Thursday, July 31, 2014

Progress

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a long time. And in the time I've been waiting, I've been making more and more progress, making the delay even worse by adding more material to my mental notes (if not the actual content of this post) about how far I've come since the last time I wrote about my progress in anything hockey-skills-related.

Part of the trouble has been wondering how to write about my progress without saying the same thing all the time and turning this blog into a space that sounds more like those stock answer interviews lots of professional athletes give. There is progress I've made, but a lot of it has been incremental and probably would only be noticeable after a long time. It's been a long time since I've actually learned to do something new. There are certainly still things I can learn, but in the limited situations I've put myself in with hockey clinics, scrimmages, and sticktimes, I've been able to hold my own with what I can do. Now it's just a matter of things like skating faster and handling the puck better.

It's been a long time since I've worked on my skating. I can still do things like pivot from backwards to forwards and switch directions, but those and a lot of the more complex skills have deteriorated a bit. There's less fluidity in my backwards skating, especially my back crossovers. There's almost no more fluidity to my transitions from forwards to backwards. I also feel like my top speed has gone down a bit, but I still feel pretty swift on the ice. I need to be more conscious of my knee bend, and maybe that'll help my speed. My tight turns are still pretty putrid, but they're probably the one skating skill that's improved a bit in the time since my last post about my actual skills.

My skating is still suffering a bit as well from the skate size disparity between my right and left skates. There's a little bit of space in my left boot which has been affecting my skating ever since I started doing turns and crossovers. If my highest priority purchase in terms of hockey equipment is a new hockey stick, properly fitting skates is a very close second. There's also the possibility of baking my skates, but I'll have to look more into it to see if it'll actually conform to my left foot and close the space in the toe that gets really annoying when trying to grip the ice for turns and back crossovers.

--

There's been a huge metamorphosis in my philosophy of what kind of player I want to be. I still feel most comfortable playing as a defenseman despite my obvious shortcomings in terms of size and puck skills. When I played intramural hockey at Brown, especially in my first season, I hardly ever made good plays or decisions with the puck. I always just tried to make sure there weren't any breakaways against us (which is partially why I hardly ever skated beyond the red line because the puck was always coming back into our zone) and break up plays the other team was trying to make. I was mildly successful in that endeavor, but the whole operation broke down every time I got possession of the puck. I turned it over, and whoops, time to play more defense.

There's a slight sense of irony to this change in my attempt at growth. Anti-stats people have often decried the hockey analytics movement because of many straw-man-ish reasons, but the overall insight has proved so valuable to me. The Red Army teams of the Soviet Union and the Detroit Red Wings of the '90s (of Russian Five fame) prided themselves on puck possession, and doing dogged work to get it back when they didn't have it. Recent work into correlations of possession metrics like Corsi and Fenwick have shown that the most successful teams in the NHL have players who are the best at keeping possession of the puck. How am I going to improve my game? I have to--HAVE TO--get better at handling the puck, making plays with it, and getting it back when I don't have it.

I've made a conscious effort to get better at handling passes. The worst night of hockey for me skill-wise was my first practice session with the Brown club team. The first drill of the night: skate goal line to opposite blue line, turn, get a pass, shoot on the goalie. I could keep up with the pace of the skating, even if my lack of conditioning showed by the end of the drill (which was the first of the night, so you can imagine how the rest of the night went). My turning wasn't great, but it wasn't specifically a tight turn thing, so I could curl around the faceoff dot outside the blue line.

Get a pass? Pffft.

They started out feeding me hard passes which I predictably missed every single time. I took maybe one shot because a puck happened to be in line with where I was skating. When they saw I was struggling, they eased up a bit. Still failed. The last pass I got of the drill was literally a pity pass given at such a slow pace just to make sure I couldn't screw up handling it.

I overskated it.

It's been almost a year since that night, and since then, especially since the summer started, I've tried as best I could to get better at handling passes. Like the linked Bourne article mentions, I want to become a player that you can't give a bad pass to. Lofty for sure, and I still don't quite know how to handle passes in my skates, but I'm much better at handling passes on my forehand. Backhand needs work but is miles better than it ever has been. You give the puck to me, I want to make sure the play continues toward the opposing net.

