I’ve decided to start a new weekly section called “Learn from the Pros” which will feature plays from professional hockey. The idea is to take small pieces of the game and break them down so they can be used as learning tools for coaches and players. This week, we’ll look at two goals -- the first from Andrew Ladd against the St. Louis Blues, and the second from Justin Williams against the Anaheim Ducks.
Each teaching keypoint will also include the time on the YouTube video to pause the clip so you’ve got a freeze-frame of the the play developing. So, for example, if the intended freeze-frame is at the 8 second mark, it will be denoted before the breakdown in the following format: [0:08]. To scroll to that portion of the video, simply drag the scrubber on the timeline to the desired time sequence. Note: the times are not always exact, as sometimes you’ll get slightly different frames when you “scrub” to the time you want. Use the time-markers as approximate spots where you can start-and-stop the video to get a quality freeze-frame.
Andrew Ladd -- 4/7/10
[0:06] This play starts out with Kris Versteeg getting up the ice ahead of his teammates. Instead of attempting to drive the St. Louis defenseman to get a scoring opportunity, he wisely buys time and space by stopping and using his body to protect the puck from the defending player.
[0:07] The next Blackhawk into the zone is John Madden who drives in strong-side, giving Versteeg an option to throw the puck down the wall. After Versteeg passes to the trailer, Andrew Ladd, Madden drives to the net and is in great position to tip the puck or play a rebound.
[0:08] Now, Versteeg makes an incredible pass (not one I’d recommend many players try in anything other than pick-up hockey) to Andrew Ladd -- BUT, the backchecking defenseman (Mike Weaver) for St. Louis makes two critical mistakes: 1) he fails to identify Ladd as a scoring threat 2) he turns his back on the puck in favor of looking at Byfuglien to cover.
[0:10] This creates a ton of space for Ladd to shoot. Weaver is now forced to play the 2 on 1 rush from the weak-side post.
[0:36] Ladd releases a quick snap-shot off one foot. The key here is the quick release, there is no big wind-up, and only a single stickhandle to release the puck. In this freeze-frame, you can clearly see he has his head up the entire way and is looking for open parts of the net to shoot at.
Justin Williams -- 4/6/10
[0:06] Williams enters the zone on a 2 on 2 rush with a backchecker. Technically, LA is out-manned in this rush. The opportunity begins by Ducks Defenseman Steve Eminger having given Williams a bit too much space as he crossed the blue line. Eminger needed to have a tighter gap when the rush entered the zone. Instead, he’s still about two stick-lengths away from Williams as he gains the blue line. This allows the forwards to criss-cross and open up space.
[0:08] The Ducks backchecker, Saku Koivu, gets caught reaching for the puck. At this point, Williams now has body position established on Eminger, and the Anze Kopitar is driving toward the net, bringing his defenseman with him.
[0:10] Eminger is forced to make a dive in desperation. Kopitar drove the net going to the far post, bringing his defender with him, which opens up ice in front of the goaltender.
[0:34] Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney plays the shot, but is still outside the crease, leaving Williams with room on the short-side to reach around him and stuff the puck in.
I hope you enjoy this new section. If you have plays you’d like to see broken down, find me a clip on YouTube and leave them in the comments.