The ability to bounce back after a tough loss is what makes a great goaltender
By Evan Tabachnick
We’ve all been there before. The puck has shrunk down to the size of a BB and found its way past you one too many times. Your legs are heavy; your pads stick to the ice; you left your glove hand at home; and it seems like nothing is going your way. The classic signs of a Bad Game.
Those are the thoughts that get goalies stuck in the Bad Game mentality. Your performance is directly linked to two factors: Preparedness and Mindset.
How have you prepared for the game? Were you messing around in the locker room, or taking it seriously? You don’t want to waver in how you prepare for the games. Keep things consistent.
If you are usually quiet and pensive before a big game, and then decide you’re going to show up late and be the comedian before taking to the ice against the last-place team, chances are you’re going to get shelled. When you chose to be a goaltender, you entered into an unspoken bond.
Goalies can’t talk smack until after the game. Your cockiness must be kept in check until the final buzzer. If not, a quick three, four or five goals are guaranteed to knock you off your high horse in a hurry, and both your teammates and opponents will lose respect for you fast.
When you choose to be a goaltender, you enter into an unspoken bond. A goalie’s bad game can test that.
The other huge factor is Mindset. You’ll have to think positive thoughts in order to avoid a bad game and turn in a positive performance. Instead of saying to yourself things like, Don’t blow this or I’d better stop this breakaway, try injecting thoughts into your head like, I’ve got this! and This guy’s got nothing! Write it on your pads if that’s what it takes to remind you.
It’s tough to change your train of thought mid game, especially one in which you are being lit up. In order to right the ship, you need to cool down, focus, and start thinking positively again. Ever see Marc-Andre Fleury go for a lap after he gets scored on? Now you know why. It’s a goalie’s bad game. Regardless of what has happened up to that point in the game, as soon as you start thinking positively the saves will come. And when you make the saves, you think like a winner. That is the cycle you need to get stuck in.
Probably most important is how to bounce back after a bad game. You’ll want to look at everything you did leading up to your bad game and try to correct all of those mistakes.
Did you show up late last time? Or maybe you showed up way too early and psyched yourself out in the surplus of time before the game. I always found that my best games were those in which I was in somewhat of a rush getting onto the ice, but with enough time to get in a good warm up. (The best for me is about 20 minutes before game time, but this varies with each person.) Finding the perfect time to show up may keep you out of trouble before the game, a factor that could hinder your performance.
Try changing up your equipment: Use your backup stick, wear different undergarments—whatever you can do to get a different vibe going. On the flip side, the old adage holds true: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Finally, consistency is the most valuable trait for a goalie to possess. A team would much rather play in front of one who allows three goals every game than one who has a shutout one night and gets rocked the next. If you can develop a distinct game-day regimen (everything from meals to stick taping to lucky underwear) and follow this same routine, you will find yourself to be a much more consistent netminder.
Remember, everyone knows goalies are weird so don’t be afraid to be quirky in your own way. As long as you turn in solid performances on a consistent basis, nobody will question your methods.
Evan Tabachnick currently plays in two adult rec hockey leagues.