Do you ever wonder what makes elite players so elite? A lot of it has to do with patterns. Think about the universe, circadian systems, our bodies cardiac rhythm, it's all patterns. It's incredibly interesting, but how does it apply to on-ice performance? In every way, use the right pattern at the right time and witness magic! People jump out of their seats to see Connor McDavid go inside-outside-inside on an opposing defensemen. Or how about Nathan Mackinnon building speed through the neutral zone for a deep drive and delay, finding that second wave defensemen off the rush. It’s so exciting to see that sheer speed, skill and IQ all manifesting itself in one big “Woof” (That sound when a big vehicle whizzes by your littler vehicle when driving on the highway as it shakes the car). Study the patterns, put them in context, rep them, and watch that work transfer!
1. Forward Cross-Overs, to Linear Front Stride, to Inside Edge Weight Shift:
Think Connor. This guy comes off his outside edge in a semi-circle radius in the neutral zone, then kicks into high gear with his linear front stride approaching the d-men at the offensive blue with inside edge fakes by shifting his weight quickly. I mean really quick. Let’s go inside-outside this time, how about outside-inside-outside the next, he’s the best in the world at it, varying patterns to keep him slippery at max speed while throwing pucks to predicted areas. Soon enough, you're in the dust and your staring at a big number 97 from the backside (never a good spot if you’re a d-man).
2. Linear Cross-Over to Rudder to Quick Crossovers:
This one is all Mack. It’s been fun over the last couple of months to watch very closely how this guy moves and works. He’s full out all the time. I mean, all the time. I love that about him. Think of a flash of 29 before your eyes, screaming down the ice in a weave of pure speed down the left flank. He gets around the hash marks just as the D starts to use an open hip pivot and GOTCHA! A freakishly quick left outside edge rudder turns his body on a dime and comes out of it with quick crossovers to find that off-side second wave defensemen coming into the offensive zone. Can anybody say 1T baby? Bomb. That red light never looked so good!
3-Backwards Cross-Overs to Forward Cross-Overs:
Let’s go with stud Drew Doughty on this one. Defensemen out there, think of a simple neutral zone D-D skate pattern. Most like to take the slanted route, one that involves backwards cross-overs to linear front stride. That pattern is reactive and always leaves you getting squeezed. Instead, let’s dictate and swap in forward cross-overs instead of linear front stride. Now we are attacking, getting to the dot lines or the middle of the ice to produce options of play. Go edge to edge and watch your game start to mimic likely the best pure D talent in the league, nifty number 8.
4. Backwards Cross-Overs to Backwards Linear to Backwards Cross-Over Open Hip Pivot:
Hey D, this one’s a staple for you. Let’s go with Petro. How to control a sweeping McDavid or MacKinnon? This guy could be the best rush defender out there. You have to be able to crossover over backwards quick in a tight radius. Get that plane in the air! Maintain, add or match speed with your backwards linear toe pushes, maintain body position, then when they think they've got you beat…bang! You throw in a quick backwards cross-over to open hip pivot, get physical and go with a backhand stick on puck. Textbook, right? You bet ya! Get the pattern and timing down and rush defending prowess becomes your specialty, just like big, mobile number 27, Alex Pietrangelo, captain of the St. Louis Blues.
It's all about patterns. Go take a look and study anything in life. You’re going to notice one common thing, you guessed it, patterns. It’s no different in sport and for our purposes, your movement and skill on the ice. Work on these patterns, add layers of complexity such as timing, rep it, have fun with it, and master it. Maybe just maybe, one day, you’ll get good enough to control your patterns and those of others. Like Davo, Mack, Drew and Petro, that’s when the game becomes really FUN!