Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Link Dump 9-16-17

Along the Boards

Brown freshmen Bird, Willman learn from NHL camps
My first interview-based piece for ATB on a pair of NCAA players getting a taste of higher level hockey as they attend their first NHL development camps after being drafted this past June.

What should the Red Wings do with Anthony Mantha?
The Red Wings have some options with their prized offensive prospect, but Mantha's play will dictate a lot of their decision-making.

Top 10: Coolest Detroit Red Wings Records
I took a look through Red Wings history and found some pretty awesome records we hold. 

Winging It in Motown

NHL Rulebook: Video Review Expansion, Changes to Overtime, and New Diving Fines
The NHL announced a few rules changes for the 2014-15 season. I yap on about why I dislike a lot of them. 

NHL Rulebook: Friedman on Goalie Interference, Offside "Audits"
Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts spell out some additional measures the NHL will employ targeting goaltender interference and offside.

Season Preview: League Discipline
Stephane Quintal takes the helm for his first season as Senior VP of Player Safety.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Link Dump

This is where I'll gather all the things I've written elsewhere.

Along the Boards

Plenty up in the air for Red Wings
The Red Wings are gambling on a few key things going right for them in order to improve on last season.

Red Wings must get what they paid for in Stephen Weiss
The Red Wings thought they had a player in Weiss when they signed him last offseason. After an injury-ruined season, Weiss has to earn his keep.

Winging It in Motown

NHL Rulebook: Abuse of Officials
Don't cross the refs. You won't like them when they're angry.

NHL Rulebook: Video Review
A complicated section of the rulebook that is never going to make everyone truly happy.

NHL Rulebook: Intent to Blow the Whistle
I'll spare you the slog of reading about referees, linesmen, and off-ice officials and instead give you something from last month about a controversial rule.

Get thee to a TV
Red Wings' national TV schedule has been out for a while.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sabby's Clinic 8-14-14

These days, Sabby's clinic is the only real chance I get week to week to get out on the ice. It's a good thing I've been able to go every week, but I hope I can go to at least one stick time or skating session soon.

My slap shot is pitiful. I think I might consider prioritizing flex on the next hockey stick I buy because 85 may be too stiff for me. I also could work on my technique because I think that could use some work. But holy wow, my slap shot is pitiful.

Today was a good session. I started off strong, doing everything right (except scoring when I took my shot) and at my highest pace in the first drill, and I took it from there. There were some minor pacing issues the later we went on, but overall, I'm getting better at making passes, targeting my passes so my teammates get it in stride, and catching passes myself.

Last week was an absolute trainwreck, but even if it was super easy to have a better week than last week, I still will mention that I had a much better session than last week. I feel like my competence in executing drills was up, and my execution during the scrimmage was up as well. I was on the ice for a goal against where I feel like I was screening my own goalie, but he didn't say anything to me. But every pass attempt kept the puck moving toward our opponent's net, and I even led the rush a time or two.

I'm still pretty clueless about how to manage the puck in the offensive half of the ice. I know when I have the puck across the red line, I'm going to make sure we're onside before carrying the puck in. But there was a particular zone entry where I could have tried to beat a guy wide and instead just dumped the puck. I don't think he was lining me up for a hit (it's a clinic scrimmage in the middle of the day for crying out loud), but I guess I was still worried about turning the puck over at the blue line and just wanted to get the puck away from our end.

I think my whole muddled disposition with trying to describe that sequence is a sign I need to slow my game down a bit. There is a point where thinking gets you into trouble because a sport like hockey moves way too fast for anybody to really do any thinking. But still, maybe I could have taken the puck and driven into the zone and pulled up to buy a second a or two to make a more intelligent play with it rather than just throw it behind the opponent's goal line. I wasn't really thinking much of anything when I dumped the puck in. I just saw a guy closing in on me near the boards, and . . . I don't know. There was once sequence where I threw a pass that ended up trickling toward the goalie because I missed my target, but at least I was trying to make a play which didn't work out. That dump in bothers me considering I'm trying to get better by learning how to make plays with the puck. It wasn't like I was even trying to get off the ice for a line change either.

There was another moment during the scrimmage where I definitely felt the effects of leg fatigue. I was on the right wing boards and our defenseman had the puck and was carrying it and looking for a way to get out. He saw me up ice, and the two of us saw the open ice in the middle (wide open) that I needed to skate to. My brain was telling me "skate to open ice!" My left leg was not cooperating. I wasn't injured, but my left quad was just so worn out from all the pushes of skating and stopping for the previous 85 minutes, it took longer than it should have for me to get into space. He fired the pass and there was still a chance I could have corralled it cleanly and gone in for a rush, but I think that split-second delay because of my leg threw the timing off. I really need to get out on the ice more than once a week. I could do certain leg exercises, but there's nothing better to exercise my hockey skating than . . . well, more hard skating.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sabby's Clinic 8-7-14

After a run of three straight weeks scoring a goal in scrimmage, my streak ended. More than that, a lot of other things just made me think "today's not my day."

