Every goalie goes through a period where too many pucks end up in the net. This is known as a “slump” and possibly the most frustrating period of time for any goalie.
Recently Vesa Toskala, the starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs, had a poor stretch. It was so bad, his head coach publicly called him out for his poor play in what many regard the hockey capital of the world, Toronto. As his coach and the media hammered him, did he panic? Apparently not.
According to the article linked above, Toskala did what all good athletes do when slumping and, after a short period, his performance reverted back to normal.
How did he get through it? Two simple things.
One, perspective. In the linked article, he acknowledged there eventually will be another period of time where he will struggle (“I know there’s probably a stretch coming when it’s going in again, but that’s how it is“). It’s simple, all goalies, regardless of who they are, will go through periods of poor performance in relation to their standard level of play. This perspective reduces the anxiety from poor performance and prevents the goalie from getting deeper in the slump which is where problems get really bad. Instead of losing confidence and worrying about why the slump has occured, the goalie can focus on getting back on track.
Second, he went back to practice with his goalie coach. Although the articles does not reveal what they did together, chances are they went “back to the basics” and worked on the simple things. Working on simple things (with a goalie coach or on your own) calms the mind and allows the goalie to focus better on making saves. Once the goalie is doing better in practice, confidence is regained and performance in games will begin to improve. The slump has been thrown out with the trash…
Is dealing with slumps easy? No. It can be brutal. But if the goalie understands its a natural part of the season (yes, it happens to most goalies every season) as well as what he needs to do to pull himself out, the slump will be shortened and play will get back up to the normal standards.
When the slump begins, think Vesa Toskala.