5 offensive tips that will make you a better hockey player
The hockey road winds along an endless ocean of tiny tips and terrible advice, not unlike playing golf. Whether it’s “keep your head down” or “always head-man the puck,” the staples are pretty legitimate, but of the ones on the fringes, which have value? Should you always keep your tees in your left pocket? (No.) Should you learn to pick the puck up on your blade and whip it lacrosse style? (Also not necessary.)
Below are five offensive tidbits I came across that I found to actually work. Take what you like for yourself, and feel free to discard the rest.
Take the puck across the net
Whether you’ve beaten a defender wide or just happen to find yourself approaching the net with the puck and some speed, you should almost always take the puck across the crease if you can.
When goalies come out to challenge a shooter, particularly if they trust that a defensive player will be able to block a player from cutting across the net, they tend to come out fairly aggressively. If your sole mindset is to get across the crease and tuck one in, you just may be able to. Even if the goaltender doesn’t come out hard, cutting across opens him up - his five-hole, his armpits, everything. Anything you can put on net from there has a better chance of going in than shooting on a set tender.
(Added bonus: dumb defenders may help you run their goalie with a push. Not a bad worst-case scenario.)
Change speeds on the rush
You can do it either way (quick to slow, slow to quick), but something you see Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane and their ilk do exceedingly well is fly into the zone, then tap the brakes a few times. That does a few things:
- Freezes the D-men. Stopping while backing up limits your mobility
- Creates gap above the D-men, which allows you time
- Allows your linemates to catch up, which gives you options
- Allows you to move laterally - again, more options
And, you can do it the other way - skate in casually until the D-man decides to engage, then hit the gas. Buh-bye.
(Added bonus: if you go fast to slow, the defenders back in deep, and can work as great screens for a shot.)
Change the angle on shots
It doesn’t take much to turn what would be a save into a goal. The trick is to have the puck out a bit wider than where you would normally shoot from, then give it a little toe pull into your feet before pulling the trigger. If the goalie was square to where the puck was initially, you’ve now got it coming at him from a slightly different angle just seconds later. Even if you pull it in and choose to shoot it across the tender, it just forces him to compensate for one more thing.
(Added bonus: it can help to ensure the puck is sitting flat before you snap it.)
Overestimate the angle
One-timers are deadly for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that the goaltender has to open up while coming across, and likely won’t have time to get over to set for the shot.
As a player taking that shot, particularly one taking that shot on your off-hand, the biggest faux pas you can make is missing the net. The goalie is mostly holes, and you don’t even give it a chance?
On a one-timer pass coming from right-to-left, you’re better off picking a spot farther right than your “ideal” net placement. The same goes in the reverse. The speed of the pass has the puck naturally pulling towards, in this case, the left, and often players don’t realize just how sharp an angle they’re shooting from. You’ve got to get it inside the post on your side of the ice, so, overcompensate. Give yourself some room for error.
(Added bonus: if you shoot it back into the tender, you've got a scramble in front and hope, unlike a missed net.)
Don’t, just don’t, DON’T throw pucks out blindly from behind the net. This is a more common tip, given that all coaches hate it, but it’s still worth reiterating. It takes so much work to get possession in the offensive zone. It happens so few times per game, per player. I understand that if that blind pass finds a teammate’s stick it’s all but a sure goal. But you’re so much better just eating the puck and waiting for a better option. It takes some patience to not push for what seems like the auto-goal, but 90% of the time it just leaves you chasing the play into your own zone, and from the very back of the bus to boot.
(Added bonus: you'll be surprised how often showing patience results in someone you actually see getting open in front.)