--

I've made a conscious effort to improve my decision-making once the puck is on my stick. I used to always do one of two things: fire a hope pass which usually ended up in a turnover; or dump the puck across the next line, whether it was out of our zone or below the opponent's goal line. Part of that was me trying to "play within myself" because I really didn't have much hockey skill to speak of. The safest thing to do is the dump the puck toward the opponent's end, right? It's what NHLers with little skill do, so why shouldn't I do it too?

There are obviously several problems with that approach. The first and most egregious is that when I got the puck, I always missed out on using my best skill: my skating. The play literally died when the puck got on my stick. I didn't know what to do with it, and I was always flat-footed because, hurr durr, I apparently can't skate with a puck on my stick. The second is that constantly dumping the puck in or just firing it somewhere into space and hoping someone on my team gets it requires no on-ice intelligence and prevents me from actually developing the skills needed to get better at making plays. I suck at making passes and refusing to pass the puck competently (or at least trying to) means I won't get better at it. Even if I keep my head up (something I'm getting better at doing), just blindly dumping the puck means I'm not attempting to read a play or find an open teammate. Third is that I never develop any puck skills, so my stickhandling suffers as a result. The former approach literally stunts my hockey growth.

There's still work to do, as there always will be, but I'm proud to say I'm light-years ahead of where I was before. There are still times when just flat out clearing the zone or dumping the puck is warranted, and I'm getting better at recognizing those. My stickhandling is improving, and I can competently skate the puck without overskating it or losing it by overhandling it. In fact, I scored a goal in a clinic scrimmage a few weeks ago because I skated the puck along the boards and went end-to-end with it. (Full disclosure: There was a lot of luck involved as well.) I'm passing the puck and starting breakouts more often than ever. I still need to work on the pace of my decision-making, especially in the neutral zone, because I take too much time there and I end up losing the puck or making a dumb pass. As well, my actual passing is improving too. I've made several successful saucer passes when I could barely get the puck up off the ice before. I've made hard passes across large swaths of the ice to spring my teammates in on the rush.

The hidden externality of all this progress is that my confidence on the ice is higher than ever. There are always people better than I am on the ice, so I don't ever need a reminder of my place on the hockey-skill totem pole, but knowing I'm capable of doing some things competently is worlds ahead of where I was the last time I played in an organized league. I wish I had started earlier so I could play a third and fourth year of intramural hockey, but I'm confident (once I get other life issues sorted out) I'll be able to find a rec league I can mesh in and learn a lot from. Until then, there's plenty more to work on, and I finally feel capable of reaching certain skill plateaus and improving my actual hockey skills.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Have you had your Green Biscuit today?

Two Saturdays ago, I went to the Discount Hockey store in Woodland Hills to buy a new hockey stick. I wanted to get something at least very similar if not exactly the same as my current Warrior Mac Daddy, 85 flex, Jovanovski blade pattern. Needless to say, the fact that the Jovanovski (aka Lidstrom, aka W02) blade pattern doesn't seem to be sold widely anymore made me a disappointed customer.

I did pick up two other things: more black hockey tape (although it isn't Renfrew, and I think I like these particular rolls better than Renfrew) and the Green Biscuit. I'd seen it before and was curious enough to want to get it, but I never bothered to order it online. I saw some Green Biscuits in the display case of the checkout desk, and I thought "why not?"

As the linked video shows, the Green Biscuit works very well for what it was designed to do: stay flat on less-than-ideal surfaces. The friction of the vulcanized rubber of a hockey puck makes for nightmare-inducing and frustration-building training exercises because the puck won't stay flat as it would on ice. When you as a player are practicing stickhandling and trying to get better control of the puck, you want to increase your pacing. Doing so with a puck on surfaces other than ice or a shooting pad or varnished, smooth flooring is just going to disrupt pacing.

After practicing with this for a week in my garage (the only real space I have at the moment), it's everything that it's advertised to be, and I love practicing with it. This particular version is designed just for stickhandling and passing (they make a shooting version if you want something more durable), and it works wonders for it. There's a split in the flooring of the garage based on how the flooring was laid out, and the Green Biscuit glides over it like it's one continuous piece of flooring. I haven't used it extensively in the driveway, but it's a tiled pattern with space between the pieces, and again, the Green Biscuit slides over it all like I'm really stickhandling on ice.

