How to shoot better off the carry with pre-shot route selection
Building an offensive game plan is often talked about in terms of creating time and space, increasing shot quality, or increasing chances within the house. What you rarely hear about is having an offensive plan that focuses on the goalie.
“You can create Grade A chances, but when they’re (chances are) on a square and set goalie the likelihood of scoring is still lower than a pretty mediocre shot taken when the goalie is under duress.” - Justin Bourne
Scoring goals is difficult. Goalies have specialty coaches and have deeply dissected shooters. Shooters have fought back by shooting more one-timers and getting the goalie moving by passing across the royal road.
Yet, shooters haven’t discovered how to score more goals when carrying the puck toward the goalie. So the question is … “how do shooters score more goalie off the carry?”
Note: The remainder of this article will make much more sense once you read about the Three Axes of Ice Hockey Goalie Positioning. We would encourage you to read that first, then come back to score more goals.
Tipping off the Goalie
One way shooters tip off the goalie they are ready to shoot or pass is that their skating goes into a glide phase.
For the most part, goalies are not worried when players are carrying the puck… until their feet stop moving. This is the moment that goalies do their best to get their positioning and feet ready for the incoming shot.
At this moment, the skater is often heading directly toward the goalie. Exactly in line with what the goalie is expecting and is set on the angle already!!
Route Selection (Down or Across)
The best way to score more off the carry is to think less about the moment of the shot, but what leads to the moment of the shot.
As discussed last time in the ‘Three Axes of Ice Hockey Goalie Positioning’, goalies will do their best to be on angle and ready for an incoming shot. If done properly, goal scorers can often get goalies stuck as they are doing their best to get on the proper axes.
As we discussed with the three parts of deception, the first piece is ‘The Pledge.’
(1) The Pledge
The shooter shows an angle, spot, etc. and the goalie does their best to play the given situation. They’ve seen it before!… Give them a piece of their expectations.
(2) The Turn
At this point, the shooter should be changing from the expectation they initially showed. This could be a changing of the angle from the hands (e.g. drag shot) or… changing the angle via the skating route the shooter takes before/during the release of a shot.
(3) The Prestige
The prestige, of course, is a shot that deceives the goalie. Show one thing and at the last moment, execute something different.
Routes Into The Shot
Rather than skating at the goalie the moment before the shot, the elite shooters of the world will be skating either down or across the offensive zone.
A skating route directly at the goalie doesn’t challenge the goalie much beyond proper backward flow/momentum to manage their depth.
Now compare this against the below routes into a shot:
A down route messes with a goalie’s squareness while moving. There is a subtle rotational movement that needs to be made while moving further back toward the net.
The down route is really challenging for the goalie. Watch this clip as the down route allows the puck to go around the goalie.
I also love this clip of Nathan MacKinnon. His final push is into a down route that changes the angle and allows him to sneak his shot past the goalie’s near-post shoulder.
The down route really challenges the squareness with a little angle adjustment. The across route mainly challenges the goalie with a massive angle adjustment.
Some goalies take too small of pushes while others too big. Either way, movement in the goalie is an advantage to the shooter.
If a goalie makes a hard push in an attempt to get ahead of the goal, a shot against the grain is highly effective. This shot goes around the goalie and leaves no chance to make the save.
Route selection is essential to get more pucks and have better puck touches. No surprise, so too is route selection before shooting.
Getting the goalies’ feet moving and needing to adjust to their three axes of positioning is how shooters can fight back against the goalies. Challenging their movement and shooting within their movement increases a player’s shooting percentage.
Next time you carry the puck and get ready to unload a shot, choose a down or across route. Let us know how many extra goals you score.
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.