Day 8 – Scoring Goals

This is the eighth day of our team’s virtual training camp. Each day for the next 10 days, there will be a short assignment for you to do to get ready for our season. These assignments are mandatory for players and coaches. Parents are also encouraged to participate.

Today, we’ll talk about how to score LOTS of goals. This is where hockey gets FUN!

Just Go Score!

When I was 17, I had an ex-NHL player as a coach. His name was Jim Harrison and he was well known in my town because he had been a centre for the Maple Leafs. He played 12 years in the NHL (Boston, Toronto, Chicago and Edmonton) and the WHA (Edmonton and Cleveland). He led Edmonton in scoring during their first year in the WHA (before some kid name Gretzky showed up).

Coach Harrison always told us that he wanted to win games 10-9. “Just go score” he would say. He wanted us to take chances to score and we practiced scoring drills all the time. Defencemen were encouraged to pinch and join rush at every opportunity. Even shorthanded, he wanted us to take chances to score as many goals as possible.

Initially, this put a ton of pressure on our goalies. While we were constantly taking risks, the other team would get lots of high quality shots and breakaways. But so did we. Coach Harrison often switched our goalies several times per period so that he could keep both goalies engaged in every game.

Luckily we got really good at scoring goals and usually won high scoring games. (I seem to recall one game that we won 14-13 and every player but one scored a goal. Both our goalies even had assists.) As the season progressed, we developed a sound defensive structure and we started winning with more lopsided scores. Eventually, we ended up winning the Provincial Championship.

You can’t win games if you don’t score. You have to score more than the other team. And the more the better. Plus, scoring is FUN!

I’m a big believer in this “Offense First” mindset. But remember, the first step in scoring goals is getting the puck. The more we recover and keep the puck, the more chances we’ll have to score.

Where Goals Are Scored

Last season there was a parent on my team who used a shot counting app on his phone to track shots on goal for every game. It tracked the location of where every shot on net was taken and showed which of the shots went in the net. He had used the app and kept the data from the past six seasons for his daughter’s team (from age 12 to 17).

I turned all this data into a heat map that showed where all the goals were scored from for both teams. This is what it looked like for a typical season:

Each star shows the location where a goal was scored. Circles represent a shot that didn’t score.

More than 80% of the goals were scored within 1 stick length of the crease.

Get Closer To The Net!

What this means is that we need to work at getting closer to the net before we shoot. Drive the net! That’s why it is so important to always have players going to the net and being in areas where they can score more often.

As a rule: The first player into the offensive zone should ALWAYS drive the net hard with their stick on the ice.

How Goals Are Scored

There have been lots of studies published that ask the question, “How are goals scored?”. Most of these look at the NHL, but the data general transfers to minor hockey as well.

Goals by Manpower Situation

Not surprisingly, penalties and odd man situations are a big factor:

Even strength (5 v 5, 4 v 4 and 3 v 3)70%
Power play (5 v 4, 5 v 3 and 4 v 3)20%
Shorthanded 2.5%
Pulled goalie (typically 6 v 5)2.5%
Empty net5%
Goals by Manpower Situation (rounded NHL average 2019-20)

The total number of goals scored with the goalie pulled is significantly higher than expected considering how little time is spent with the goalie out. This shows the value of playing with extra urgency. (“How can we play with more urgency on all our shifts?“)

Goals Scored Off The Rush

John Stevens, while an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars, compiled the following data from the top teams in the NHL’s Western Conference in the 2019-20 season. This data is based on all even strength goals scored that season.

Defensive Zone Controlled Breakout20%
Defensive Zone Transition (scramble exit)10%
Neutral Zone Checking (leading to turnover)13%
Neutral Zone Play or Regroup7%
Offensive Zone Possession Time (following a controlled zone entry)10%
TOTAL Goals Scored Off The Rush60%

Goals Scored After Dumping The Puck Into The Zone

Offensive Zone Forecheck 25%
Offensive Zone Possession Time (following a puck recovery or turnover)10%
Offensive Zone Faceoff 5%
TOTAL Goals Scored After A Dump In40%

What can we learn from this data?

You are more likely to score a goal from a controlled zone entry than by dumping the puck into the zone (60% to 40%).

That said, a well executed forecheck followed by immediately attacking the net after recovering the puck leads to more goals than any other play (25% of all even strength goals). Coach Stevens also noted that this number is even higher (30%+) for the elite forechecking teams. Clearly, there is a place for a well executed dump and forecheck.

It also surprises most players that 20% of all goals are the result of strong Neutral Zone play. Hard back pressure, trapping and attacking regroups create a lot of goals. Most teams don’t work on neutral zone play enough.

Where Should I Shoot?

We always want to shoot with a purpose. Shoot as hard as possible and shoot to score.

Aim over the pads, but inside the post.

You’re most likely to score here. Low shots will be saved with the pads. Higher shots are more likely to be caught and not give a rebound. They are also much more likely to miss the net.

Shoot at the red targets for your best chance to score in most situations. We’ll often use targets in the nets in these positions to remind us to practice shooting in this location.

You may be asking why would I shoot here, rather than going for the top corners. There are a couple of reasons. First, for most goalies this is a very hard spot to cover to as they are dropping into their butterfly. Their pads cover along the ice, but as they drop their hands usually go up leaving this spot open.

The second reason is that if you aim for the top corner and miss your target by a foot, you’ll MISS the net more often than not and hear the puck rattle off the glass.

If you aim here and are accurate within two feet of your target, you’ll hit the net 6 out of 9 times.
All of the shots that hit the green areas have a chance to go in. Hit the red areas and you’ve missed the net.
If you aim for the top corner and are accurate within two feet of your target, you’ll only hit the net 4 out of 9 times.

The next time you’re at a game or practice, listen for the sound of the puck hitting the glass. You’ll be surprised at how often it happens and nearly every time it will because someone was trying to shoot top corner and missed. Set your target for most shots just above the pads and you’ll score more goals. (Practice preview: You’ll learn to associate the sound of a puck hitting the glass with doing push-ups.)

Change Your Shooting Angle Before You Shoot

Top goal scorers change their shooting angle before they shoot. This allows the shooter to get pucks through traffic and avoid shot blockers.

Either toe drag in and shoot off back foot (think Auston Mathews) or push out and shoot off front foot (think Phil Kessel). Generally, we want to shoot to the side we change directions to as we’re more likely to hit the goalie if we try to shoot opposite side.

Auston Matthews freezes the defender then changes his shooting angle.

This video will show you how to work on this when you’re doing your shooting drills at home.

Today’s Assignment:

  1. When you’re doing your shooting at home, try work on changing your angles before each shot. You should be working on your shot every day as part of training camp.
  2. Math question: How much more likely are you to hit the net if you aim just over the goalies pads and inside the post than if you aim for the top corner? Express your answer as a percentage increase. Assume that your shot is only accurate to within two feet (as shown in the two diagrams above). Post your answer to the team WhatsApp group. (You may be asked to show your work.)
  3. GOALIES ONLY: Let me know what you think are the advantages and disadvantages of switching goalies multiple times per game. Post one advantage and one disadvantage to the WhatsApp group.