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Learning to Score

September 19, 2011 General No Comments

Learning to score
By Fred Pletsch
Oct 31, 2001, 15:58


Dr. Vern Stenlund vehemently disagrees with the hockey adage that states: “It’s easier to teach a player how to check than it is to teach him how to score.”

Stenlund is a former 2nd-round NHL draft pick who currently teaches at the University of Windsor (Ontario) and coaches the Leamington Jr. “B” Flyers. And he’s heard all the supporting lines about players who “can’t” score. “That guy couldn’t put the puck in the ocean if he was standing on Daytona Beach.” Or, “He couldn’t find the net with radar.”

But Stenlund says he can make players into better scorers by giving them three rules to live by. Rather than talk about the goal itself, however, Stenlund prefers to start by talking about getting into position to score goals. It’s what he refers to as “ice vision.”


Three simple rules

“A player has to learn to read rebounds properly, so that he or she can know where to get to as the offensive attack is underway.” And these are things that he says can be taught. “I believe you can improve a player’s offensive abilities if you take certain steps.” And those steps take the form of three simple rules.


Rule #1: Always follow the puck to the net.

“I ask my players to follow the puck until it hits the twine,” says Stenlund. “When you do that you naturally stay in line with the puck right to the goaltender. It keeps you on line for a potential rebound, and is one little thing that can be done to help a player finish up and get in position for important second-shot opportunities.”

Stenlund advises coaches who use video to review their games to watch closely for players who shoot and then miss a tremendous rebound opportunity because they did not follow up properly to the net.


Rule #2: Practice the one-time shot.

“You see a lot of awful shots go in the net, but they go in because they’re released quickly,” states Stenlund. “If you can work your hands to the point where you can one-time, either off a pass or a shot, you don’t have to be a great goal scorer to get the puck to go in regularly.”

Stenlund offers up some numbers as proof. “From 20 feet out a 50-MPH shot, which is no big deal for a junior hockey player, takes under a second to get into the net. But it takes a goalie over a second to get his glove hand from where it’s normally positioned up to the top corner. So that tells me that, physiologically, a netminder cannot stop you if you locate the puck properly.”

Then why aren’t most players scoring 70 goals a season? “Because over time goalies become very good guessers,” says the Doctor.


Rule #3: Concentrate on the task at hand.

Great goal scorers, Stenlund observes, “are able to block out physical punishment at the right moment in time. They’re prepared to take a beating to keep their concentration and keep the puck on target.”

They also concentrate on what a goalie does in certain situations. “One of the things you quickly discover as you watch goalies telescope across the crease, is that there’s going to be a certain time in any given offensive sequence where a goalie is more susceptible than he is at another time. So if you can learn to shoot, learn to capitalize when that goalie is most susceptible, there’s a better chance of the puck going in.”


Coaches can help concentration

Stenlund says coaches have the ability to improve their players’ powers of concentration and observation. Just as people often work on becoming better listeners and observers, coaches can help their players work on increasing their concentration through drills. Stenlund is a strong proponent of what he calls “intelligent repetition” at practice.

For example, he suggests putting a one-time shot into any drill you normally do that doesn’t include one right now. “Most coaches should try and be progressive,” declares Stenlund. “Start with a basic foundation drill. Then once the kids know that they’re doing, instead of completely changing gears—which is confusing for kids and frustrating for coaches because the kids keep messing up—build on it. Just keep adding one little twist.” Since the kids already know the drill, they can concentrate better on that certain secondary part. “That’s what I mean by intelligent repetition.”

Good coaches also learn to recognize when players have a favorite scoring spot. “Certain hockey players seem to have that sense of radar from key spots on the ice. So a coach has to look at his athletes individually an ask himself, ‘where is this guy’s zone?’ Is it the right side or the left side? Down low, tight to the goalie, or camped out deeper in the slot?”

Once a coach finds a player’s sweet spot, he has a tremendous opportunity to play players—whether by designating power play assignments or putting together line combinations—in specific positions that are well-suited to them.

Hockey is all about putting the puck in the net, and following Dr. Stenlund’s three-rule prescription should help your players get that done more frequently.


Fred Pletsch is a veteran OHL and AHL broadcaster who currently covers the Cornwall Aces for CJFS radio.


This first appeared in the 10/1994 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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