Small Area Movement, why is it so important?
Today’s new NHL is all about speed and puck possession. The interesting thing about puck possession is that loose puck recoveries (LPR’s) remain the number one way for a team to gain control of the puck. It is no secret among NHL circles that LPR’s drive possession, create more scoring chances and ultimately help teams win games. In the analytics community the common number is 60%. Meaning that around 60% of individual player even strength possessions begin off an LPR. That’s a huge number that could create tremendous opportunities for your young player. But how can we train to create more LPR’s? The answer is Small Area Movement (SAM).
It’s so interesting to study the top player’s in the league with the most LPR recoveries. How do they do it? What makes them so effective? A big key is anticipation. Interesting that a player like James Van Riemsdyk could make this list while not a particularly great mover. But JVR more than makes up for his lack of quickness with his anticipation, reach, body positioning and stick skill, which allows him to be a highly effective LPR er.
It’s also interesting that the list is dominated by some of the most dynamic skater’s in the game, think of movers like Max Pacioretty, Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin who are always prominent in the search of LPR’s. These guys get to pucks but is it all about their speed and movement pattern coordination? Well Yes and No. It’s no coincidence the list is dominated by great skaters which suggests that elite movers who can coordinate specific movement patterns at the right time dominate LPR’s. The other interesting component of this list is that it includes mostly top 6 Fwd’s and top 3 D. Why? Smarts. Every NHL player is an unbelievably gifted athlete but not all doctors are created equal. There are good ones and there are the very best. For the NHL or young hockey player a difference lies in anticipation or IQ, which allows them to get to areas of the ice quicker than that of their opponent. Lastly, JVR’s qualities come into play, the myriad of using one’s body and stick skills to simply recover more loose pucks at higher rate.
When we first set out to create a program that could specifically help LPR’s we studied the thousands of LPR’s created in NHL game play over the course of the season. We noticed that the specific movements called upon we’re in ranges of 10 foot radius that often resulted from an explosive burst, often under pressure or battle and often involved a decelerative/accelerative component within a change of direction, and that’s just the movement part! As we began to perfect the patterns, we started to teach scenarios to create anticipatory awareness in each athlete finalized by the pressure, battle, body and stick skills commonly called upon to drive possession. Then we added specific patterns, scenarios and skills applicable to position, further entrenching our ability to create in game transfer. Really cool stuff and the fun part is it’s working and we are seeing tremendous growth in LPR recoveries of the NHL and youth athletes we train.
As you are contemplating options for your athlete’s training consider a program that target’s LPR’s, I mean, it makes sense doesn’t it? If your athlete is going to touch the puck 6 out of 10 times in a game off an LPR, training those movement patterns, anticipatory awareness and body and stick skills are going to help him be more involved in game play, touch the puck more, be more creative, build more confidence and ultimately have more FUN!