Wednesday Drill of the Week: 2v1 Series

2v1 Series

A simple quick-hitter 2v1 series this week. There are two variations (top and bottom). The bottom sequence starts with a D on the dot, a forward on the half wall and one at the top of the circle. Coach is in the middle of the F’s with pucks. The drill starts with the coach passes a puck to the F on the wall – the 2 F’s then attack the D 2v1 to the net.

The top variation is similar. One F starts on the wall (facing the boards) down low. The other F starts on the circle. Coach is on the half wall with pucks. The drill starts with the coach rimming the puck to the forward down low. The F turns on it and then attacks the net 2v1 on the D.

F Keys – movement away from the puck, quick attack, shoot for rebound, stop at the net, read the defenseman and attack their weakness

D Keys – stick position, stick on puck, swivel head, long body when appropriate, judging speed, playing off the center axis

Elite NHL Defensemen

Kevin Shattenkirk, former BU player and current defenseman for the St Louis Blues did a nice two part series on Elite Defensemen in the NHL and the premier skill that each player possesses that sets him apart. I highly recommend you take ten minutes and check it out

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/elite-defensemen-101-kevin-shattenkirk-nhl/

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/elite-defensemen-101-part-2/

I thought I’d summarize the high level skills that these players have – all parts of the whole that make up a complete defenseman.

Drew Doughty: Confidence, skating ability, anticipation to jump into the play

Shea Weber: Shot, o zone IQ/sense, positioning, physicality/little things

Ryan Suter: Overall IQ, stamina, on/off switch, first pass ability

Duncan Keith: Lateral skating, smarts, poise, defensive stick

P.K. Subban: Swagger/gets under opponents skin, edgework

Erik Karlsson: Shots through traffic, elusive

Kris Letang: Strong skater, poise with the puck, playing with head up, hand-eye on pucks

Alex Pietrangelo: Escapability (winning loose pucks), shot-blocking, jumping into the play

Kevin Cassese on Building a Program

Kevin Cassese, Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach at Lehigh University spoke at LaxCon 2015 about Building a Program. US Lacrosse was nice enough to post video highlights of his talk on their YouTube page. I highly recommend taking a look at it – some really good stuff in here about culture and program building.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFkRriNK3WTAvgup_kaiDiGXbtS5Gh9zF

The Joy of Opening Day

April 6, 2015. Opening Day for Major League Baseball. A day when the possibilities are endless, joy abounds and hope springs eternal. Everyone is 0-0 and for a lot of teams and fans, this could finally be the year.

By the time August and September roll around, that joy, hope and energy has faded for a large portion of players, teams and fans. Why? The reality of what the season is and will be is more concrete. You can see what can or cannot still happen. Some teams have long be out of any sort of playoff race. Others are in the midst of an exciting pennant chase with fans on the edge of their seats hoping for the best. The storylines that seem to always affect our teams play out again and again.

Why do we let the results of yesterday cloud our ability to enjoy the moment? Why do we let our win/loss record dictate our mood, energy and enthusiasm for today? The joy of the first day soon fades into the grind of a long season no matter the sport.

Remember the passion and energy you had on day one – bring that every day. Enjoy your sport every day that you have an opportunity to step on the field and play. Love your team as much during game 42, 86, 119 and 147 as you did on opening day. Your future is not dictated by your past. The joy and enthusiasm is what powers your ability to create a new tomorrow.

Let’s Play Ball!

Friday Links

I thought I’d share some articles that I came across this week that I enjoyed:

From the Lansing State Journal on Tom Izzo and his career arc at MSU: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/sports/college/msu/mens-basketball/2015/04/03/inside-izzo-fiery-court-demeanor-match-loyalty/70866556/

From NHL.com discussing goaltenders in practice, as well as the practice habits seen in hockey: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=761029

From the Boston Globe on Rush Offense and how the Senators are capitalizing on quick entries: http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/03/29/ottawa-senators-rush-succeed/kGjJGasvyyYNgONknz6JWO/story.html?event=event25

Goals Scored in the 2015 NCAA Tournament: Regionals

This weekend, there were 12 games played in the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament. Those 12 games resulted in four regional champions that are heading to Boston for the Frozen Four.

In those 12 games, there were a grand total of 66 goals scored. I took a closer look at those 66 goals, where they came from and if there were any trends that could be noticed. I looked at a few different categories on each goal – strength, time in zone prior to goal, zone entry type (carry, dump, faceoff), goal type (rush, in zone possession, forecheck, faceoff, empty net), clearing attempts prior to goal, turnovers prior to goal, and lost battles prior to goal. Here’s a brief summary of the numbers:

  • Of the 66 goals:
    • 9 were empty net (13.64%)
    • 14 were on the Power Play (21.21%)
    • 3 were Shorthanded (4.54%)
    • 40 were even strength (60.61%)

