Archive for the ‘Insight’ Category

File this observation on "soft spots" under "Purely Anecdotal" for the time being.

File this observation on “soft spots” under “Purely Anecdotal” for the time being.

I have this distinct memory of being in my late teens and watching Mario Lemieux sit on the powerplay, as so many players do today, with his stick cocked above waist height, inviting his teammates to get him a puck. Basically, just stuff a bullet in this gun, and I promise to shoot it and shoot it well. Ovechkin does it, Stamkos does it, just about everyone playing the point on the powerplay does it. …The thing was, Mario Lemieux was on the goal line.

Lemieux’s skates used to essentially touch the icing line on the left side, his right-handed stick sitting a foot or two above it. Sometimes he was deep enough to touch the boards in the corner if he reached. He didn’t have the game’s hardest shot, but goddamn if he couldn’t place a one-timer accurately enough to kiss the inside of the far post and put one on the board for his team. Whether that was a skill other players didn’t have, or whether they just lacked the confidence to try it, you didn’t see it much around the league then.

This isn’t the one I’m thinking of, but you can see where he’s shooting from. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Jackman

The title of this post should really be “How desperate coaches huck s*** at the wall and hope something sticks.” I’ll explain.

When it comes to managing your forwards during a game, here’s a rough look at how the ideal game goes:

* The top couple lines show they have legs early, create some chances, hopefully score.

* The third line is swarming, playing responsible, being hard to play and staying out of the d-zone.

* The fourth line is banging, forechecking hard and making life miserable for your opponents.

* The team gets a lead and is able to roll four lines so nobody gets overextended, everyone is rested when their center’s name is called (which is how a line knows they’re up).

* The game is out of hand early and the usage of skill players goes into decline, and the clock, she goes tick tick tick down to zero.

What you may know from your experience as a hockey fan is that things don’t always work out this way. Okay, they almost never do.

Instead, there were two penalties called early, your third line PK specialists are wiped off the bat, and your top lines are basically cold seven minutes into the period. Your fourth liners are disconnecting from the game. You’re behind two goals and one of your forwards is hurt, so now you’re running three centers through four wing pairs, only one of your other centers is in the box and you don’t trust your fourth line wingers to not give up another one, so…I dunno, you, you and you, you’re up.

Who’s playing left? We’re all left wingers.

You.

Alright, I guess?

You get the idea – the best laid schemes of mice and men, and all that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Frans Nielsen
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.

Shootout Moves

On speed

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Sdao

Michael Sdao is a defenseman trying out for the Ottawa Senators who spent the 2012-13 season playing for Princeton University. He made his first foray into pro hockey following that college season by joining the Binghamton Senators of the American League, where he dressed in 12 games, compiling a goal and 23 penalty minutes. He’s 24-years-old, 6’4″ and 220 pounds, and he’s going to have to fight a bit.

You now know everything I know about Michael Sdao, aside from his raw stats.

The picture above is of him following his “fight” from last night with Brian McGratton, arguably the toughest arguable “player” in the National Hockey League. In his other pre-season game he tussled with Anthony Peluso, which resulted in this GIF, courtesy @Wham_City: Read the rest of this entry »

nail yakupov 3

When the puck dropped to start the 2006, a major milestone had been reached. With the donning of number 84 by Guillaume Latendresse, every number from double zero to 99 had been worn by a player in the NHL.

The reason the number 84 had not been worn in over 100 years of NHL action is a dark and complex tale, but I feel comfortable saying I’m the right man to reveal the truth: it’s because 84 is a stupid number.

While I’m not sure what drove Latendresse to 84, a lot of the 80s were finally checked off thanks to trend of players selecting their birth-year as their jersey number. It’s a cute concept that young players use as a subtle bit of braggadocio, though it becomes less cute as they move towards league average age (I see you #82, Curtis Glencross). I suppose it’d be cool again if someone like Teemu Selanne rocked his (70 – one off being really cool), but for the most part, I think it’s pretty lame.

