December 20, 2004 -- For the past two years, Steve McKichan has been Ed Belfour's personal goaltending coach. In Ed's first year in Toronto he set a team record for victories with 37 and was a big reason the Leafs had a successful season. This past season Eddie had another stellar year finishing the season with a career win total of 435. During the playoffs he posted three shutouts in the opening round as the Leafs sneaked by the Ottawa Senators.
After the season ended, McKichan accepted the position of Goaltending Coach with the Maple Leafs, which means that all of the goalies in the Toronto system will now be under his guidance and coaching.
As an NHL goalie coach, Steve must develop all the goaltenders in the system and try to get them all progressing towards the mutual goal of playing in the "show". Besides the two goaltenders on the big club, most teams will have two goaltenders in the AHL and one or two goalies in a third tier level like the ECHL or the Central League. In addition there are normally two or three other youngsters that have been drafted but still play in Major Junior or college hockey.
Now, Steve will regularly offer up some great practice tips for goalies of all ages at all levels...
"All pro goaltenders do things really well as you would imagine but clearly they all have areas of weakness or more accurately areas the need to improve on. The fact that they are getting paid to play doesn't mean they have the position perfected. This applies to the guys on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the guys trying to get their first taste of the Big Leagues.
"Each individual goaltender in our system would have specific areas to address but all goaltenders need to work on three core areas. Even goaltenders still playing in youth leagues or in the recreation leagues can benefit from some of these ideas...
Connect The Dots
I had a great goalie coach when I played college hockey named Mitch Korn who is now the goalie coach for the Nashville Predators. Among all the things he taught, one thing was emphasized frequently - "connecting the dots."
Connecting the dots simply describes the ability of the goaltender to intelligently anticipate what is about to happen just before it does. This is also known as reading the play and to play in the NHL it is a critical skill.
It doesn't matter how well you skate or how quick your reflexes are. You must think the game and connect the dots or you simply won't keep up as the play and the puck move too quickly.
A great example of connecting the dots would be a goalie that reads that a backdoor pass is about to happen. The smart goalie notes what hand the open man shoots and the goalie loads up, ready to explode over. Once the pass is triggered, this goalie gets a great jump and arrives where he needs to be early enough to snuff the play out.
Watch high-level hockey games and in your mind, call out what you think will happen based on the visual cues you are receiving. Over time this study of the ebb and flow will greatly help your ability to connect the dots and keep the puck out of your net.
"If you want to reach your goals in hockey as an elite goaltender it is important to focus on these core areas. If you have any other questions you could drop me an email or visit my website www.futurepro.com.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Coach