Let’s look closer at the 40 even strength goals

  • 31 of the 40 (77.5%) came after the puck was carried into the offensive zone
  • 20 came off the rush
    • Average length of possession in zone was 5.05 seconds from entry to goal scored
  • 14 came from offensive zone possession
    • Average time in zone was 22.07 seconds from entry to goal scored
    • 13 of 14 came from at least one lost battle by the defending team (92.86%)
    • 9 of 14 came after the defensive team had an opportunity to clear (64.29%)
    • 8 of 14 came after a change in possession in zone (57.14%)
  • 1 came off of a faceoff
  • 4 were the result of good forechecks

Taking a closer look at the goaltending (57 goals allowed):

  • 15 of the 57 (26.32%) goals beat the goaltenders clean (goalie had time to set on the shot)
  • 18 of the 57 (31.58%) came immediately following a pass
  • 12 of the 57 (21.05%) were scored on a rebound
  • 12 of the 57 involved traffic at the net – either a tip (3 – 5.26%) or a screen (9 – 15.79%)

Observations:

  • I had suspected prior to doing this research that a good majority of goals were scored after a failed clear. While it is a very small sample size, about 65% of goals scored in the offensive zone come after a failed clear.
  • I was surprised with the high number of rush goals – having half of the goals scored at even strength be off the rush is a surprisingly high number.
  • I am not surprised that the number of goals after a lost battle is very high. Often teams that maintain possession do so as a result of winning puck races and 1v1 battles – the longer you possess the puck, the more fatigue sets in and the higher your chances of scoring.
  • Turnovers in the defensive zone are especially damning as well – 57% of goals scored off off OZ possession come after a turnover.
  • The number of goals scored that beat the goaltenders clean was surprising. Over 25% were shots that beat a goaltender that was set on the shot. More on par with expectations was the number of goals after a pass and off of rebounds.

It is a small sample size, but it is very interesting to look at and see how goals are scored in the biggest games in Division I hockey. Bottom line – execute your clears, don’t turn the puck over and limit possession time in the offensive zone for your opponent…things that all good coaches preach on a regular basis.

Update: Here is the data set that I used in a pdf form: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4jlijyn9edph7f4/2015%20NCAA%20Tournament%20Goals.pdf?dl=0

Playoff Hockey

For college hockey lovers, this is the best weekend of the year. Twelve games, all televised on the ESPN family and in High Definition. The only thing better than playing in it is having a comfortable couch and being able to watch every minute.

Watching the games Friday and Saturday, I noticed one major trend standing out – the teams that fail to advance want the game to be easy instead of playing strong, honest hockey.

What does it mean to “want the game to be easy”?

  • Looking to score on skill plays and rushes – with an increased sense of urgency, teams backcheck better and play more responsibly in their own zone. Skill plays and rush goals are few and far between in the playoffs. Teams that look to generate all of their offense off the rush or by “out-skill-ing” teams are typically teams that go home early.
  • Reaching for pucks and engaging in stick battles – teams that want the game to be easy look to avoid contact and don’t want to put themselves in a position to get hurt. Stick play becomes a big part of their game and you see them reaching with hands while pulling away with bodies. More than one stick foul penalty typically indicates a team that is reaching and playing soft – hooks, trips, etc
  • Losing the net front – teams that want the game to be easy don’t own the net front. They set cursory screens and try to go to the net but don’t establish body position and plant themselves in the scoring area. Clear look, first shot goals in the playoffs are rarer than a parking spot in Boston. Playing against the best goalies in the country, you have to get to the net front.
  • Failed clears – blind clears, plays on the backhand, etc, the inability to get the puck out of your zone is killer in playoff hockey. Teams that play the right way make sure that they get pucks to the neutral zone at every opportunity. They are willing to take a hit to make a play.
  • Cheating hockey – what is cheating hockey? A little harder to quantify, but teams that look to cheat on 50/50 pucks or expected possession. Players and teams that play cheating hockey are hoping that their teammates make the play rather than digging in to help or staying in an appropriate support position. They look to put themselves in an advantageous position offensively rather than a smart defensive position.
  • Complaining to the officials – teams that want the game to be easy are usually the teams that you see complaining to the refs after every call. This doesn’t mean every coach who talks with the officials has a team that wants it to be easy, but it is the coaches and players who raise their arms and complain about every penalty called. Some players and teams are notorious for giving the refs and earful with every call – these teams are looking for the easy way out rather than playing honest hockey.

Am I generalizing here? Absolutely. Are there teams that win that play this way? Of course. Do teams play the right way and lose? All the time. Hockey is a game of statistically random events that lead to an outcome. 

These are observations from tournament games as well as NHL and College games throughout the season. All players and teams are guilty of doing these things from time to time. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance towards success. However, the teams that survive and advance in the NCAA Tournament are the teams that play hard, honest hockey and commit themselves to the cause. They finish checks, put themselves in harms way and do whatever it takes to win.

Ultimately, the question is do you want to look back and know you could have done more or know you did everything you could to help your team win a National Championship?

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