Finding and creating open space
In hockey and in life, the old adage that time is money holds true. The best way to find time on the ice is by creating space.
And at the end of the day, there are only two ways to create space relative to an opponent:
A speed differential is the difference in speed between you and your opponent.
Understanding this mental framework is the best way to create space in hockey. If you understand how to form speed differentials, you can give yourself a competitive advantage every time you touch the ice.
Positive Speed Differential
A positive speed differential is a situation where you are building speed relative to your opponent.
In this example, we can see Connor McDavid, perhaps the best positive speed differentiator the game has ever seen, gain speed while the defenders are unable to match. Therefore, they only have one chance to dislodge the puck before he’s around them and in on goal.
Even more valuable is creating a speed differential before ever receiving the puck. In the below video, watch how Dylan Larkin builds speed pre-touch and is easily able to step around a defender.
Negative Speed Differential
This is finding a situation where you are slowing down relative to the opponent. This can be a small differential where the passing lane slowly opens… or a hard stop where the lane opens quickly.
When it comes to effectively creating space for yourself to operate, figuring out how to use speed differentials can make a huge difference in your game.
The Edmonton Oilers love to utilize speed differentials, namely because McDavid is the master of this concept. Watch below how Leon Draisaitl lures the defender to him, before sliding the puck to McDavid behind the play. McDavid is able to create a massive positive speed differential on the defenders.
Author, Greg Revak coaches with the University of Akron and University School (Ohio). He is a writer for Hockeyarsenal.com and contributor to Deke University.