My hockey career didn’t exactly result in an explosion of numbers of any sort, dollars or statistics, but I was decent enough offensively to be chosen with regularity in the shootout. I’m fairly confident that on most breakaways I’m going to find a way to get the biscuit in the basket regardless of who’s in net. That’s probably unjustified, but whatever, you have to at least start with the belief that you aren’t terrible.
So without further ado, I’m going to reveal it all, like a sellout magician (Gob Bluth?) with his tricks: here’s what I’m trying to get the goalie to do (and why) when we’re one-on-one. Other players – actually good ones, I swear – are using similar logic.
One of the least recognized tools goal scorers use in the shootout is the subtle change of speed. On a breakaway, your speed is dictated by the need to stay ahead of your pursuers. In the shootout, that’s not a thing at all. Here’s how guys use speed:
Start fast, hit the brakes: It’s all about changing the goaltender’s depth. Goalies step up to the top of the crease or beyond after the player skates in, and they try to match the player’s speed. That way if the guy shoots, they’re out cutting down the angle, if he dekes, they’re moving back at a pace that allows them to get their toe on the post. By starting fast, you’re trying to get the goaltender to match you as they usually do. When you hit the brakes, they have to as well, and that does two things: one, it freezes them for a quick second (think about stopping while skating backwards – how’s your lateral mobility?), and two, it usually leaves them deeper in the net than they want to be (reaction time and whatnot). So now you’ve got a frozen goalie who’s deep in his crease; translation, shoot. You hit your spot, it’ll go in.
Start slow, accelerate: Using the same concept as above, this is prime deke territory, specifically the type of deke that’s elevated (think Backhand Shelf). The goalie finds himself up higher in his crease than he’d like, he’s desperately trying to get back as you deke around him, so elevating the puck all but guarantees a goal.
Left shot sweet spot: Most goalies will tell you that shots low blocker are the most difficult to stop. As a righty, it’s a bit tougher because you’ve got to go across the goalie. I always say that lefties are basically cheating, because access to low blocker is about as restricted as club with Urkel as its bouncer (fresh reference, Bourne). So, lefties try to set up low blocker – start on the left side, swing out to the middle to get the tender to take a mini-shuffle to the glove side with you, then snap heat about 16 inches off the ice. Above the pad, below the blocker, goal.
Righties go glove: Same idea, same angle, slightly lower success rate. Basically, hockey players shoot high glove, low blocker and five hole. That’s about it. The trick is that “top corner” isn’t nearly the best shot a righty “going glove” can make. The corner allows the goalie to extend his arm, and his arm is already kinda out there anyway. You want to go about a foot inside the right post (on normal-handed tenders), closer to the goalies’ ear than the corner. If you make a good shot, that’s a lot harder spot for a goalie to get to. Bar-down-dot-com, of course. “Top corner” is a pretty phrase, but not perfect.
Five hole: A goaltender’s five hole, well, she’s a fickle mistress. When Frans Nielsen was scoring backhand shelf at such an alarming rates I was inspired to write these posts, goalies caught on, so he turned to the five hole. It’s rare that guys can deposit pucks there with the ease Nielsen did – they were waiting for his patented move, so they didn’t so much as flinch – because in general, you have to make a goalie move to open that spot up. The idea is to make the goalie think you’re going for a deke around them wide, then cut the move off halfway and slide it through the middle, hoping the goalie doesn’t have their stick in position (if they think they’re gonna be reaching wide, they rarely do). Going backhand five hole, well, that’s cocky, looks terrible if you miss, and MAN is it awesome when it works. Five hole really is a magic trick – it’s all about the misdirection.
In general, it’s key to acknowledge that the goalie isn’t an idiot, and understands you’re going to be throwing in some deception. So I like to set up a move that wouldn’t work that involves fakes, but execute it early enough to bail at the last second. My preference is to set up a deke to the forehand side – drop the shoulder on a fake shot, flinch backhand and go for the forehand stuff – because it’s a conceivable move that a forward would try. I just do it high enough up that I’m able to cut back to the backhand at the last second.
Shooters often make the mistake of stopping the shot for the goalie – too many moves, too much indecision. On a breakaway, get that head up and make your best call. On a shootout, know what you’re doing, set it up, and get it on net.