As coaches, we should be reexamining our own practice planning so that our teams can get the most out of their on-ice sessions. This should be a regular habit. Don’t set it and forget it.
Below are two simple elements we can incorporate into our small-group practices to help players experience game-like conditions, which will lead to better game play. You play how you practice, after all.
1. Start with a push-in escape
Per a study done during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs by skills coach Sebastien Lemay, 80% of initial puck touches happen outside of the dot lanes. Even in the best league in the world, many offensive sequences die along the wall before they can materialize into a middle attack.
At the top levels of the game, skilled players and grinders alike often get their first touch near the boards. The difference is that the latter typically opt to bunt the puck to someone else, while the former have the touch and poise to gather a bad puck, get off the wall and make a play.
To help young players become comfortable with making a wall play inside body contact, we can start a team practice or small-group skills session with a simple push-in escape progression.
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