Generally speaking, there are two types of saves goaltenders make in the game of hockey. The first is a reactionary save, or one where the goalie actively makes the save. The second is where the goalie gets hit accidentally, or in a blocking mode of play. Both types of saves have a specific time and place of proper deployment and should only be used in those specific situations.
Beyond the two types of saves we are faced with different save selections. Save selections do vary and have continued to evolve. In the blocking mode, which will be the topic of this article, we have seen goalies go from a "Gut Trap," save selection all the way to a "Skinny Block Butterfly" save selection. In a previous article I briefly described the three main types of blocking butterfly save selections that occur. In this article I would like to give an in depth analysis of the "Skinny Block Butterfly," treated by a few select coaches as gospel.
The game as it stands today has some factual statistics that we first have to recognize. 1.) More goals are being scored in the top corners of the net. 2.) Players have more time and space to be creative. 3.) The speed of the game has increased. 4.) Goaltenders need to become more active in order to compete. Lastly, 5.) The three control elements (Rebound, Puck Handling, Positioning) are more important then ever. With these undeniable facts of hockey, we need to adapt the idealogical stance of the goaltender to meet and exceed in their environment.
The "Skinny Block Butterfly," while knowing the above facts, is not the optimal way to play in todays game. Lets look at the actual save selection in depth and go through the issues it presents. The "Skinny Block," has a goalie in a straight blocking butterfly mode with minimal pad flare, stick parallel to the puck, and arms down, locked at the side of the body.
1.) Pad flare: Lets use an example of a typical 38" pad size for an NHL goalie. An NHL regulation net (sometimes smaller then Future Pro Summer Shooter Staff prefer) is 6' wide. Broken down into inches, 6 feet equals 72". If you are wearing two pads, 38" in length and have a full flared butterfly, you will technically be covering 76" of net, less the angle and length of the boot break. A goalie wearing 38" pads in a full butterfly has the ability to cover 100% plus of the net on the ice up to 11" vertically. Through these optics, why would you take away from net coverage by placing your pads parallel to each other only having the boot break and your exposed knee caps to cover the low portion of the net? In a "Skinny Block" goalies may only have a foot and a half of net coverage, a far cry from the 6 feet a full flare allows.
2.) Stick position: Utilizing our RCE (Rebound Control Efficiency) we can rate our rebounds according to threat level. In summary and in order of priority, 1. possession 2. corners with elevation (only available with proper stick involvement) 3. square 4. weak side and 5.) Goal. Specifically, lets look numbers 2-4. If you place your stick as taught in this "Skinny Block," you have absolutely no ability to put the puck in the corner. You cannot create a 2 rebound. The philosophy here is that the stick is only a tool to pull rebounds back into the body. A goalie who executes this butterfly, in the proper position in the proper time, can create more square rebounds then weak side rebounds. However, the key here is being in the right place at the right time. How many times, at the speed of today's game, is a goalie in the proper position at the proper time in a calm, cool, collected manner? The answer is rarely. Therefore, a goalie is getting hit in areas they cannot control the puck, such as the boot break or having to make a half butterfly save, making them prone to a lot more weak side rebounds.
3.) Glove and Blocker Position: It is understood that a goalie does have to block and make accidental saves in certain circumstances. The point here deals with goalies who are taught by their coaches to do that on every single save regardless of the situation. When a majority of the goals are being scored in the top corners, why would you then not give any net coverage to those areas by placing your hands at your sides every shot?
Below are a few photos demonstrating the "Skinny Block Butterfly," in which I truly believe is hurting goalies more then helping them. As I write this article, I have witnessed three goals go in due to this save selection on the NHL network. One goal was scored on James Reimer (Toronto), one on Mike Smith (Phoenix), and the last was on Tim Thomas (Boston). Each goal was easily preventable, but for the selection of the "Skinny Block" used on the attempted save.
On a final note, the whole idea of the blocking butterfly is to eliminate goals through and underneath the body. Why does it seem that there is an increase in these types of goals on goalies who utilize this save selection? It is a self defeating selection causing unnecessary goals coupled with the new stiffer equipment to match the save selection. In my opinion, if you are going to utilize a blocking butterfly, do it with full flare, hands locked, blocker slightly elevated to maintain proper stick discipline, and only in the proper situation.