Feature Article
NHL 09: Goalies Wanted, Will Train

Of all the positions in NHL 09, it seems like the goalie position is the one that is neglected the most.

Most of the players I have talked to agree that it is not so much because the position is not fun, but rather because the position is extremely difficult to learn -- much less master.

Part of the blame for that difficulty falls on EA Canada’s shoulder pads. The developers at EA Canada are the ones who have made the save controls completely counter-intuitive, given no on-screen indication of where the goalie should position himself, and put goalies at a severe disadvantage when it comes to dealing with input delay and the need to make split-second reactions to stop shots.

Image: gamingnexus.com
Goalie mode is one of the few areas where EA's hockey franchise still has a long way to go before it can match what's offered in NHL 2K9.

But once a goaltender understands just what the heck he should be doing -- in spite of NHL 09's goofy and somewhat arbitrary rules -- the goalie position actually becomes one of the game’s most fun positions, and most useful too, since a human player is not going to get beat by the same glitch goals and cheese tactics that the online community is usually eager to exploit.

Here are a few simple tips players can use to make themselves one of the most useful (and needed) contributors to the NHL 09 online community.

1. Lay Off the Right Stick

The right joystick, or the "save stick" as it is commonly referred to, is actually one of the most counter-productive tools at a human goalie’s disposal.

Reason being, the "save stick" can only produce four different animations:

  • a sideways glove save (left/right on the stick)
  • a sideways blocker save (left/right on the stick)
  • a scrunching butterfly save (down on the stick)
  • a crouching poke check (up on the stick)

The downfall of these four moves is that none of them are context-sensitive. Regardless of where the puck is on the ice or how it is coming towards the net, a human goalie is still going to do the same, identical animation every time the "save stick" gets moved in one of the four cardinal directions.

Essentially, this renders the "save stick" animations useless for anything but moving the goalie’s frame into a "collision" with the puck. And as any solid goaltender should realize, the primary objective is not simply to "collide" with the puck so much as it is to "control" the puck.

Using any of these right-stick saves simply will not allow a human goalie to control the puck. The animations will only knock the puck around, giving the other team an opportunity to chip in a rebound -- unless the goalie is lucky enough to trigger an automated "cover the puck" animation.

2. Let the Game Make the Saves for You

While the "save stick" offers only four animations, none of which are context-sensitive, NHL 09’s library of automated animations is vast, and thankfully, all of them are context-sensitive.

This means that nine times out of 10, if players simply leave the goalie squared to the puck, the game will choose the correct animation from its save library, which will allow you to keep the puck out of the net and under your control.

The only time the automated saves tend to fail is when the goalie is being screened by other players. So unless you feel like you are being screened, or the other team is on a breakaway (more on those later), there really is no reason to touch the right stick when trying to make a save.

Instead, simply use the left joystick to keep your goalie square to the puck, then let the game’s animations work their magic.

3. Move With Baby Steps

Because goalies tend to feel the button-lag when playing online more than any other position on the ice, it is important that goalies avoid sliding around and overreacting to every pass and shot of the puck.

Instead, goalies should nudge the right stick slightly, creating small movements that will not leave them sliding out of position.

Image: gamerevolution.com
He may be a stupid-looking goalie, but at least he's smart enough to know that a goalie's got to keep his butt between the posts

4. Keep Off the Posts

Another unfortunate design decision in NHL 09’s goalie mode was the inclusion of "magnetic" goal posts. These magnetized posts suck goalies in like a gravity hole in the Geometry Wars series.

Because it takes an extra split-second for user goalies to "unstick" from the posts when moving from one side of the net to another, it is best for human goalies to stay off the posts as much as possible. By doing this, they can easily react to the cross-crease one timers that have become the dominant cheese tactic in online play.

Though this net-minding strategy will often give up a little daylight to shooters near the goal line, goalies will likely find that most of the players who carry the puck down near the goal line have their mind set on the cross-crease pass and are not even paying attention to the sliver of net that is given up by staying off the posts.

