Over the years, goaltenders have always been classified by the style they play. In general, goalies are grouped by the “Stand-up Style” (Jacques Cloutier of Quebec), the “Butterfly Style”(Ed Belfour of Chicago and Curtis Joseph of St. Louis), and the “Scramble Style” (Kelly Hrudey of Los Angeles).
In reality, no goaltender is purely one style or another. They are a hybrid... a combination that depends on the way the goaltender plays different situations. Ideally, the goalie should take the pluses of each “style” and avoid the “minuses” in developing his or her own personal method or system of playing goal somewhere on the “Style Continuum.”
The Stand-up Method — One Extreme
This used to be the way most of the best goalies played. Coaches looked for goalies that stayed on their feet at all costs. They are extremely systematic, very positional, play the angles, use skate saves rather than pads, and rely on their defense to pick up the “backdoor” and rebounds. They fill a lot of net down the wings, but have trouble on screens, deflections and quick plays around the net and from the slot. When they make saves, they often open holes because they get “frozen” a lot by the shooters. Stand-up goalies are rather predictable, and are rarely out of initial position. They have trouble “scrambling” and while they make excellent saves (many look easy), they have had trouble in recent years winning the “big one” in the playoffs. The feeling, by some, is that the very fundamental stand-up goaltender has trouble raising his game a notch or two. The game has changed, and many question whether the extreme stand-up styles of the late Jacques Plante, Gilles Villemure and Bernie Parent would be as effective today.
Scramble Method — The Other Extreme
As predictable and controlled as the stand-up style may be, the scramble is just as unpredictable and uncontrollable.
This style is characterized by acrobatic, athletic goalies who make fantastic, incredible saves but can give up some very bad goals. They are very quick, end up in some bizarre positions, and are very competitive and thus literally “fight” for the puck. Unfortunately, this style is a “crap-shoot.” Performance is often a “roll of the dice.” The upside is a very big game, but the downside is a very bad one. Rarely is there an in-between. This goalie often does not make the same save, the same way, twice.
The “New” Butterfly Style — The Middle Ground
Let’s understand this from the start... There are many kinds of butterfly goalies. If “stand-up” is at one extreme, and “scramble” is at the other, all the space in-between is a “butterfly style” of one sort or another. From Felix Potvin and Patrick Roy, who butterfly on almost every shot to John Vanbiesbrouck and Kirk McLean who use the half-butterfly in a controlled, shot by shot, basis and everybody in-between, the premise is still the same... since nearly 70% of all shots are on or near the ice, their objective is to take away the bottom shelf and eliminate all pucks that may go in on the ice, under, around or through the goaltender. Whether it’s a clean shot or a deflection, the goalies use their pads in one of the many butterfly or half-butterfly save selections.
Don’t be fooled. These goalies still must play angles, they still must look “big” down the wings and they must have some ability to scramble... thus their own “Combination Style” falls somewhere inside the extremes on the “Goaltending Style Continuum.”
Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week summer hockey school. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.