Man I really appreciate this post. This is the kind of stuff that puts my brain in overdrive and excites me.
A lot of what you say resonates with me, for sure. I've framed "playing down" as "out-goalieing myself" or "thinking myself out of the game." I think we get conditioned to a certain level of play that includes speed, skill, predictability, anticipation, body mechanics, muscle memory, etc. So when we "play down" it's like our brains and our bodies are ill-equipped to deal with the specific set of information available to us because we are conditioned otherwise.
How often do goalies play down thinking shutout and then get rocked for a high number of goals? I'd say it's very common. One piece of this you did not touch on, as you focused more on the other team and not our own, is that at higher levels our team is "filtering" out a lot more stuff than is the case at lower levels. Higher levels of play in front of us on our own team means the while the shots coming our way might be faster or harder and more difficult to handle, the types of scenarios from which they develop are arguable more narrow than they are at lower levels; there is a certain formulaic set of patterns, if you will, at higher level that we'll see as goalies that are not there at lower levels, in other words lower levels are more random and erratic and chaotic so as goalies getting dialed in to that when "playing down" is very difficult.
I think about this stuff A LOT as I'm on 2 teams currently at different levels and I am far more effective and successful on my higher team. I told a lower level teammate recently that "I have no doubts I am a good goalie and I have trust in my ability, I just can't quite figure out how to be an effective goalie for this team quite yet." I think that sums it up nicely.
Thanks for posting this Chenner.