Pad In, Or Blade On? That Is the Question

(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)

(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)

The common misnomer of ice hockey goaltending is that it is, voodoo.

The very thought of “conjuring” saves and practicing the occult to stop pucks is nonsense.

Goaltending is much more analogous to kung-fu. DUH!

As an Asian-American-goalie, I feel totally fine in saying that different schools in thought in goaltending might as well be two ancient senseis arguing who’s kung-fu is the true kung-fu. Point being, there is no right way to stop a puck, but there are many-a argument to be had as to which way is better.

Which brings us to the great debate over Pad In Style vs. Blade On Style.

First some history. By now, you have accidentally heard, and may even be familiar with the term, “reverse VH.” If you’re one of the 3 people that read my ramblings every week, it’s the center square of your James Minger BINGO chart. But chances are that some of you still are not 100% sure as to what RVH means. Well, first there was the old-timey, vertical horizontal depicted below by a young Tuukka Rask:


What you see is that the lead pad (the one closest to the puck) is aligned vertically while the base pad is aligned horizontally. VH was developed in the early 90’s as a better way to seal posts (covering the post). It was developed to take away the bottom of the net for wrap-around chances and low percentage shooting angle attacks. However, this design was not without its flaws in that to protect the bottom part of the net, goalies had to make themselves smaller, give up other parts of the net (see: underneath Tuukka’s glove, over both of his shoulders, and in-between his blocker arm and body). Other design flaws in VH were that if you look at the Finnish goaltender above, does he look like his body is in a comfortable position? You would be right in saying ‘no’ which lead to difficulty in controlling rebounds for those low chances, and even more difficulty in recovery movement (the set of moves you have to execute to make the next save).

So cometh reverse vertical horizontal (RVH). Just as Patrick Roy didn’t invent the butterfly but gets credit, Jonathan Quick gets credit for RVH because he mastered it first:

Regardless if it was Quick, or whomever, RVH is superior to VH for two reasons: 1) Ability to seal the post better; and 2) The ability use your hands and stick. I’ll get to post seals in a bit but look at the picture above and put simply, instead of waiting for the puck to be jammed into you, RVH allows you to have an active stick to attack the puck before a shot can be made, and cutoff dangerous centering/backdoor passes.

This innovation was made in and around 2010-2012, which brings us to present day net minding and the kung-fu discrepancy that I previously eluded to, Pad In, or Blade On? Huh?

To explain these two variations of RVH, we have to examine the goalies’ feet. Starting with blade on, we see the Jonathan Quick in the above photo demonstrate it very well in that his load foot (the foot/leg in which the goalie will compress like a spring to make an explosive secondary movement) has the skate right against the post. Conventional thinking would have it that a metal skate on a metal post would dull the blade, but practical thinking knows that goalies don’t really use there outside edge which is making the most contact, and doesn’t have to be as sharp because goalies live on their inside edges.

To show you how the blade on post RVH works, I was able to find a very good demonstration by, Stefan Demetz (@StefanDemetz):

In this first clip, you see Demetz transfer his wait from his horizontal pad (his load foot), to his vertical pad (his anchor foot – which is essentially the buttress of the goaltender in that the anchor foot’s inside edge is dug in deep to prevent the goalie from losing position in the even of a stuff-in/jam play), and Demetz will end with his blade on the post, torso upright and hip along the post to seal it from top to bottom.

Pretty neat, but big deal…

I’m a “pad-in guy” myself but I will admit that blade on has one distinct advantage in what I call “the hinge maneuver:”

When you re-watch this clip, take notice in the anchor foot (the vertical pad). Notice how that by utilizing a simple C-cut (transferring weight from your heal-to-toe and vise versa) enables Demetz to re-square his shoulders back and forth. The thing I like most about these videos is that they are filmed from the puck’s perspective i.e., you see the net as the puck would see the net. You can see the difference in available shooting space before and after Demetz executes the hinge maneuver.

But I like pad in, damn it!:

The difference here is that your load foot will end with the post on your ankle, right at the corner of your pad. I prefer this style of kung-fu for the reasons of: 1) At barely standing at 5’07”, I have to go back forth more times than a taller goalie, and I believe this method to be faster than blade on; and 2) I think you get a better post seal with pad in:

The first thing about this video is that I couldn’t help myself and chose to freeze the frame on Demetz’s excellent head tracking as his stick and his eyes get to his destination before the rest of him does.

Second -and more on topic- thing is that Demetz get’s a better top-to-bottom post seal coverage. But what you may not see the quality in post seal coverage in the two forms.

Think about, if you were to put the sole of your foot against a wall, and you wanted to get the rest of your body as flat against that same wall without moving your foot, you would have to lean backwards and/or sit on top of that foot to create that seal and not utilizing the entire length of your body by compressing it.

On the other foot (@rgilbert526 isn’t the only one allowed to make puns), if you could stick your foot inside that wall, you could simply sit up and cover more post from top-to-bottom.

Pretty. Friggin. Cool. Stuff.

Well, whether or not you think it is, or isn’t, the whole point of me writing about goalie concepts that @goalieguild and all of the @ingoalmag guys are better at explaining is that I would really like for people to better understand the nuance of how this game is played.

Fancy stats are fancy and all, but they only describe trends of the game. I want to know how specific, plays and non-plays are engineered. I want to know that “miracle saves” are actually a rapid series of carefully executed goaltending movements.

So, like Kane, I will continue to walk this Hockey Earth until I can find my hockey inner peace.


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