And even if the player does notice the slight opening near the post and takes the shot from the goal line, the "stickiness" of the posts should work to the goalie’s advantage -- allowing him to close off the net before the shot can squeak through the opening.

5. Learn to Navigate the Crease

Another common beginner’s mistake online is to park the goalie deep in the net for an entire game.

While there are times when the goalie must sag back into the crease (to shorten the recovery time on a one timer, for instance), sagging into the net all the time is simply not a smart idea. Simply put, it will open up wider shooting angles for players who have a clear shot on the goal.

Image: sillyhockey.blogspot.com
The exception, not the rule, for what happens to goalies who leave the crease.

As a general rule, here are the dos and do nots of the crease:

When to stay in the crease

  • During heavy traffic in front of the net
  • To reduce recovery distance against one-timers and puck cycling
  • To reduce danger of net-diving rebounders

When to come out of the crease

  • Breakaways
  • Obvious shooting situations where rebounders are removed from the play

For breakaways in particular, it is recommended that goalies become familiar with the poke check, which is one of the few useful moves on the right joystick. Reason being, a well-timed poke check can easily dislodge the puck and stop a breakaway before it even has a chance to sniff the paint of the crease.

With all of these tools at their disposal, goalies should be able to get that save percentage back into the high 80-percentile range and get that goals against average below three. And, though there are a lot of glitchers and cheesers out there who might disagree with me, I will take a human goalie -- flaws and all -- over an exploitable A.I. goalie any day of the week.

NHL 09 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 adayinthelife @ 03/25/09 02:22 PM
I don't feel like there is enough incentive for people to play net.

At least in real life goalies don't have to pay for shinny and in my beer league at least a shutout equals a free pitcher for the goalie .
# 2 savoie2006 @ 03/25/09 03:05 PM
I wouldn't want to play goalie in the EASHL unless I had teammates that could play effective/proper Defense. Alot, if not most, are only concerned about Offense it seems.
# 3 hedache @ 03/25/09 04:47 PM
I'm a goalie in a beer league and it's so much fun. On the other hand, I don't find it entertaining anywhere close due to the lack of action/success percentage. Most of the time I find myself waiting for the puck to come to our side (in the few games i played net). It's more fun to play skater get a lot more action for sure. What's the point of playing a video game when you're not doing anything at least half the time. When you are a skater, you are always trying to be in position on offense and on defense or in the neutral zone. Playing goalie in the game is kinda pointless.
# 4 scott209 @ 03/25/09 05:00 PM
i play gollie on online ranked games my record is 46-25 my GAA. is 2.36 so i think i do fine i do most of these things it is a hard position to learn but once you do it's very fun and you stop alot of glitch goals
# 5 jyoung @ 03/25/09 05:08 PM
The frantic up and down nature of online play keeps the goalies involved in NHL '09 a lot more than they might be in a real life game.

Rarely are there any dull moments, unless your team just happens to be completely dominating a group of scrubs and keeping the puck stuck in their zone all game long.

Like the article says, not only is it more fun to play with/against a good human goalie, but they are also incredibly useful to have on your team because you don't have to worry about them giving up glitch goals.
# 6 Jeffrey99 @ 03/26/09 05:09 AM
My problem with playing net is that you don't have to do anything to make a save. And as was pointed above, it actually hurts you more to try and make a save. That would be like me being able to skate into the crease and there be a auto-shot button, what's the point?

