Puck Pressure and how to deal with it.
Wow, last night’s game’s where awesome! Dallas is going to be a tough out in this year’s playoffs. My good friend Monty has his boys going in the Lonestar state, ousting a good Nashville team that had it’s hopes coming out of the West. This isn’t just any team either. Back to back Central champs, a President’s trophy last year and Stanley Cup finalist the year before. They’ve been in some big games, know the level of intensity needed to win at this time of year. We skate with many of the Preds players and hate to see them out early, but Dallas was just better, they wanted it more and you could see it.
The key? For me it was all about Dallas’ North-South game that resulted in a barrage of puck pressure that Nashville’s D just couldn’t handle. I mean, when’s the last time you’ve seen guys like Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and PK Subban turn pucks over consistently? Ok. Ok. Maybe with PK. But even physically dominated, man, Nashville’s D just couldn’t take the heat. Why?
Pressure. And lots of it. I couldn’t help but notice Dallas’ forecheck, their big boys set the standard, guys like Benn, Seguin, Rad and Hintz we’re noticeable at pressuring the puck. Faksa likes to go, as does Comeau, Dowling and Pitlick, they are on the hunt guys. When we talk about skill development at Perfect Skating, we talk about a paradigm shift in the overall way we train players. It first started with our philosophy of Movement. Skill. Map. Transfer. Our company’s leadership is focused on human optimization of hockey athletes. In order to transfer that optimization to games we need to look a new shift in skill development preparation. We can’t just let that out of the bag quite yet, but it’s in our testing phase and it’s spiked our current development model by over 50%. Man, that’s ROI. It feels great to be part of such a progressive conservative organization.
So, if puck pressure is so important, how do you achieve it? And more importantly can you prepare against it? I think the first one at a fundamental level is your player’s ability to skate. Yes, skating again. And it’s not going to change. The game has moved to an ultimate speed game where now guys like Jason Spezza and Milan Lucic can hardly play in today’s NHL. The key to establishing puck pressure a layer down from the fundamental is a player’s ability to have a checking mindset. That means thinking without the puck. Think about it. What do you see in rinks all over the hundreds of cities and towns across North America when it comes to skill development? Mindless skill through apparatus. It’s crazy, we are teaching our kids to be robots. While our ancestors learned the game instinctually through experiential development on the frozen ponds, our generation thinks we are better by pre-programming our youth into a robotic state of non-consciousness? Make any sense to you? Certainly not to me. This is why our programming at PS doesn’t involve apparatus. We use real world examples of situations to isolate areas of performance increase. Our coach is the apparatus. It moves, it dictates, it reacts. That’s how you can affect pre-prep for pressure. That’s how you learn to deal with it. The other key aspect layering in skating development is let’s call it checking skating. In a checking mindset, the athlete is continuously processing angles, speed, and radius of ice needed to be an effective checker. These are all thought processes without the puck. And it’s without the puck that this generation of hockey athlete lacks the most. I recently watched the Antoine Griezmann documentary on Netflix, it’s a great story, I highly recommend it. It’s a great story of hope, perseverance but for athletic performance it’s crucial. Here is a player that the French evaluated only physically. They looked at his size, his speed, his endurance and his technical ball skills. The problem? He wasn’t extremely gifted in those areas and French club after French club released him to an almost quitting point. But all good things come to pass if we continuously believe in them. So, along came the Spaniards who evaluated players completely differently. Their number 1 criteria was a player’s ability to process the play. They evaluated a player’s mind. Everything else, they could physically develop. The rest is history. Antoine Greizmann capped off 2018 winning the World Cup as the star player of the French side and is considered one of the top 5 players in the world. Just awesome.
So, want to pressure the puck like a champ? Work on your skating. But work on it in a deliberate setting where your thinking to be like a great checker. Work on various patterns in various situations that allow you to process radius, angles and speeds so that you can be an effective puck pressure player. The layer to deal with it? You’ve got to train real world competency so that your brain can map the situational pressure. Working in a development program that understands only fundamental skill is only going to get you fundamentally adept. That’s step 1 over a myriad of development protocols needed to be humanly optimized hockey player. A humanly optimized hockey player… I like the sound of that. Now, GO FIND it, FOR YOU!