Every goaltending coach and every goaltender has their own theory on how to play the breakaway. Regardless of how it is done, the bottom line is to STOP THE PUCK.

Certainly, every goalie will play off his strengths. A goaltender who is good on dekes will "come out" of his net a little farther to take away any good shots and force a deke. Any goaltender weak on dekes will stay back a bit and take his chances with a shot. Certain goaltenders' strengths might include use of poke checks or stacking pads. Know your strengths and use them, but also work hard on your weaknesses so they do not bring you down.

Most coaches use the famous old cliché . . . "Don't make the first move!" It's not that the goaltender makes the first move, but rather he does not show enough patience by reacting to the shooters FIRST fake. Practice and "goaltending sense" developed from experience will help goalies determine the real move from a fake. Patience is critical....don’t beat yourself.

To better analyze the breakaway, listed below are four sections.

*The Goaltenders System
*Visual Cues/Helpful Hints
*The Don'ts on a Breakaway
*The Do's on a Breakaway

These hopefully will provide all goaltenders and coaches with some general mental and physical concepts that should help with many breakaway situations.


In general, goalies should follow a 3 step approach.

1. Come out extra far: When the goaltender determines there is a breakaway, he comes out well above the top of the goal crease and gets set. This leaves little angle for a shot, and forces a sharp player to deke.

2. Back up: When the player reaches the tops of the circles, the goaltender begins his backward motion. There are many do's and don'ts, and visual cues to look for. The gap between the goalie and shooter slowly closes.

3. Save Selection: This is the save choice the goalie makes. Whether it is a stack of the pads, a half butterfly, or just getting hit in the chest, a decision based on the situation and visual cues must be made. There are lots of do's and don'ts here, too! “Bring the package to the puck." Move or flow into the save...avoid reaching.


1. Where is the puck being carried by the shooter? If it is in front, a deke is likely. If it is on the side, there is a good chance the player will shoot.

2. Coming down the wings, be aware that an "off side wing" (right hander down the left wing or visa versa) has more angle to shoot than an "on side" wing.

3. Normally on a deke, the final move will occur after the shooter's skates cross the hash marks in the slot. Anything earlier is probably a fake.

4. A way to tell the shooter is ready to "make a move" is when he plants his feet, stops skating and begins to glide. The wider his feet get, the fewer options and less lateral mobility he has.

5. On a deke, players will go to their backhand most often.

6. Players will try to get an advantage by using their hands, moving the puck, head and shoulder fakes, etc. to get the goaltender to move or commit. While the goaltender must follow the puck, the direction of the players' chest or midsection can determine to which side the deke will occur. Isn't that what defensemen are taught to do?


1. Don't back in too slow, the player will go around you.

2. Don't back in too fast, the net opens up for a shot.

3. Some coaches tell goalies to back up at the same speed as the shooter. No way. If the goalie does, when the shooter is inside the hash marks, the goalie is in the 3rd
row! The "gap" should be closed slowly.

4. Don't get any deeper than the top of the semi-circular goal crease.

5. Don't stop your backward motion or plant your feet. Playing a breakaway is a "flow."

6. Don't go for the first fake. Have patience.

7. Don't lunge forward at the player. He can go around you too easily.

8. Don't overuse or rely exclusively on a poke check . . . especially when the player is coming down the middle. It rarely works at the higher levels.

9. Don't use skate saves on dekes. They open up way too many holes.

10. Don't stack your pads parallel to the top of the rectangular crease when a player is coming down the middle of the ice. If you do, a big hole opens up between your hip and elbow with the puck often going right under you into the net. If the shooter goes to the side, he has a lot of space to score a “lay-up goal."

11. If a player dekes to your left, DON`T plant your right leg while you extend your left leg. That opens the goaltender up, to easily drive a truck through his legs.

12. Don't let a player score a goal from INSIDE your goal crease (that's your territory). You probably retreated to far.

13. Don't give up any "lay-up" goals. Make them earned. Lay-up goals are caused by a bad poke check, a poor 2 pad slide, or going for a fake.


1. Practice your backward motion timing so the save selection can occur when you are at the top of the semi-circular goal crease. The backward motion provides momentum to move to the left or right with a deke. The gap between you and the shooter should
close gradually.

2. Use your stick as an asset, but do not rely on a poke check.

3. Show patience by not reacting to the players first move, . . . . wait him out for the "real move." Stay on your feet as long as you can. Do your best to stay with the shooter.

4. Use pad saves as often as possible on dekes. They cover more net quicker.

5. When stacking the pads or using the butterfly or half butterfly on a deke, the goaltender’s motion should be at a diagonal from the top of the semi-circular crease toward the outside of the goal post. This eliminates any chance of the player going around the goaltender and getting a "lay-up goal." I call it the "Y theory". . . out, back, and toward the goalposts. Always lead with the blade or paddle of the stick.

6. When stacking the pads, delay the stick movement by keeping it in front of you until the hole between the hip and elbow is closed.

7. Recognize that most goals go in low, either through (5 hole), under, or around the goaltender. Make sure you close those holes. It's hard for a player to "roof the puck" while moving at full speed on a deke. Have a disciplined stick, and keep the body compact.

8. Always give yourself the chance to make the save!

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