Goalies have to be quick on the reflexes to see/know where the puck is going. As it is now with NHL 09, all you have to do is be in "position" and allow the game to decide if it wants to make the save for you. If we are allowing the game to make the save, why play with human goalie at all?
# 7 Gossennator @ 03/26/09 11:29 AM
I wish I knew how to play goalie well but its way too hard and takes way too long to learn. BTW if anybody wants to join my team send a msg to Gossennator over XBL. We could use more people.
# 8 damir662 @ 03/26/09 11:52 AM
i would like to play goalie or player but it seems that people playing are just not that serious. (the ones I played with/against) Maybe I havent got with the right crowd but I would love to play with a serious team or a serious league
# 9 IBYCFOTA @ 03/27/09 03:45 AM
Originally Posted by Jeffrey99
My problem with playing net is that you don't have to do anything to make a save. And as was pointed above, it actually hurts you more to try and make a save. That would be like me being able to skate into the crease and there be a auto-shot button, what's the point?

Goalies have to be quick on the reflexes to see/know where the puck is going. As it is now with NHL 09, all you have to do is be in "position" and allow the game to decide if it wants to make the save for you. If we are allowing the game to make the save, why play with human goalie at all?
It wouldn't be practical to force people to make saves with the right stick. Any lag would kill you and you would pretty much have to try to make a save before they even shoot. It's already hard enough to play goalie as it is, I don't think they need to make it harder.

The big problem with goalie currently is that one timers and cross crease passes are overly difficult to stop. It needs to be tweaked for 2010 to make getting over easier to compensate for lag and remove the post magnet nonsense. However goalies should be a bit easier to score on when they are in good position. NHL goalies all have great positioning almost all the time, but they still get scored on because of defensive breakdowns. Plus, there is no defense for the perfect shot.
# 10 nacnud @ 04/09/09 08:20 PM
Playing goal gets lonely if you're on a good team. lol
# 11 jtricoli @ 04/14/09 08:12 AM
Interesting read. I would however, somewhat disagree about the insignificance of the right analog stick. I've found several good situations where using the right analog stick to go butterfly is the best method of stopping certain shots. The main reason for this is the goalie tendency to cover the puck when pulling down to be in butterfly. I've found this most helpful for shots from the point, which are often deflected low on the way to the net. Being in the butterfly help close the 5 hole in that situation and you have a higher percentage chance of covering it up.

The second situation I use butterfly is when the offensive forward is moving from a low corner to the front of the net. Once the skater come close to the near post, I go into the butterfly and move towards him. I've found this is very effective against the shot to the far side.

Thanks for the article, I appreciate the series as a whole and especially the one on the defense.

# 12 kerosene31 @ 04/16/09 03:24 PM
I love playing goalie floor hockey, but in NHL 09 it is just terrible.

There are just so many things that you just can't simulate with a controller.

The game's producer is a former goalie, so it isn't like they don't have experience.

The biggest problem I had with it vs real life is screens. Screens are so effective against humans because you can't move your head. In the real world, you can duck down, move your head to get a clear view of the puck.

Throw in all the goofy rebounding and post sticking... ugh.
# 13 Ant18 @ 04/30/09 05:54 AM
Good advice on this post . I play goalie all the time in NHL 09 cause I love the challenge . The cross ice passes are nearly impossible to stop. I have played hockey for a long time so I know a lot about angles and anticipating a play but that can only help you so much . It is extremly difficult to get a good grade in your stats while playing goalie. The only way to get an a is to stop everything and get and assist on a play by making a long ice pass after the other team has dumped it in. With that being said ......I'm trying to figure out how the hell you put your paddle down, like the computer does, when the puck is dumped in on you . I have given up some weak bobble goals by trying to stop the puck or cover it in previous games . IF ANY BODY KNOWS COULD THEY PLEASE TELL ME. Is it a puck playing stat? Does it do it automatically?can only the computer do it?
# 14 Superleafs00 @ 01/17/10 11:50 AM
I believe playing goalie is hard, but not impossible. It just takes some time and you will learn the tendencies of the CPU. One of them is the Cpu will always try to shoot on you when you are out of position, they acccomplish this with varoius methods (passing,shooting,deking). In addition do not make saves with the right stick, positioning is more important.
# 15 bowlerguy92 @ 01/17/10 01:29 PM
Why would you dig up this old thread?

Post A Comment
Only OS members can post comments
Please login or register to post a comment.