We had a guy there who, according to someone else out on the ice with us, plays in a European professional league. He certainly played like it, skating circles around so many of us. I had the honor of him getting past me by skipping the puck over my stick as he took a shot on net that my goalie thankfully bailed me out on. If there's one saving grace for me on that sequence, it's that he didn't get behind me but just created a shooting lane with his superior skill.

There were lots of problems with me during the scrimmage. My backskating definitely showed that it needs a lot of work, including transitioning from forward to backward in the same direction. One guy actually blew right past me because I didn't turn around in time, so he drove wide and was already level with me when I turned around to start backskating. Welp.

I had the puck on my stick probably six times or so. All six resulted in changes of possession. All were through different means: bad pass, outright giveaway, attempted clear, flat out getting the puck stolen from me, blocked shot attempt, and overskating.

The drills were a lot better for me for the first time in a while. I had moments of realizing my desire to be that player you can't give a bad pass to: I took a pass from skate to stick; I caught a pass with one hand on my hockey stick, full extension to catch it on the heel of my stick; I caught passes on my backhand and retained possession. It's a step in the right direction.

It's not a session to write home about. It's one of those that you say just to throw it away and act like it never happened. There are things to learn, but otherwise, I'm going to pretend like this never happened.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Goals, goals, goals

I'm currently on a three-scrimmage goal-scoring streak at Sabby's clinic. For someone who didn't grow up playing hockey, and for someone who still doesn't really think too highly of his own hockey skills, this is a big deal. It remains to be seen just how it would translate to a real hockey game, but I'll save all that for another time.

Three weeks ago, it was the first time I scored since a two-goal output one random scrimmage time when I made a cameo appearance at the clinic for my spring break. We unfortunately got scored on, and when play restarted, I took the puck up out of our zone along the boards and skated past a guy who admittedly was a bit half-hearted probably because he had to let us leave the zone after they scored against us. I skated and chipped the puck past him and continued carrying it across the opponent's blue line.

Here's where it gets a little dicey and luck-ish: one of our teammates was headed off the ice, and was going out through the door in our offensive zone. I tried to carry the puck further into their zone but lost it into said teammate's skates. The defenseman who would otherwise have corralled the puck and cleared the zone got tripped up by the deflection off his skate. I pressured the puck carrier and got it back before firing a shot from the circle just under the goalie's glove. End-to-end, score.

Two weeks ago, I completely forgot exactly how the play led up to this, but I think we skated into the zone three-on-two before the puck carrier pulled up at the half-wall and I was driving far post. The puck went back to the point at the corner of the zone when I noticed someone was on me but there was open space in the slot. I skated back and got open, got a great feed from that defenseman at the corner point and took a stride toward the net before taking a shot. Now I originally wanted to fire the puck above the pad, under the blocker of the goalie, but I fanned on the shot partially so that it ended up staying along the ice and went five-hole instead. The goalie was definitely preparing for a shot competently executed instead of a flubbed up shot-pass along the ice.

Last week was a total fluke. Total. Fluke. Off the scrimmage opening faceoff, I was on right wing and went to the boards off a won faceoff. Our defenseman fed me the puck and I controlled it (woohoo!) and skated up ice with it. I was expecting the opposing defenseman to close-in on me, which he kind of did. He did a little sweep check as I crossed the blue line, but I maintained possession. Scrimmages here are generally non-body-checking, but this guy has hip-checked a person before, so I made sure to keep my head up. He was still giving me space and wasn't trying to take the puck away, so I just took the space and drove wide. I knew I was too far in to try to cut to the net, so I instead looked for someone driving far post for a pass through the crease. I saw semblances of a teammate driving (I say "semblances" because I couldn't actually see much besides someone's leg socks because a defender was in the way), so I decided to throw the puck in front. When I did, I tried to airmail the puck so it would avoid defenders' sticks and skates. What ended up happening is my attempted saucer pass deflected off the knee of a defender's shin pad and straight to the back of the net. Goal, maybe 10 seconds in. Funnily enough, that was the goal I celebrated the loudest.

Scoring goals is fun. I know this won't happen every single time, but I'll ride this hot streak as long as I can. As much as I bemoan my own puckhandling capabilities, that may actually be my best hockey skill right now: passing needs work, reading plays needs (LOTS OF) work, decision-making needs (SO MUCH) work, even my shot needs work. I've been pretty good about not getting the puck turned over when I carry the puck through the neutral zone. Hopefully the scoring streak continues tomorrow.

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.