It's probably irrational, but when I start a game in goal I am a nervous wreck until the first shot comes at me. It's a matter of Imposter's Syndrome, that I'm terrible and have no right to be dragging my teammates down like an anchor with my sub-par goaltending. Once I can turn that first shot away, though, the miasma of dread evaporates. I feel validated, even if only a smidge, and my confidence increases. The world is a better place, hockey is the bestest sport ever, and I could have played in the NHL if only I'd started 20 years ago. 30 years ago. Okay, 45 years ago.
Of course, all that empowerment feels false if you give up a crappy goal.
Like I did Sunday night.
The first period of the game was a rough one for the Scurvy Dogs. We didn't have our skating legs and it's safe to say we were out shot in the vicinity of 15-2 or so. Still, I was turning aside whatever the defense let get through. I was giving my team the opportunity to win.
Until, you know, I wasn't.
I suppose I could deflect some of the blame on it being a power play goal but no, that would be disingenuous. It was a clean shot from the point, a slapper that never got off the ice. I had a clear view of it, was in good position, and dropped into my 'butterfly' (calling it butterflying implies that I can do sort of a split. I can't, but saying 'dropping into a Vee' sounds dirty). The shot hit dead center on the blade of my stick.
And therein proved the problem. In a rookie mistake, I didn't have my elbow out toward the shooter. It doesn't have to be much, but it can't be back by my shoulder. Which it was.
Which brings us to the slow motion of the title, an accurate description of how the puck looked as it flipped, end over end, in an arc over my right shoulder. It could have hit the crossbar and stayed out but what would the fun have been in that? Ugh. 1-0 on an ugly, ugly goal.
I didn't self-destruct. I made a few saves, gave up one I never saw in the 2nd period and another late in the game when a puck didn't get cleared, and we lost 3-1. I was sad that I put my team in a hole they never got out of - although they did get close - but at the same time I have to think back to last year when I was playing for the Mustangs and it was a moral victory if I kept it under double digits. I know I'm not a great goalie, or even a good one. I know I'm old and my improvement curve is a steep one, to say the least.
But ye gods, I'm having fun. If I can do so without destroying my team's chances when I'm between the pipes, I'm alright with that. Even if I'll never get my hands on a Vezina Trophy.
(look a whole post with no political ranting!)