Lighting the lamp is the hardest thing to do in all of hockey, and scoring is down yet again in the NHL.
But instead of talking about ways to make goalies worse, by reducing the size of their equipment or by limiting what they can do on the ice, let’s look at a few habits shooters can acquire to shift the odds in their favor.
While the statistics and research behind the information presented here come from the NHL and CIS levels, I’m confident that any player – from Peewee to Beer League – can put them to good use in 2016.
I’ve already written about scoring in the shootout, so here are four scientifically sound tips for scoring more in open play.
How To Make A Living Scoring Goals
You may not score many goals taking a ton of shots on net, but it is next to impossible to score many goals without taking a ton of shots on net.
In today’s NHL, while shooting percentage tends to vary wildly for a player on a given season, shots per game is a relatively stable statistic which does a good job of illustrating the skill level of a particular skater.
For instance, Ovechkin is the only player in the game to average five shots per game.
Seguin, Nash, Kessel and Pacioretty take just under four shots per game.
Crosby, Stamkos and Benn are comfortably over three shots per game.
Outside of their career years, they do not have another 30-goal season between the three of them.
How To Score Off The Rush
To score is to lie.
It doesn’t need to be a big lie, but in a situation where the goaltender is ready and squared up to the puck, the shooter needs to misrepresent his intentions.
The best way to do that is to pull the puck and change the angle of the shot release, as explained by Mike Cammalleri here:
Here is a still frame of what he is demonstrating, showing what the goaltender is squared up to, versus where the puck is actually coming off his stick:
It’s not a huge distance – maybe a foot or two of travel – but that variation opens up a hole the size of a slice of bread on the short side. Hit that target with a shot of even average velocity, and the goalie is toast.
How To Score Off The Rush (Part 2)
Jason Spezza opens up space on the short side using the opposite approach, “showing” slap shot until Mike Condon bites, then pushes the puck to the outside and buries it in the open space created by his lateral movement:
How To Score From The Point
It’s tough for defensemen to score goals, and having a big shot is not enough.
P.K. Subban has one goal in 36 games this season, shooting at 1.1%. Some of it is bad luck, and he’ll regress toward his career average of 5.8% in 2016.
But 5.8% is still pretty low considering that Shea Weber has averaged 8.0% since he broke into the league. Erik Karlsson is at 7.3% on his career, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson is at 7.2% over six seasons.
Subban has a great shot – it is better than Karlsson and OEL’s, and more or less on par with Weber’s – but he is simply using it too far from the opposing net.
Instead of hugging the blue line on his shot attempts, he can give opposing goalies 30% less time to react by making his way down to the top of the circles (the Ringette Line) before taking a shot.
Coaches call it “shorting the zone,” and it requires anticipation, strong skating ability and a quick shot release to pull off at the highest level.
Here is Weber aggressively shorting the zone on a powerplay:
And here he is again, making a conscious effort to close the distance to the net on all three of his goals:
The best player I’ve seen outside of the NHL at shorting the zone is current McGill Redman defenseman Sam Labrecque. He currently leads the CIS in scoring and is on pace to be the first defenseman in league history to win the scoring title.
Jack Han is the Video & Analytics Coordinator for the McGill Martlet Hockey team. He also writes occasionally about the NHL for Habs Eyes on the Prize. You can find him on Twitter or on the ice at McConnell Arena.