Scoring Goals (Video)

On Saturday, I linked to a highlight video showcasing the goals scored in Game 2 of the Rangers/Canadiens series.

I took a more indepth look at that video today – check out the full breakdown here:

Scoring Goals

Last night’s game between the Rangers and the Canadiens was a clinic on how to score goals and generate offense in today’s game. You want to score more? Watch what these pros do, where they go and how these goals are scored:

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.

Speed Behind the Puck

I’ve heard a number of people (especially at the higher levels) talk about the concept of speed behind the puck. It’s a concept that has really taken hold in the NHL. In an effort to understand it better myself, I thought I would take some time to break it down.

What is it: Speed behind the puck is the concept that you have a player (often a forward) moving faster than the puck carrier. At it’s most basic level, a player can loop in behind the puck carrier to build up speed. As the puck carrier moves up ice, the support man builds up speed and times his attack to coincide with pressure on a defender. The puck carrier then distributes the puck to the player attacking with speed in space. It can also happen on plays into space – the puck moves north and someone who is supporting below the puck accelerates to cause a change of speed on the attack.

What it is meant to do: The concept is to cause a defender to have to adjust to a speed change and the puck in a different lane. A player may be attacking at a certain speed and in one lane, then someone who has built up speed behind the puck carrier suddenly gets the puck and attacks at a much higher pace along a different path.

Where you see it: Very often it is seen on Power Play Breakouts in the NHL – they try to time the attack to occur at the offensive blue line against a passive forecheck. You’ll also see it against traps and the 1-3-1 forecheck. Speed behind the puck will also show up on simple chip plays – a puck is moved up ice and then chipped to someone with greater speed attacking in a different lane.

What it looks like:

Watch Jeff Carter accelerate behind the puck to retrieve this chip and attack up ice with great speed. With early recognition he gets his feet moving up ice to create speed behind the puck.

Here, Mike Richards has speed behind the puck through the neutral zone – the change of lanes and slightly different speed causes the defenders gaps to be off and allow for zone entry.

Notice Patrick Kane on this clip of the Blackhawks PP Breakout in Game 7. He loops behind the puck in an attempt to pick up speed – while it isn’t a dramatic clip, it shows the basic concept of coming behind the play to gain speed.

Should you use it? This is the biggest question about speed behind the puck. It requires a lot of hockey sense, skill and timing. Players need to be able to skate and move the puck with touch and timing. Personally, I think speed behind the puck is a concept that is a part of the game at every level, but it is rarely recognized or taught. Any time the puck is ahead of you, it is critical to try to accelerate and gain speed to force the defense into a tight spot. Forwards should be taught to accelerate and attack open lanes, even when not a direct option – look to build speed before you have the puck, then use your speed difference to give the defense trouble.

For more on Speed Behind the Puck, check out Darryl Belfry’s videos here and here. Credit to Darryl for being a pioneer in this concept and teaching both coaches and players about the high level skills in the game of hockey. I can’t recommend him enough.

Outdoor Games

When Sidney Crosby scored the shoot out winner in the first ever Winter Classic it ended a game and launched a new era in the sport. The NHL now hosts the Winter Classic every year on New Years Day. A great event for television and for the host city. They have also launched the Stadium Series, a spinoff where other teams will be able to play outdoors, although under lesser fanfare. College Hockey has attempted to join in on the fun, with Frozen Fenway being a regular event, and Games being played recently at Comerica Park and Soldier Field, among others.

The question lingers: is it too much? Have outdoor games become watered down?

My answer: it depends on your perspective.

As a Frozen Fenway participant myself (UMass in ’11), I believe that the experience is something beyond your wildest dreams, regardless of television or attendance. Most hockey players I know have played on a pond at one point in their lives. You rig up some nets, find a puck and as many of your friends that know how to skate and play until the sun goes down. No boards, no refs, no clock. Just hockey.

As we move on in the game, the structure, rules and coaching have a greater impact on how we understand “hockey”. Playing an outdoor game is an opportunity to mix the hockey we grew up playing with the structured sport we play now. It’s a chance to get back to your roots as a player and just enjoy playing the game.

Kids imagine themselves scoring the game winner in Game 7 when they’re out on the pond. We not ever imagined that we would be playing hockey in a place like Fenway Park. The chance to do something of that magnitude in that kind of environment is a memory that will last a lifetime. Win or lose, the chance to practice and play with the stadium and the city around you is an absolutely amazing experience. Green Monster to your left, Peskys Pole to your right, the pitching mound between you and the locker room. Getting dressed in stalls used by Papi, Pedro, and any number of visiting All-Stars. Eye Black, Toques, and the environment – wind, setting sun, breathing steam,

Does the crowd matter? It is noticeable on the ice, but you can’t tell if there’s 33,000 or 37,000 people in the stands. You don’t pay attention to those things as a competitor. I spoke with some coaches this week that have been at Fenway with less than 10,000 and they all loved the experience. Outdoor games are unforgettable for those most intimately involved in the game. The “student-athlete experience” is second to none.

So again, are outdoor games losing their luster? I think not. At its roots, hockey is a game that is meant to be fun for all involved – it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the seriousness of it. Outdoor games bring us back to the roots. Playing hockey is about achieving dreams and making memories that will last a lifetime. There are few memories greater than playing outdoors, under the lights, in an official game, in a world-famous stadium. It’s something that the players involved will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Learning from the NHL

It is great to have the NHL season up and running again. I tuned in to the Sabres-Red Wings last night and loved every minute of it. Any player, no matter how big or how small should watch the NHL every chance they get. It’s always fun to cheer on your favorite team, but watch two teams that you have no rooting interest in. It’s amazing what you can see and learn.

Things I noticed last night, in no particular order:

  • Skating ability/edge control – stops & starts, efficiency in movement (front & back), lateral agility
  • Awareness – everyone plays head up, players know when to jump into the play and when to wait
  • False information – head fakes, look offs, etc
  • Poise under pressure – know your outlets so you don’t panic with the puck

Just a sampling of the things you can learn from the NHL. They play at the highest level because they are the best in the world. They’re the best in the world because they are so good at the minutiae of the game. Fun to watch and fun to learn from.