Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres

Players use a number of different techniques to try to maximize their odds of scoring on a penalty shot (or shootout attempt) aside from “skate down, look for hole, shoot at hole.” But you knew that.

Today we’re going to talk about the use of speed. (That sentence made me feel like a high school teacher.)

Last night Steve Ott scored in the shootout while skating mach five, which was impressive because hey neat, Steve Ott can skate fast, and he managed to control the puck at that speed. Friend of the blog @DragLikePull tweeted something along the lines that he was surprised we don’t see more of this, for the purpose of getting the goalie moving, which is a fair question.

Here’s the Ott shot at 5:05 of this video, if you care to see it:

He’s flying by the time he tucks the puck in, but you’ll notice he barely makes a move before laying it off the post on his backhand – he essentially just beats Reimer to that spot, and that’s actually a good jumping off point for me to talk about shootout moves and speed changes, versus just maintaining in one gear (I say shootout moves and not breakaways, because game play usually dictates your speed for you on a breakaway).

Goalies are allowed to push out of their crease once the player crosses the blue line, and they usually do, then move backwards with the shooter at a comparable speed to best cut down the angle. The goal of the speed change, is to throw that off.

If you want to shoot on your attempt, it makes sense to start off with a head of steam, get the goalie matching your pace, then hit the breaks. This will accomplish one of two things: one, the goalie will be forced deeper into his net because he was backing up quickly, and you’ll have more net to shoot at (bonus!) OR, he’ll try to slow/stop his backward movement, which momentarily freezes him so you can shoot somewhere low. A goalie can’t very well be stopping/slowing and maintain their full range, ja know?

If you’d like to deke, it makes sense to start slow, and have the goalie moving back with you, then accelerate as you go (assuming your hands can handle it), in hopes that the tender will still be too far up in his crease as you try to deke around him, ala Ott (though to be honest, he just went with raw speed and not a change, but you get the point).

There are obvious exceptions to this, and it doesn’t always work, but it can make a difference. Like throwing jersey jabs in a fight, getting you foe off-balance is half the battle, so speed is a useful weapon in your arsenal.