The highlight reel is full of forwards dangling past a defender and burying a puck behind the goalie. However, stickhandling skills are useful at all ends of the ice, both for forwards, defensive players, and even goalies!
Read on to learn more about what developing stickhandling skills can do for your game.
Cycling Down Low
When forwards get possession of the puck after forechecking, they’re usually behind the opposing team’s goal line. Unlike high-flying chances off the rush that produce scoring chances through passing and skating, a “cycle” develops where two or three players rotate deep in the zone until they can find an open player in the slot or on the blue line.
Keeping the puck on your stick involves gaining body position on your opponent and stickhandling skills. Managing the puck behind the net might not look as flashy as those hot dangles in the slot, but they’re fundamental skills players need in tight games. Use modern training equipment from providers like HockeyShot Canada to get off-ice practice tools that feel just like stickhandling on real ice.
When a player can manage the puck responsibly between the two blue lines, they’re considered safe and reliable. Stable players get ice time late in one-goal games because they’re less prone to giveaways.
Scoring on an unbelievable end-to-end rush is great, but those aren’t usually the skills you need to win tight-checking playoff games. Work on your ability to evade opposing sticks with off-ice training aids that will develop soft hands.
Stickhandling 200 feet away from your goalie is all fun and games, but the pressure’s on when you’re hemmed in your zone! The last place you want to turn over the puck is near your goalie, where it can lead to a quality scoring chance.
Buy time for your teammates to move to an open position and pass them the puck, or skate out of harm’s way without coughing it up and losing possession. Whereas stickhandling behind your opponent’s net involves dodging defensive sticks, this time, you need to steer clear of opposing forwards hungry for a scoring chance.
Goalies Handle Pucks Too
Years ago, the NHL had to change its rules because Martin Brodeur was so adept at firing pucks dumped into the corner to his teammates before the forecheckers arrived. If a goalie can manage the puck well, opposing players need to change their dump-in tactics or abandon the dump-and-chase altogether.
Entering the zone with the puck on your stick is harder to do than retrieving it from the corner, but a goalie who can stickhandle pushes teams towards this less preferred option. On the flip side, it can lead directly to prime scoring chances when a goalie bobbles the puck after an errant stickhandle.
Work on your stickhandling when you’re on the ice and when you’re off it with modern training equipment so that you can handle the puck responsibly everywhere. Stickhandling is a lot more than a toe curl past a defensive player. It’s a fundamental skill required in every zone.