It seems fitting to ask coaches how their teams are looking at this point in the year. Everyone seems pretty positive about the year ahead and looking forward to playing meaningful games as we move out of the exhibition season. I find it fascinating that almost all of the coaches I have spoken to in the last few weeks are worried that they don’t have enough “scoring” on their team. In other words, their players are just not putting the puck in the net very often. So I ask the question, “What are you doing in practice to make this better?” The answer typically is “We are doing a lot of work on our shooting”. This is a good answer but it doesn’t really completely fix the problem of having difficulty scoring goals.
My solution is to find ways to instil a “scoring mindset”. I want my players to be totally focused on finding ways to put the puck in the net when we have possession of the puck - especially when we have possession in the offensive zone.
Here are six secrets to scoring more goals.
1) Shoot with strength and purpose. Too many players simple shoot at the net rather than shoot for net. There is really no reason for a shot to ever hit the goalie in the middle of the chest - it will simply not go in. Players have to force goalies make tough saves when they shoot the puck and they need to shoot the puck hard. Tough saves will create secondary scoring chances with rebounds and loose pucks. Shoot for those classic “holes” - top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right and the five hole.
2) Go to the net with your stick on the ice. The puck will get to the net; players need to get there too. Secondary chances are crucial to offensive success. Players can simply not ever give up on pucks and scoring chances.
3) Create traffic in front of the net. Make it difficult for goaltenders to track the puck. Players need to get in front of them and not hang out at the side of the net looking for rebounds. Staking out territory in front of the net is not easy - it takes hard work.
4) Always know where the puck is. Tracking the puck well is crucial to offensive success in front of the net. Players should have an eye on the puck all the time and be ready to direct it at the net.
5) All five players should be activated in the offensive zone. No longer is it OK for two defencemen to hang out on the blue line just to be in defence mode. They need to be ready to jump into plays and be part of the offence as well. Obviously there are still defensive responsibilities when the puck is turned over but, they must have a “scoring mindset” as well.
6) Battle! Hockey is a battle sport where strength, quickness and cunning are all part of being better offensively. When the puck is up for grabs, winning the battle is the only way to create more goals.
Coaches need to help players realize a “scoring mindset”. More offence will undoubtedly create more wins for your team and help develop the hockey skill set of the entire team.