If there's one thing not to like about it, I guess it's that the product works too well, if that's possible. While regular hockey pucks cause problems on rough surfaces, there is something to be said for learning how to handle bouncing or rolling pucks because those kinds of things happen in games all the time (especially depending on the ice quality). The puck stays flat to the point where you have to actively try to get it to flip up or do something other than slide on the surface. But as a training aid, it provides a seamless practice tool for stickhandling and passing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hockey Stick Length

I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned in this space before about how much I love my Warrior Mac Daddy hockey stick. My favorite thing about it is the Jovanovski curve and its square toe. But a couple months ago, I came across this very curious website.

I had been searching the internet for methods of cutting hockey sticks, both in what tools I needed to actually cut them so that I wouldn't need to go to a hockey shop and in where on the stick I should cut it for my height. Yes, I'm fully aware that like most aspects of hockey equipment, the best judge is me and what I feel works best for me, but having very little on-ice experience isn't a great barometer for determining what works for me, so I wanted to see what works best for other people.

At that point, I stumbled upon that Cut Hockey Sticks website, and it really piqued my interest. A lot of the photos were certainly convincing and also didn't look photoshopped. The video was also pretty interesting, but since it looked like an old video, it made me wonder: how applicable is their method of cutting hockey sticks if they're all using wood hockey sticks with what looks like very minimal curves?

I paid more attention after first seeing that website to keeping the blade of my stick down as flat as possible. Since I use sticks with curves, I obviously had to turn them a little bit, or else the blade would come up off the ice. But when I tried to let my blade lie flat while holding my arm straight down, this happened:


I highly doubt it would be good for me (or anyone else) to have to turn their hockey stick this much just to handle a puck with the blade flat on the ice. So let's do what the video did and bring my hockey stick up so that my blade is flat on the ice:


So that looks more acceptable from this angle. How much of my hockey stick will I have to cut to get it to this length?

!!!!!

Yeesh.

If I just absent-mindedly went through and chopped off (mutilated) that much of my hockey stick, I might get a stick that would conform to the video's guidelines, but the flex would be non-existent for someone as not-very-strong as I am. I might also run into other problems using a stick that short while on skates.

Still, the whole premise was something I wanted to pursue and see where it took me. I also have a CCM U+06 hockey stick which I decided would be my dummy test for short sticks. It was an 85 flex with a Couturier curve, and at its store-bought length, it was about an inch or an inch and a half shorter than my Warrior stick. I picked a point on the CCM stick and had it cut. Here are more pictures for comparison:

Warrior stick gets at or slightly above my eye level. Yes, I know that's a pretty long hockey stick for me.
And here's the CCM stick after it's been cut. Comes up just below my chin.
And just to illustrate the point further, here are two pictures of the hockey sticks side-by-side to better grasp the difference in shaft lengths:







I haven't actually taken out a ruler and measured it, but the difference between the two hockey stick shafts is about 7 or 8 inches.

It's been a few weeks now, and the early returns aren't very promising. I don't know how much is me just getting used to using my Warrior stick or whether I'm doing things "correctly" or any other number of factors.

I've used my Warrior stick for a couple weeks on the ice here in LA during my winter break, and I've pretty much eliminated the problem of the bent elbow on my own. Whenever I would take a stick and puck down to the basement of my house at college, I would get an ache in my shoulder from stickhandling because of how much I bend my elbow, but the problem seems to have gone away on its own, both in on- and off-ice stickhandling. I'm much more mindful of using my top hand when stickhandling, and that seems to have helped a bit.

The shorter CCM stick actually isn't bad. I was hesitant at first because I really wasn't used to having a hockey stick that short, but I decided to use it at Sabby's clinic one week, and use only that stick. Stickhandling was actually more comfortable with the CCM than with the Warrior. Overall, as I got used to the feeling of it, I found that I could work with it pretty easily. The downfall is that because I had to cut so much off the original, the flex is too stiff, so I can't shoot the puck at all with it. The second problem I is controlling loose pucks, especially off the boards. Surprisingly, there was no discernible difference in defensive zone coverage, and I had plenty of data to draw from because I somehow kept being the last man back on a two-on-one during the Sabby's clinic scrimmage.

It was an interesting experiment, but I'm not entirely sure where to go from here. I still have the CCM stick because it's a useful emergency backup if something ever happens to my Warrior stick. I would like to see if I can use a stick more regularly that's closer to the CCM shaft length. I can't quite say that I "prefer" it because I've found ways to work with both, and especially in recent weeks, I've gotten much more comfortable with my Warrior stick. I don't see any senior sticks sold at that shaft length, and if I cut it, every single stick I can find on the market will have too stiff a flex. I don't see any intermediate sticks either that are sold at that shaft length, and I'm worried about having a flex that's not stiff enough.

