With it being the dead of summer and no legit North American hockey league starting up for another two-plus months, I’ve taken to the XBox to try to get my hockey fix.
As hockey fans, we all dreamed of taking the ice in the NHL and scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal, or making the big save with the game on the line, and the NHL video game series gives us that chance with their ‘Be a Pro’ mode, where you create your player, put him on the NHL team of your choice, or have him play in major junior to see where you get drafted, and then play out their career.
And for the most part, when you get to skate out as a forward or defenseman, the game does a capable job of recreating what it feels like to be a hockey player, as you pass, shoot, and hit your way through your career.
But goalie, goalie is entirely different, awful animal on the game, for a few reasons.
I always want to be goalie because I grew up playing goalie, and still play goalie a bit in men’s league. So I made my guy resemble me as closely as possible, right down to the pads I use and took the ice.
The first issue, your goalie starts out TERRIBLE in the overall stats, which, I get, you’re a player in major junior, so they’re not going to make you like 80 overall right out of the gate. But a 66 overall is a bit low. Most shots in the slot beat you, you give up TONS of rebounds that lead to goals, and you’re slow to react when trying to get across the crease to get in position on cross-ice passes for a shot.
That would be frustrating enough if that was the biggest issue with playing goalie on the game, because you will give up 2-3 goals a game because of those deficiencies you start out at, but there’s one thing that will infuriate you to no end while playing goalie, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Your teammates are absolute morons.
Here’s a sample from yesterday when I was attempting to play in major junior with the Saskatoon Blades:
This is the type of A+ play you see from your teammates on NHL 18’s Be a Pro mode when you’re the goalie. What the hell. pic.twitter.com/dOE6jpBr5z
— Bus League Hockey (@BusLeagueHockey) July 8, 2018
Look at that shit. My own defenseman puts a pass right on the tape of some guy for the St. John’s Ice Dogs. The guy for St. John’s couldn’t have put that pass in a better spot for him to score on. Why my defenseman made this pass, I’ll never know. I watched that happen in real-time and sat there in disbelief for at least 10 seconds trying to process what I just witnessed before I grabbed my phone and took that video, because I had to share it with other people.
And this is not a random occurrence. Plays like this happen 4-5 times a game, and most of them end up in the back of the net. It may not be a pass like that where your brain melts because it was so stupid, but smaller plays that end up screwing you over in net.
Your defensemen will get below the dots, you know, where they’re supposed to really buckle down on their guy…and just kind of stop. Letting their man drift away by 3-4 feet for a wide-open tap-in goal after they watch the pass roll right by them. Or they will stop playing their man as the puck rolls right to the opposition on a rebound for a quick goal. Or my favorite, they just kind of drift down to the goal line for some reason, leaving their man all alone on the doorstep for an easy goal.
And this is on Pro difficulty, the default setting where it shouldn’t be that hard! The result is a bunch of games where you give up 6-7 goals and think to yourself, “I really played pretty good, but when there’s four goals every game where you want to murder your teammates, there’s nothing I can do to bring that total down.”
It got so bad that I somehow ended up on Reddit looking for tips on how to be a better goalie in the game, read them, watched videos, took to the ice again…and still got shelled because of the same issues.
It’s so bad that you can’t even complete the four- (or five) game Memorial Cup because you want to die that you keep giving up six goals every game.
And with NHL 18 being the only hockey game out there (There’s Bush League Hockey, but that’s a whole different animal), you have no other choice if you want to play a hockey video game and live out your dreams on the ice.
So EA Sports, if you’re reading this, fix this shit with the goalie mode on ‘Be a Pro’, or at least make it so your teammates are more valuable in the defensive end than five road cones.