  Knowing that I did my job well enough to give them a chance to win, and then to have them acknowledge that, helped my confidence soar throughout the game.  

On 9/14/2021 at 8:16 PM, BadAngle41 said:

I think what resonates with me the most about this thread is the the simple title… “So, you didn’t make the save?”

More than anything I find myself getting frustrated when I know I’ve “made that save before.” True as it may be… something was different this time. Attacking player positioning… defenseman positioning… or as simple as I’m older and can’t quite do everything I used to be able to do. 
Whatever the case… I do find that having a little something to refocus has helped. A little message on glove & blocker… and quick figure 8 between the dots to let me think about what happened… understand what could have been done differently… and move on. 
I’ve found too that the higher skill level you play with… the more the guys around you recognize what was and wasn’t on you per se. In those nice breakaway saves like @SaveByRichter35 mentions… the fellas know that generally speaking the first one is you the rest it on them to help cleanup. 
Lastly when stuck in a real rut… and as much as I’m someone who likes to see lots of pucks… taking a week off can make all the difference. Not from league games… but from the in between skates. Gives me a chance to rid myself of reinforcing bad habits… and I find when I come back I have a much clearer mindset of keeping things simple. It’s just me staying in front of the puck. Worry less about how… and more about do. Lead with eyes and hands… And let things flow from there. 

At 38 I am coming to grips with this more and more as every season comes and goes.  Getting old sucks!

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Goals will be scored and those that have no idea of how the world of goaltending works will pass (often ill-informed) judgment onto you. I stopped caring a long time ago. Focus on the present. Unfortunately, we do not yet have time machines that would allow us to all have shutouts. Mistakes can facilitate progress if you identify and mitigate the respective issues.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Some real good stuff here.  I have reached that nice place where I'm ready to advance a division - if my feet are set and I see the shot I expect I'll make the save and my team almost always wins if goaltending matters, but I had a real bad night on Wednesday where neither of those things were true.  Whoopsie!  Figured I'd share a few "salvage the evening" tips for how to best handle the crushing emotional lows you will sometimes feel. 

The goal is to regain confidence and focus immediately after every goal, even the ones you feel ashamed of.  This means that the "snowball" effect described so perfectly above needs to be nipped in the bud, preferably using multiple approaches.  While practicing and visualizing, consider:

Be honest with yourself when you are bailed out by luck.  If you are down and out and beaten clean and desperately wave your glove in the direction you intuitively believe the forward wants to shoot, and he obligingly hits your glove, everyone else is going to think you made an amazing save.  You need to know better.  Know which saves you deserved and which ones you didn't, and address the saves you didn't deserve with the seriousness you address the saves you didn't make.  This helps you be more realistic with yourself about your current abilities, which helps you set reasonable standards for yourself.

Don't let the highs take you too high, and don't let the lows take you too low.  The dice have no memory, and neither should you.  Believe that whether you just made the last 10 saves in a row or just conceded the last 10 goals in a row, your odds of making the next save do not change.  Your worth as a goaltender is not bound up in whether you made the last save or not.  Nobody's such a chump that they can't roll a 20, and nobody's such a star that they can't roll a 1.  Goaltenders sometimes experience dizzying emotional highs.  When you make a fantastic save, regain control of your emotions quickly.  The more you thirst for the highs, the more you will be hurt by the lows, and both the highs and the lows only exist to distract you from your real job, which is making the next save.

The lows are an inevitable result of playing goal - practice, preparation, and even success will not prevent them.  I played a great tournament one time - won 10 games in a row and went all the way to the finals against a team full of sandbaggers who had won in the division one tier above us last year but didn't feel like working for their win this year.  Late in the third the puck was tied up in a scrum on the halfboards and it seemed safe to risk a glance at the motion on the off wing.  Somehow a weak shot was taken just after my eyes left the puck, and by the time I glanced back it was too late to react to it dribbling between my legs.  I was the only reason we were even in the tournament, let alone the game, and God love em, the lads rallied and got their chances, but couldn't solve the other keeper, and that goal eliminated us.  I lay awake all night watching that puck go in again and again, and it's been six years but I still remember it vividly.  Obviously you should still practice, prepare, and try to succeed, but be aware that playing good won't protect you from feeling bad sometimes. 

Immediately after every goal scored on me:

Control my breath -> control my heart rate -> control myself.  If you are breathing at a deep, measured pace, your brain and muscles are getting optimal oxidization, and you will feel calmer and more in control than if you were panting and gasping.  Everywhere in your life, work on your breath, like a singer or a yogi would.  When I go jogging, I inhale to a count of 4, hold to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 4, hold to a count of 4.  At my best, I could run 8km that way without losing that breath.  It's super useful and just takes practice.

Similarly, if your heart is at a normal, resting rate, you will feel calmer and more in control than if your heart is going like a jackhammer, all other things being equal.  After every play regain control of your breath and then your heart rate.  Put some mindfulness into your heart rate - it is possible for humans to consciously control it.  You don't need to be very good at this to gain benefits as a goaltender.  It's partly about reducing your recovery time after exertion, but it's also about inculcating an attitude of calmness.  Wrap yourself in layers of calm.

If you didn't like the way you made a save, do it again.  When I feel like I let one in I should have had, I'll mentally rewind, imagine the play happening again, and will address the shot again, this time saving it with the correct save selection and good technique.  Every once in a while, me getting scored on and immediately resetting myself and pretending to make a phantom save draws mockery, which ties nicely into the next point:

Give zero fs how you are perceived.  If you are thinking about being judged by your teammates/coach/crowd/crush/whoever, you are not thinking about making the next save.  This is extra important, because:

Most hockey people have no idea how goalies make saves, but have a pretty fair idea of whether a goalie "should have" made an individual save.  There will be times your teammates blame you unfairly, and there will be times they credit you unfairly.  It's not your fault or theirs, goaltending has become incredibly hyperspecialized.  Your belief in yourself has to exist independently from other people's belief in you, because your knowledge of what is and isn't "good goaltending" should be at a higher level than theirs.

Have an emergency ritual that you ONLY go to on the bad nights.  For me, this is softly singing the chorus to "Too Sick to Pray."  I find the lyrics very appropriate and they help restore my resolve, focus, and self-belief when they waver.

Hope this is helpful, sorry it became a giant essay!

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