I'm not yet at the point where I'm comfortable cutting my Warrior stick even just an inch or two. With the way I'm getting used to it and working really well with it as is, and with me not wanting to risk anything with this hockey stick because it took me forever to find, I'm not willing to do anything to change it just yet. I may cut it a couple inches at some point in the future, but that will be a long time from now. 

At this point, I'll take my two goals from last week's Sabby's clinic scrimmage, scored with my Warrior stick, and just roll with it into the second half of intramural season.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sabby's Clinic 1-16-14

After a one-week break for a trip to Providence, I went back to Sabby's Clinic at the Valley Ice Center for what will probably be the last time because of scheduling difficulty next week. Also, I probably don't want to ruin what was a good day at the rink yesterday.

Without a diagram or a Drill Draw, I'm not going to try anymore to describe the drills. Instead, I'll just say how I think my skills fared and what I might need to work on.

As usual, my biggest skating deficiency is tight turns. It gets even worse when I'm trying to carry a puck because I end up slowing down to try to keep the puck on my stick. Even just turning with the puck is a problem sometimes, especially when turning to my right, because I either lose the puck off my blade or I slow down as I make my turn and attempt to crossover. As a right shot, it's even more awkward trying to turn to my right because I can't just cup the puck on my blade the way I can if I turn left. Of course, turning left is a problem because my tight turns in that direction are infinitely worse than doing tight turns to my right.

Overall stickhandling and carrying the puck feels worlds different after a few weeks getting on the ice. I'm not longer terrified to handle the puck even though I still bobble it sometimes, and I'm 1000% better than even last month at making and receiving passes.

I definitely feel and notice that my straight-away skating speed is improving with ice time and technique changes and attention to detail. I'm getting better at knowing when and how to expend my energy on the ice, but guys who used to be faster than I am, I'm catching up to in speed. There were multiple races back into my defensive zone during the scrimmage yesterday where someone would have had a sure breakaway, but I at least managed to be a warm body between the shooter and my goaltender.

If the last time I went to Sabby's clinic was a display in how to dominate the drills and fail miserably in the scrimmage, yesterday was the polar opposite. Execution in drills wasn't terribly sharp, and there were multiple instances of fanning on the puck while attempting to take a shot. But once the scrimmage started, I felt great. I didn't wear myself out the way I did in previous weeks, I scored 2 goals, had 2 blocked shots, and didn't have any egregious turnovers.

On my first goal, the puck turned over at my blue line, and almost everyone was behind me, so I took it and had a 2-on-1 skating in on the right side. The defender had the pass covered pretty well, and I was definitely looking pass almost the entire time, but when it was clear I had to shoot, I took the shot. The puck went 7-hole and I thought the goalie saved it, but when I kept going to the side of the net, I saw the puck squeak through and barely cross the line as I went behind the net.

The second goal was on the same shift. A player on the other team was trying to carry the puck across his own blue line, but he left it behind trying to get a handle on it, and I skated it back in. An attempted pass went behind the net, and after some great work by a teammate, he got the puck to me wide open on the back door, and there's no way I would have screwed that one up.

I go back to Providence in a week. I can't wait to get back to work on a rink where I don't have to pay money for ice time. It'll also be nice to have the rink more or less to myself since there are only about 4 or 5 other people there (at most) at any given time. Even better, I can't wait for the spring section of our intramural season. It's amazing what scoring goals even in a low-key situation like a clinic scrimmage can do for your confidence.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Skating Journal 12-16-13

I went skating at Meehan Auditorium on Thursday afternoon, and I also went to the Kennedy Plaza rink on Friday because I was absolutely craving ice time even if on a small sheet with a lot of people on it. I only got about a half hour time for each session, but I did have just one focus for the entirety of my weekend ice time: knee bend.

In my last video post, it was incredibly obvious that my legs were practically straight on the ice. This phenomenon, despite my conscious effort to bend my knees and try to avoid being straight-legged on the ice. So on Thursday at Meehan, I did the strides drill from HowToHockey's second video on skating fundamentals.

