NHL 21 Goalie Tips - Basic Positioning

October 21, 2020 10:12 AM
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We start off every yearly release of NHL by refreshing our basic positioning. The year to year changes are very nuanced and this year is no exception. At the highest level of competitive play, it feels like these changes are drastic as they effect our ability to save certain types of plays, but at the lower levels you may not experience much of a difference. I'll do my best to summarize those tips in a shorter format than the video above. I won't go in to as much detail as the video above, but it does get lengthy, so feel free to use this article to skim through the advice.

One final note before we get started: this is a GUIDELINE. These spots will give you the best chance at saving the puck in the most basic scenarios, but at the end of the day you'll be constantly adjusting your positioning based on puck location, open players and passing lanes, and in game scenarios.

Tips for basic positioning in NHL 21

Tip #1 - Set your feet to increase your ability to save the puck

As is in real life and chel, setting your feet before a shot comes in will give you a better chance of saving the puck. That won't always be possible in the heat of the battle, so you'll have to frequently move into shots, especially when skaters start to take sharp angles towards your posts and shoot short side on you.

Tip #2 - The further away the puck is from your goalie, the less you have to move to be square. The closer it is, the more you have to move to be square.

You don't have to be as square to the puck when it's further away as you have more time to react.

A pretty self-explanatory piece of advice here. This will have an impact on the foundation of our positioning in game.

Tip #3 - The chances of saving the puck increases as it gets closer it is to our centre line

See the note above, this is just to give you a visual. This curve is not an accurate depiction of the real code.

I'm hearing a lot of goalies talk about getting sniped more this year. I love it. We haven't had that in an NHL since old gen hockey (NHL 14/15 on PS3/XBOX 360). In previous years we've been rewarded for sitting in the middle of our net and making reaching saves. This year, we need to be square to the puck.

Now a lot of people think that means playing super aggressive, but that's not what we want to do. You certainly do cut down the angle when you move further out of your crease, but if the shooter is further away from you it means nothing. You want to get your chest or your head (centreline) as close to the shot as possible to give your goalie the best chance of saving the puck.

Goalie is square to the shooter, but certainly not square to the puck.

The image above is me absolutely roasting this poor tendy in practice mode. Obviously in a 1-0 scenario where I have all day to settle in the slot with 90+ shot power and accuracy is an unfair advantage for anyone, but this shows how you need to play snipes in this game. This goalie would have to be playing at the hashmarks to properly cut down the angle. Instead, you'll want to be as patient as possible and move towards the puck as they shoot it. Give them the space and then take it away.

Tip #4 - Screen effect and deflections

Example positioning for screens and deflections

This year the screen effect on human goalies has been increased. In order to negate that, you'll want to read the puck carrier and the person screening you. If you see the puck carrier loading up for a shot with traffic in front of you, you'll want to get closer to the puck so that it has less room the travel around you if you get no animation or a late animation. This is the same advice for deflections. If you see someone in front squared up for a deflection you'll want to get as close as possible to their stick while still being square to the shot. The puck can't go around you if your chest is over top of the point where it changes directions. You'll also want to drop to butterfly on deflection chances to give your self the best chance at blocking the puck.

Tip #5 - Reset your goalie to the same spot in the crease when the puck leaves the zone

Middle/middle positioning when the puck leaves the zone

Why? So you know exactly where your goalie is every time the puck enters the zone. Sometimes we get caught sleeping (or eating) and need to scramble to grab our controller. It helps to know that you'll be starting from the same position every time. It also helps us build muscle memory and get a good feel for movement in the game. If you start from the same spot every time you'll know that in order to get to your point positioning, you just have to take 1 stride up towards the puck and you're in a good spot. If you don't do this, you'll find your self scrambling and out of control when the other team starts their attack.

Foundational Positioning:

Point positioning

Near the top of your crease

When the puck is at point, generally you'll want to be around here. Adjust your positioning by shading left and right to follow the puck.

You don't need to be perfectly square from this far away

Shade left/right depending on where the puck is

Half board positioning

Example half board positioning with no one open in the slot

Half board positioning is dependent on a couple of factors. Is the puck carrier square to the net or is their back turned? Is someone open in the slot or down low? If no one is open, you can line your skate up with the post and be slightly closer to the puck carrier. However, this is typically a prime spot for a one-timer pass, so you'll need to adjust your positioning based on the options in front of you.

Slightly deeper positioning with open options

You'll see in the example above I'm a little bit deeper in my net. The puck carrier isn't looking at me, there's open players in the corner and in the slot. I need to lose depth in order to save certain one timers.

Positioning for when the puck is in the corner

Example corner positioning

When the puck is in the corner, stay standing and overlap your skate on the post. Post hugging is slow and inconsistent. If you hug the post in butterfly or standing up, you'll get stuck on it when there's a one-timer and you won't be able to get off in time.

Example of a high level game with the puck in the corner and open skaters

Just like with our half-board positioning, you'll want to adjust your depth based on the situation. If someone is open for a one-timer, you need to be a little bit deeper. With open opponents, i'll tuck my foot just inside the post so that I have time to square up to a one-timer.

Positioning for when the puck goes behind the net

Example positioning with the puck in the trapezoid

If you've watched my videos in the past (or not), you're probably thinking this is backwards. Post to post movement is very slow. Skaters move faster than we can slide from one post to another so I suggest you stand up for as long as you can when the puck goes behind the net. It gives you more control when people will pass the puck back into the slot, back short side, or even change directions and try to wrap you.

This is an intermediate tip. Beginners may want to get used to butterfly movement and moving back and forth between the posts.

So what happens if they attempt a wrap-around? Shift to the right or left and drop to butterfly as close to the post as possible. You'll most likely make a kick save.

I'm not holding hug post here, just butterflying as close to the post as I can

This year we have more control of our movement down in butterfly. We can nudge left and right and get as close to the post as we want. Keep in mind shooters may still find a hole with this positioning, but it will suffice to save wrap-arounds and short side plays (ie. the Kuzy play).

Slot Positioning

Example slot positioning

Surprise, surprise, slot positioning is based on where the puck is, who's open, and if the opponent is looking to shoot or pass. When the puck is in the slot you have a choice to make. Am I going to face a shot? Or is this guy going to pass? If you're too aggressive and a pass comes, you'll get beat by the one timer. If you're too deep and a shot is taken, you'll get sniped. You have to make a read based on your opponents tendencies, the open passing lanes, and a gut feeling.


These tips should give you a good foundation to playing goalie in EASHL in NHL 21. Beginners often try to play super aggressive, without realizing this game plays more true to real hockey than they think. More and more we see goalies in the real NHL playing a more conservative style and hardly leaving the paint. Certain situations call for that style, but most of the time you're better off keeping it under control. This is a straight up opinion but I think the highest level of EASHL is ahead of real hockey in some ways. As the athletes get better and better in real life, you see them pulling off moves you'd find on the ice in a top level 6v6 game. This means goalies have to adapt to the chances they face. At the end of the day, do what works best for you, but make sure you're constantly measuring your results and taking note of when you're getting beat and making saves.

Stay tuned for more videos, articles, and advice!

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