Wednesday Drill of the Week: Cutback Shooting

Overlap Shooting.jpg

An individual skill drill for forwards this week. The drill starts with X1 (black) carrying a puck on a wide drive outside the dots. Continuing to drive below the goal line, X1 then executes a cutback. X2 (green) times his departure, leaving so that he will arrive below the goal line at an appropriate time to execute an overlap (or scissor) move with X1. On this overlap, X1 drops the puck to X2. X2 then drives towards the back of the net and cuts back, creating space to make a play. X1 has now continued to find the soft spot in the zone (just inside the dot). X2 passes to X1 who catches & shoots on net.

Forwards should focus on their individual habits in this drill – playing with their head up, keeping their hands away from their body, making plays at speed. Coaches can add in token defensive pressure on the drive and on the overlap play to help simulate game play.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Laker 2v2

WDotW Returns! A great full team rush/oz play drill courtesy of one of the two Laker programs in NCAA D1.

Laker 2v2

The drill starts with F1s crossing and exchanging a puck near the top of the circles. Two D start at the blueline and play the rush 2v2 back into the zone. Once in zone, two D (D2) come and play the offensive points while F1s and D1s play 2v2 below the tops of the circles. F1 can use D2 at the offensive blue line to maintain possession and generate point shots. On the whistle, F2’s cross and exchange a puck, attacking D2 down the ice into the far zone 2v2 – two D1’s join to play offensive points. The drill is then continuous, with the next pair beginning their attack on the whistle.

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

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

Scoring Goals

If you haven’t seen it yet, Steve Valiquette has a segment on MSG called “Valley’s View”. He breaks down scoring and goaltending in NHL games and looks at many different elements of the position and the game. Here is a GREAT five minute video about the types of shots that generate goals and how and why that happens. My key takeaway? Much like it says in the notes of the video – “Those sequences are all qualified by the fact the goalie has less than half a second of sight before the puck releases from the shooters stick.”

Want to score goals? A quick release and an element of deception/angle change for the goaltender.—red-shots.html

Follow Steve on Twitter at @valleys_view or catch him on MSG Hockey Night Live.

Seize the Opportunity

Every sport has different lineup policies – some dress everyone and only some people play (football, basketball, baseball) and others only dress a certain number but most (if not all) participate (hockey). Each of these sports have players that are regulars in the lineup and contribute every night. They also have players that are on the fringe, maybe getting a few plays a game to make a difference.

Players who are securely in the lineup every night face a certain type of pressure. They are expected to produce and play at a high level every night. Players on the fringe experience a very different type of pressure. Fringe players have the pressure of having to do well in limited minutes or lose their opportunity to play.

Who struggles more with the pressure? I would argue that fringe players have a harder time with the consistent lineup pressure than those playing every night. Any high level athlete has the word “player” as a major part of their self identity. Being in and out of the lineup with limited minutes creates a situation where you are no longer a “player” but someone who sits on the bench. This creates an internal identity crisis for the player – are they good enough to be who they thought they were in their mind?

When these players get in the lineup, they often play “to stay in the lineup” vs “playing to win” – they make safe plays and play in a way that shows they are scared to make a mistake. So how do you handle the pressure, how do you seize your opportunity when you are given a chance to play? Daily attention to detail.

If you’re a fringe player, your practices must become your games. Your attention to detail must be near-perfect. Every repetition you get must be done as well as you can do it. You have to be brilliant at the basics of the game. In hockey, this means finishing your checks, picking up on the backcheck, executing systems with precision, going hard to the net, winning puck battles, etc. You have to do all the little things every single day and hold yourself accountable to those details. Ask yourself – did I do the absolute best that I can today?

These details should be ingrained in every player anyways, but they are especially important for players who are on the bubble. Doing all the little things and executing the details with pride will not only earn you playing time but it will also help you seize your opportunity for success. When you do get into a game, your habits (systems, checks, backchecks, battles, etc) will create opportunities for you and your linemates and keep you in the game on a regular basis. If the easy things aren’t executed, it becomes easy for the coaching staff to take you out of the lineup again.

While this addresses players who are on the fringe, the reality is that this is the key to success at any level and for any activity. Being persistent at the details – never letting little things slide. Preparing and practicing like you want to perform will make your performance a habit. People get nervous for games, performances, presentations, speeches, etc when in reality, all these big “events” are is adding an audience to what you do on a daily basis. If you execute the details daily, you will do them in performance. Nerves come from not being confident in your ability to perform – confidence comes from preparation. Prepare like every day is a performance and you will see your success grow.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Defensemen Shooting

Agility Traffic Shooting

Two defensemen shooting drills this week. The first drill is on top, the second drill is on the bottom. Both drills are not quite drawn to scale in order to better illustrate the diagrams.

The first drill is an agility skate. Place a pile of pucks at the dot, with three cones in the corresponding zig-zag pattern. The D skates the pattern always facing the net and with their eyes up the entire time (major point of emphasis). Forward skate to retrieve a puck, transition to backwards and skate around the inside cone, then the outside cone, then walk the line. The net should be positioned in a manner such that the shot has to come through the lane between the first two cones. This creates a shooting target for the D – they are not merely trying to put a puck on net, but get it through a certain area.

The second drill on the bottom is a pure shooting drill. The goal is to get pucks through to the net and teach the D never to get their shots blocked. The shooter starts at the blue line. The blocker/passer starts at the faceoff dot. There are a number of progressions to this drill. In the first one, the shooter starts in line with the hash marks and facing the player who will pass the puck. The passer zips a pass out and then skates straight at the shooter, who has to get a shot on net without getting it blocked. The passer cannot go down to attempt to block the shot, merely skate straight at the shooter with stick out and shins in shooting lane. The shooter is allowed to take a step to either side in an attempt to get the shot through. The second and third variations start with more of an angle – the shooter starts on the wall or in the middle of the ice and the blocker/passer skates in an angling pattern to one side or the other attempting to influence the shooter to move/shoot in that direction. The shooter should always attempt to provide false information and a little movement to get the shot though to the net.

Wednesday Drill of the Week: Half Ice D-Zone

Half Ice Down Low PlayA half-ice team drill this week. This is a situational defensive play drill used to practice D-Zone play. The drill starts with a puck rimmed in to the far side. Two forwards and one defenseman are on offense (X’s), while two D and two F’s (O’s) defend. On the whistle, the coach plays a puck to the down low forward on the other side of the ice. Now it becomes 5v5 in zone, with the four defensive players changing sides and the three offensive players resetting and joining the play.

This drill works on two critical elements of play in zone – keeping opponents on the perimeter and pucks changing sides. In zone, pucks changing sides of the ice can create some of the best opportunities for the offensive side. The defensive team has to change their alignment, move to new positions and survey the new scene. Training your team on how to react and how to play these situations will get them more comfortable when this happens in a game.

On the offensive side, it helps your players with playing pucks on the wall, finding creative options (using the point), protecting the puck in outnumbered situations and quick attacks when the puck changes sides. As an offensive player, when the puck changes sides is your critical moment to attack. You should instantly look to beat your man to the net and create an offensive opportunity. Seize the moment of confusion for the defense and take advantage.