In starting out, I wanted to take things to an extreme, so I made sure to keep my knees really bent, feeling almost like I'm in a seated position. The short time on the ice (as well as the fact that Kennedy Plaza is a very public skate) didn't allow me to capture any video, but I definitely felt closer to the ice than before. The difference in my balance is drastic. While I felt pretty steady even before focusing on my knee bend, keeping myself that low to the ice really secured the feeling on my skates and allowed me to take confident strides. The low level also helped with my speed because of the coverage I got with a single stride; the extreme knee bend eliminated any feelings of sluggishness and limited speed I would occasionally get from feeling like I was pushing and making an effort but still moving more slowly than I usually do.

The problem I noticed coming up the most that seems to have corrected itself with a shift in focus has to do with maintaining the knee bend well throughout my skating. As Scott and Jeremy mention in the video, one of the big problems people have with skating this way is maintaining the knee bend. It can happen for various reasons, from fatigue to laziness to lack of mental awareness. But focusing on my legs and making sure I stayed low to the ice, keeping my knees bent and over my toes, helped me keep my head on the same horizontal plane so that I wasn't shifting up and down and wasting energy picking up my knees then bending low again.

I'm noticing having a good, solid knee bend is actually helping my overall skating ability out quite a bit. The next step is to make it a habit, to make it automatic. Like every skating ability, I should just do it without needing to think about it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Skating Journal Updates (video)

video

So it finally worked! Blogger finally uploaded this video, and I can finally do some analysis of my skating before my game tonight!

0:00-0:41
One-step lateral movement drill, forward and backward. Probably the one good thing I do in this drill is keep my head up. (And that's probably also the only good thing I do throughout this video.) It's one thing to be on the ice and think that I'm bending my knees, and a pretty surreal experience to see myself on video and see almost no knee-bend whatsoever. A good, solid knee-bend would certainly go a long way toward making sure I do this drill right and make it at least look competent.

I can pinpoint two other things I can improve on. The first is that when I stop on the side, I'm sliding across the ice most of the time instead of getting to the other side as quickly as possible. That may partially be an equipment issue because I haven't sharpened my skates since the summer, and as I've mentioned numerous times before, my skates aren't the best possible fit since my left boot is just slightly too big that I can notice it affect my skating ability. But a better push off the side should help me with those quick stops and get moving to the other side more quickly.

The second point of improvement deals with my actual movement side to side. My inside leg is static. A better knee-bend will help because I'll actually have something to use and somewhere to go, but I need a much better push on my inside leg when I crossover to the other side. So I load up my weight on the outside leg, push off that leg, crossover, and as I'm crossing over, my leg that's staying on the ice can do a better job of pushing me toward the side. As a lateral movement drill, the point is that I should be able to move side to side and also cover as much ice as I possibly can. In my first game this season (post coming soon!), I got beat a few times to the outside because I couldn't step in front of the guys quickly enough because I couldn't cover enough ice laterally, so I got turned much more than I would like or should be considered acceptable.

0:42-1:27
Two-step lateral movement drill, forward and backward. I think some of the problems with my one-step lateral movement drill just become exaggerated when I do this drill. I'll work on the one-step and see what happens with the two-step once I make those adjustments.

I will say though that I do have a somewhat difficult time adjusting to this drill and keeping it from becoming a backwards crossovers drill once I go from forward to backward. Here's an instance of where I really feel my skate sizing issue affects my skating ability because my left foot can never seem to land comfortably, and it always seems to want to cut its own path in the ice. Short of getting another pair of skates, I'm not entirely sure what to do about this problem other than keep trying and see if it corrects itself when I make other adjustments and get more comfortable in my skating.

1:28-1:59
Agility drill. My arms flail around because they're not holding anything. I've done this drill with a hockey stick before (off camera), and my hands were much more in control when they had something in them like my hockey stick.

Aside from my hands flailing, I think my pivots are actually getting better. I need to work on not making them pull me off to the side so much like at the end around 1:55 where I pivot to the last part of the drill where I back-skate to the other side of the circle.

Here, you can see the obvious deficiencies in my lateral movement. I slowed down a lot going from left to right to avoid falling. I see Jeremy Weiss demonstrate this drill in his video describing it, and I wonder how I can get my lateral movement to look anything close to that. Just some things to work on when I get back home for winter break and can get more stick-and-puck time as well as skating space.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Skating Journal 12-2-13

So I was originally going to post this with a video, but Blogger is being quite unhelpful with uploading a video with this post. The video itself is nothing terribly remarkable, but it's much more helpful to actually see what's going on instead of just have me attempt to describe it here. There were lateral movement drills and an agility drill, but I can't really talk about what specifically happens in the video unless the video can be uploaded. Instead, I'll talk about something else that's come up in recent weeks.

