This beautiful game of hockey is constantly changing.
Today’s game has become dominated by technical and tactical skills, which pushes our work as skills coaches to be both innovative and purposeful. One of the changes we have recently witnessed is less utilization of straight skating (striding) patterns, and more utilization of “linear crossover” patterns, particularly through the neutral zone and on entries into the offensive zone.
Greg Revak recently wrote a terrific article on the use of linear crossovers to increase speed and deception. Greg referenced a study done by Darryl Belfry, a world-renowned skills coach who executed a study comparing the crossover to stride ratio of NHL players, and he found:
- The top 25 NHL players crossover once every four strides
- Third- or fourth-line NHL players cross-over once every 12 to 14 strides on average
Linear crossovers are a skating tactic that have been recently adopted by numerous players within the NHL and elsewhere. It allows offensive players to change attack angles, move in multiple directions, and ultimately control the defender’s foot pattern.
Players are constantly looking for ways to create advantages and space, and an effective way to do so is by using their technical and tactical skills. Attacking offensively using forward motion, while also moving laterally with the puck, can be quite difficult to defend against.
Deception is ultimately executing what is unexpected, after initially indicating something different.
We talk about deception in two forms: deception with the puck and deception without the puck. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on deception with the puck, specifically pertaining to linear crossover skating.
Deceptive skating skills are utilized to get away from pressure or to withstand pressure (puck protection). After we get away from the pressure, space is created, but we must also effectively utilize the space we’ve created. Skating deception (with the puck) can occur in one of the following methods:
- Changing body language: head fakes, shoulder fakes, eye fakes, stick fakes
- Changing pace: gliding skills (inside edge holds), sliding skills (inside and outside edge slides, jab steps)
- Changing direction: weight shifts, jab steps, punch turns, escapes, linear crossovers
- Manipulating of typical skating patterns
Like many other areas of the game, we would argue that we should now also add deception through skill manipulation into our linear crossovers. Defenders are now finding ways to pick up predictable patterns and defend against this skating skill. The most elite players are adding false/deceptive information in the most unique ways, whenever possible!
Typical (single) linear crossovers often follow the same predictable skating pattern: right foot (inside edge push), left foot (outside edge push), right foot (inside edge push), left foot (inside edge), weight shift, and repeat in opposite direction.
Good defencemen are taught to eliminate time and space, to limit the cues they give to their opponents, and to maintain control of their feet; all while also paying attention to opponent body language patterns. Good defencemen have also begun to pick up and capitalize on this predictable linear crossover pattern.
How can we add or subtract (manipulate) parts from this typical pattern to create an advantage through deceptive confusion?
Linear crossover manipulation
We sometimes rely too heavily on executing the typical linear crossover pattern. We also tend to err on the side of comfortability – often over-relying our inside edges to keep our balance, change directions, and weight shift in a consistent pattern.
This deficiency inhibits us from randomly changing directions and quickly pushing away from opponents.
What if we manipulated this typical linear crossover pattern? What if we became way less predictable with our linear crossover skating patterns? What if we altered the typical linear crossover foot pattern and removed inside edge weight shifts?