When I saw that Nathan MacKinnon has chosen to wear 29 with the Avs (Matt Hunwick wears MacKinnon’s 22, and players don’t give up “their” number easily), I thought I’d lay out my general understanding of jersey number selection for the uninformed. Read the rest of this entry »

Where I had my first junior tryout. World's Biggest Hockey Stick, Cowichan Valley

Where I had my first junior tryout. World’s Biggest Hockey Stick, Cowichan Valley

Note: I realize I’ve been writing a lot about my own experiences in hockey lately. The summer is largely devoid of hockey news, and I have some behind-the-scenes knowledge that some people seem interested in while we wait for the season. I swear I’ll dial back the “me’s” and “I’s” when puck starts to ramp up again.

***

During my senior year of high school I was 16/17 years old (December birthday), and still a bit of a mamma’s boy. I lived at home while captaining our Midget AA team, a group that would eventually bring home the first (and possibly still the only) provincial championship to Westside (West Kelowna minor hockey).

That final minor hockey season was followed by a summer of uncertainty. I was given opportunities to try out with a few WHL teams, a half-dozen BCHL teams or so, and pretty much every junior B team in the province. I was going to be playing hockey somewhere the next season, it seemed, it was just a matter of finding a place that both wanted me and would help me advance.

The only goal my family had for me was to get a college scholarship. That was the carrot dangled by junior hockey for us, but when a number of different teams think you might have a little value to them down the road, you start to hear a lot of different things, and the waters get murky. Promises of carrot-delivery aren’t uncommon.

When you have some opportunities like this, nobody tells you what to do if you aren’t an NHL lock. There are no courses, information pamphlets or guidance counselors, so we were more-or-less lost from the get-go. My Dad had experience with junior, but he was essentially fast-tracked to the NHL, sooo…minor hockey, WHL, NHL. Oh, the tough decisions he must have faced.

The main question we had, was who has a freaking clue about what it means to play for Team A versus Team B in some of these leagues? And when you commit to trying out with B, you miss the chance to try out with A, meaning even though you may be good enough to play at a certain level, you just flipped to the wrong page of the Choose Your Own Adventure, got cut and screwed yourself. A huge, HUGE part of advancing in sports is luck. Finding a good person who won’t lie to you helps, but that’s kinda luck too. Read the rest of this entry »

Bobby Goepfert

Bobby Goepfert is a professional goaltender who I got to know in college (he was with St. Cloud), and our paths crossed again at a camp for the Hershey Bears in 2008-2009. He’s spent time in the American League and the ECHL, and has been a starter in the DEL (German Elite League) over the past couple seasons – he’s heading back there this year too. He’s a pretty darn good goalie, and also a great Twitter follow.

He’s written for Backhand Shelf in the past (you can still check out his post responding to my post about abusing goaltenders from the blog’s early days), so with the European season about to kick off, he needed an outlet for his energy and hit me up.

Hockey pucks hurt, I can confirm this. But I’ll let him tell you more about it below.

***

-by Bobby Goepfert

The hockey puck. You elusive, deceiving, unforgiving spawn of vulcanized rubber. To the naked eye, it doesn’t look like a formidable foe. One inch thick, three inches in diameter and weighing in at 6 ounces, it hardly boasts the dimensions of a menacing adversary. However, this small, unassuming sliver of hellish frozen rubber can travel up to speeds of 100+mph. (*Sidenote* In all honesty, that’s really only during the certain occasions when a 6’7″ defenseman really gets into one, or if you’re dumb enough to wonder in front of the net during the hardest shot event at the Skills Competition while Chara is going. Most of the hardest in-game, or practice shots us goalies face would be anywhere from low 90′s to high 90′s.)

People always say that us goalies are absolutely crazy for wanting to put ourselves in front of these flying bastards, actually trying to get a body part on it. Well…maybe we are. But I say to you, we are the most protected players out on the ice (or on the bench). The defenceman or forward battling in front of the net when an incoming rocket is headed our way wear no face mask, the shoulder pads Reggie Dunlop wore, and have an exposed abdomen. Are they not crazy? Or the winger challenging a point shot by sliding into the missile as it leaves the point man’s stick, with all sorts of body parts exposed – is that not crazier than we, the masked men, the padded Michelin men of today’s hockey game? (*Sidenote* Extreme kudos to our goalie brethren of yesteryear with their shoddy equipment and mask-less faces. I think I can speak for the goalies of today in saying, “Wow, & respect”…though something a bit more articulate.) Read the rest of this entry »