I haven't been able to skate as much as I thought I would be able to this semester, but there are definitely other hockey related skills-building things I've done in the meantime to try to make up for the lack of ice time.

On the ice, though, it's been an interesting last few months. I've been trying to find ways to improve, and aside from learning skills that I don't yet know how to do or do very poorly, I've been trying to delve deeper into my stride. There are skating sessions where I feel like I'm the fastest I've ever been, and the next time out, the ice feels like trying to skate through concrete. I don't particularly consider myself a skilled hockey player in any facet of the game, but I do think my best asset is my skating ability, so developing consistency there would go a long way toward shoring up the rest of my on-ice skills. It probably helps that skating is the only thing I can work on since there's hardly any time I can get for stick-and-puck practice on ice while I'm here at school.

I love HowToHockey and the video's he's posted on hockey fundamentals, and I think I'm starting to find some answers with his most recent videos on proper skating stance:


And a second:

Going all the way back to my last blog, and even including the video I was planning to upload with this post, something always seemed off to me about my skating stride and stance, especially on lateral movement drills. On the ice, I always felt like I was bending my knees and trying to stay low to the ice to maintain my power skating stance; after video review though, my legs make it look like I never bend my knees while skating, and it was very apparent in the video I was planning to post today that my knee-bend looked non-existent on video.

I've already played one game of intramural ice hockey this season (which will be its own separate post if I ever get around to it), and while I didn't get a chance to really work on my skating to try to implement this insight into knee-bend and adjust my skating stride before the game, I did make a conscious effort during the game to get low especially in races for the puck. I definitely felt faster than I had been in recent weeks, and even though the ice was really choppy because we were the second game that night and there was no zamboni between games, the ice didn't feel like trying to skate through concrete when I made a conscious effort to bend my knees more than I might have considered necessary. It didn't detract from my balance even though I hadn't worked on my stride in a while (in fact, the lower stance helped my balance overall especially when I tried skating at full speed in puck races), and it also didn't hinder any of stick skills, which is encouraging because I've been experimenting with my hockey sticks lately after finding something absolutely fascinating on the Internet (topic for another post).

Whenever I can actually make it to the rink to practice my skating again, I'll definitely be working on maintaining my knee-bend as a conditioning exercise, as a leg workout, and as a speed exercise.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

8/31/13

The date of my last update to this blog. The last time I had a draft saved was 9/7/13.

Life is starting to sort itself out again, just in time for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season to throw it out of whack. Again.

Intramural hockey season for the 2013-14 school year was supposed to have started this past week, but it's been delayed a week because of reasons. So hopefully that will start up this week.

I will have many updates on random tidbits in the coming weeks, but this is a post to let you all know I'm back from my unannounced blogging hiatus and to expect a video with the next post here. I won't be posting every day, and I'm not entirely sure how I managed to post as often as I did when I restarted this blog the first time.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bruised Brother elsewhere on the Internet

I'm really proud of this comment I made on this post:

“advanced” stats are called “advanced” for reasons that i couldn’t tell you. we all seem comfortable talking about goalie save percentages and goals against average, yet we bristle at the thought of what a player’s points per 60 or goals for % is.

as J.J. said and i would like to emphasize, advanced stats are absolutely NOT crucial to appreciating and enjoying the game. i had a lot of fun watching hockey before i ever heard the word Corsi, but considering the direction that hockey analytics seems very likely headed, i decided to familiarize myself with them. you likely won’t ever see me searching out Corsi or any of those numbers myself because that’s just not how i describe the game or interact with other fans. i’ll inevitably say something dumb in the future, but generally, i just listen when the discussions move toward player comparisons using these metrics. considering i’m also learning to play hockey myself, i’m also slowly gaining a more complete understanding of tactics. granted, that process will be long, slow, and arduous, but that’s just how i engage with the game.

