A lot of goalkeepers, like the school of North American goalkeeping, prefer to have a stance where the body provides a constant blocking shape, keeping a tight stance during all of the play, with the closed legs providing a vertical barrier against possible shots, without any chance of the ball squeezing through. With the body always in this shape, there is no need to push the pads together immediately, when a shot occurs. Although a lot of coaches, especially women’s hockey in Australia teach the block as a save in itself, you should see it only as a means to block off the ball when the shot is headed between your legs.
By making use of a narrow stance, with the pads locked together, there is no chance of the ball getting through you. Although movement is harder, this is good for beginners who are unsure about their abilities on point shots. In game play, this is especially useful against tips and screens where the opposition will be looking to squeeze one through you via a point deflection.
Squeezing the pads
To prevent shots getting through the gap between your pads, you can close them together, thus closing off the possible gap. Whilst this is not encouraged in most situations, as a suitable level of hand-eye co-ordination and understanding of the game will allow, there are times when it should be utilised on one-on-one opportunities, and tips and screens, where the shooters are specifically going for the gaps between your legs. When challenging out against a close-in shot, you can charge out with pads closed to provide a blocking shape; playing the percentages to cover shooting space.
However, you will still see a lot of keepers from all over the world, beginner to pro using it properly to close gaps, but remember: you should not see the block as a method of leg saves: the leg is used on shots to the sides within the ready stance to cover the raised shot. Instead, it is an efficient way of closing off the hole between the legs.
Stopping shots between the pads
On plays where the goalkeeper is moving across against a pass, or moving attackers, it is possible to leave an open gap between the pads, with a wider stance, causing an extremely embarrassing ball as the shooter squeaks the ball through the open pads. By closing the legs against the shot, the goalkeeper is able to close off the available space and vastly reduce the shooter’s scoring chances.
This photo is used by permission from Alex Masters’ Pan American games action photos; www.alex-masters.com