In video games, they often call tips cheat codes. It's a popular term for young kids, so we thought they could relate. In today's writing, we have pulled together some thoughts to help them take their game to the next level this season.
1. Get to the house (and net) - Forwards should try to increase their scoring by getting off the perimeter and attacking the middle of the offensive zone, often referred to as "the house." Getting into the house puts forwards in higher probability scoring zones and increases the likelihood of success. Goalies today are hard to beat, particularly regarding shots they can see or are from out on the perimeter. Attacking the middle of the ice and getting in the "the house" will increase success.
In our post entitled, Get to the front of the net to score more goals for your team and yourself we highlight the zone that makes up "the house" and also talk about how players
need to increase their net-front presence to help themselves and their teammates create more high-probability scoring chances. Successful players and teams offensively get to "the house" and defensively make sure to protect the house and keep opposing players out.
A great example of this is illustrated in the graphic courtesy of Hockey Viz. The graphic features the offensive shot analytics from the 2022 season for the Florida Panthers. Note the Panthers won the 2022 President's Trophy for the most points by a team in the NHL. The Panthers also led the league with 340 goals scored (28 more than the Colorado Avalanche, the 2022 Stanley Cup Champs).
The graphic features the offensive shot analytics from the 2022 season for the Florida Panthers. Note the Panthers won the 2022 President's Trophy for the most points by a team in the NHL. The Panthers also led the league with 340 goals (28 more than the Colorado Avalanche, the 2022 Stanley Cup Champs).
As illustrated in the graphic above, it's clear that the Florida Panthers took many shots within the house. Red color on the graphic means above league averages. The darker the red coloring means well above the league average. As illustrated, the Panthers were way above the league average for shots from right in the middle of the house (note it was also net front presence). It's clear that the top offense in the NHL in 2022 correlated very well with an above-average number of shots in the house and net front. Note that Florida took fewer perimeter shots (blue means below the league average), suggesting they knew perimeter shots are less likely to produce goals.
2. Keep your head up - This statement may be obvious, but far too many players still play with their heads down consistently. Playing with their heads down first and foremost puts players at risk of taking unnecessary, big hits, which could lead to concussions.
Additionally, players that play with their heads down have poor ice vision and miss seeing open lanes and passes, as well as countless other opportunities to make plays. Not even elite NHL players have their heads up 100% of the time, as controlling a rubber disk while moving at high speeds on ice is easier said than done, lol! That said, the best players limit the amount of time their heads are down and are constantly scanning the ice for opportunities.
Two products on the market aim to train players to keep their heads up SportVue (see video below) and Heads Up Head Safe. The former, SportVue, is more expensive and provides an app and real-time feedback training with light and sound alerts from the SportVue clip that attaches to a player's cage.
The latter, Heads Up Head Safe, provides a cheaper alternative using a neck brace that restricts the head from tilting down. Neither are meant for gameplay but rather to be used in practice to refine keeping the head up. While I have not tried either product myself (nor do I have any affiliation or compensation from either company), I think they make a ton of sense conceptually. They may be worth having your player wear in practice to create heads-up muscle memory.
3. Increase your on-ice communication - Watch any higher-level hockey game, high school, juniors, college, or pros; you will hear constant chatter amongst players. This communication skill is essential for players to develop, not only to improve themselves but also to make their teammates better. As a coach, I'm constantly
encouraging my players to be loud and communicate with their teammates, whether in scrimmages or games.
The game moves fast, and players are in small area battles all over the ice, so they can't always see the best available play. Communication from a teammate (being their second set of eyes) can help them stay a step ahead of the pressure or guide them to making the right play.
We have dedicated an entire article on the art of communication here if you'd like to get more in-depth on the topic.
4. Play to your strengths - Every player has strengths in their game. Successful players use those assets to be the best players they can be. While a player may have several strong skill sets, a player can rarely be great at every aspect of the game. Intelligent players don't pretend to be something they are not.
The point is every player has some areas of their game that are strong, and playing to those strengths while limiting exposure to those areas of weaknesses will help them and their team be more successful.
5. Don't play hero hockey - Hockey is a team sport, and while as a mite or a squirt fast, skilled players can skate through a whole team and score, it becomes much more challenging. Once the players get older, the skills gaps narrow.
Successful players at the elite level understand it takes teammates and the team to be successful. Make sure, as a player, to incorporate your linemates. Know their strengths and weakness, learn their on-ice tendencies, and where they like to be on the ice. When you work as a unit, you'll have more success.
We hope everyone has a successful season!
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