as for the stats themselves, i do find it helpful to distinguish between the different kind of non-traditional stats. most of the traditional stats are just simply counting stats—goals, assists, points, plus-minus, PIM, and the like. goalie stats can help ease you into how certain metrics are calculated: GAA is simply GA/60 minutes played for a goalie, or how many goals a goalie gives up on average per game. when talking about rate stats for skaters, these usually manifest as G/60 or P/60 or A1/60 for primary assists and A2/60 for secondary assists. you’ve got percentages, which there are a ton of: shooting %, save %, goals for/ against %. then you have the possession stats Corsi and Fenwick and all the various metrics associated with them like quality of competition (QUALCOMP). this is a lot of name-dropping, i admit, so don’t fret if you didn’t understand it the first time. the thing i hope you take away from this paragraph is that “advanced” stats encompass a lot of ways of looking at the numbers you’re already familiar with, like goals and points, and seeing what patterns emerge as well as looking at other numbers like shots and shot differentials. they’re just different ways of looking at players and the game.

the inevitable strawman that seems to pop up in the debate over advanced stats concerns their predictive power. when someone says that Corsi is the best and most reliable indicator of long-term predictability or repeatability for players and teams, they mean it exactly as it sounds: it’s the best long-term indicator. compiling all the players’ Corsi and goalie stats and throwing them into a machine can give Vegas betting odds, but it won’t tell us if the Red Wings are going to win opening night against Buffalo, or the Winter Classic against the Maple Leafs, or Lidstrom night against the Avalanche. dealing with hockey on a game by game and period by period basis, the numbers have almost no value because periods and games are examples of small sample sizes that swing the numbers into a wild variance. the numbers can tell us who will likely make the playoffs, and even to a certain extent how far teams will go in the playoffs, but even in the long-term, there is still a level of uncertainty in their predictive power over the influence of the outcome of a hockey game, season, or playoff series.

so to answer your questions: advanced stats usually refer to anything that doesn’t show up on NHL.com’s stats pages that can still tell us something useful about players and teams. they’re important for the information they tell us, but always keep in mind that no one number can possibly capture everything in a hockey game. even advanced stats need context and proper interpretation to be utilized to their full analytical potential. but they’re not absolutely crucial to watching and enjoying a hockey game or season.
--uvgt2bkdnme

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hockey Journal 8-25-13

I fly back to Providence on Wednesday for my senior year at Brown University. Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to any stick time or do any skating until then, but thankfully, starting with the second week of school, Meehan Auditorium will have plenty of University Skates for me to work on my skating.

The ultimate drawback to this whole setup is that my skating, while not terribly great especially in skates that aren't the best fit for me, is still my greatest asset. It would be much more productive for me to do more hockey-specific stick and puck work because I still can't make a clean pass to save my life. I've come a long way from my trial-by-fire first game where I literally played without ever having actually learned to play hockey even though I knew all the rules but practiced none of the skills except skating, and it won't be fun to have to put all the progress on hold until I can manage to find a way to get some stick and puck work in.

Until the intramural season starts in November, though, I'll have plenty to work on on- and off-ice.

--I've managed to make my lateral movement and back crossovers more comfortable by adjusting how I put my left skate on and pushing my toes toward the front of the boot. Unfortunately, it seems like this setup is at the cost of good tight turns because now the little bit of space is in my heel, but nonetheless, my tight turns in both directions absolutely need work.
--Speaking of back crossovers, I should definitely work on those too. I can do them, just not terribly well, and at a certain speed, I start to lose control. If I can do forward crossovers at high speeds, I should be able to do the same backwards, in both directions.
--Stops and starts. I should work on my hockey stops more, especially since 95% of my stops happen with just my front foot, and the back foot just kind of stutters on the ice. I don't know if I should learn how to do a T-stop separately, or just keep working on hockey stops until my back foot figures out what to do. More importantly, though, I need to be able to start again quickly after I've stopped. It doesn't help that sometimes my feet drag on a stop, especially if I'm stopping at high speeds, but it's becoming a consistent problem that I'm too slow to react and make my next move after I come to stop.
--I've finally found a good core workout that seems to be working well at least for making my muscles work consistently. Now that I have good, equipment-less workouts I can do regularly, off-ice fitness and conditioning will certainly be a goal to focus on as well.

I'll admit that I'm slightly terrified that if I can't find a way to do stick and puck work on the ice, even if I still find a way to do it off-ice, I'll lose the gains I made this past summer. But until the time comes, I'm just going to keep working and improving what I can.

Thanks for reading!