Active and Passive Goaltending

Justin Goldman




Before every NHL regular season comes to an end, I like to reflect on the progression of goaltending from a league wide perspective, as compared to this point last year. It's a good way to formulate a solid scope of what we might expect in the playoffs, while also taking a snapshot of the goaltending position, one that constantly evolves.


I think the most visible trend that influenced the position in the last year has been the traffic and bodies around and in the crease area. This was accentuated by the Olympics, as the return of the non-truncated crease proved that current NHL creases play a role in the proximity of bodies to the net and their ability to distract goalies more than usual. A body crashing the net has been a running trend all season long and it has increased since the Olympics ended.


But there's another trend that has really stood out in my mind since October. That would be the shift from passive butterfly goaltending to a more active, reactive and athletic style of goaltending.


Below I will not only break down the differences between the two "styles" but also explain why it is important that these two styles coexist together within a goalie's game. But first, let me preclude the breakdown with a couple of disclaimers, so that there's no confusion surrounding this week's adequately complicated subject.


First of all, the words active and passive are not catch-all words. They're only intended to describe the style seen in a myriad of different situations in a game. A goalie might have an active style one moment and play passive the next. It might flip back and forth from period-to-period or game-to-game. Or there's even the chance a goalie's style never changes. As such, the terms should only indicate one or two plays. Every goalie could be either style at any time.


Secondly, active and passive are personal terms I use to describe goaltending in the manners you see below. This in the same manner I've been analyzing goalies since the beginning. Other goalie coaches and analysts may or may not use these terms the same way, as slightly varying definitions will exist. But most of the time, you'll have no trouble correlating them to one another. So there's many ways to get the same kind of message across and this one is mine!



Active goaltending can be described in simple terms as going out and meeting pucks in an effort to take away time, space and net from the shooter. Active goaltending is often seen in smaller, more