Let’s Play Hockey photo by Mike Thill
I know that it’s harder to give and receive a pass on your backhand than it is on your forehand. But it’s much easier to score goals on your off-side than it is on your proper side.
So here’s the trade-off: Practice giving and receiving passes on our backhands more often to fix this skill issue in favor of scoring more goals.
Following are three reasons why I like having players play their off-side. Note: While this applies more to wingers, there are also benefits to having your D play their off-side. I won’t go into them in detail in this article, but I plan to touch on it in a future article.
1. The “eyes of your stick” see more of the net
Let’s first explain what I mean by the eyes of your stick. When the shooter is releasing her shot, she must pretend that she is looking through the eyes of her stick instead of her own eyes. What looks open relative to the puck versus her line of sight is very different. Shooting through the eyes of the stick dramatically increases the chances that shots will go into the back of the net because that’s what the goalie is squaring up to and tracking.
When you play your off-side (a right-handed shot playing left wing), the blade of your stick is in the middle of the ice, which means the eyes of your stick have a lot more to look at than if you were on your proper wing. A righty playing the left can easily shoot it to the short side or the far side. While the far side won’t look open through the player’s actual eyes, there will be much more real estate to shoot at through her stick’s eyes.
2. When you cut east-west across the ice, it’s easier to protect the puck
The women’s game has become a lot more east-west than north-south over the last decade or so. As a specific example, you see a lot more players skating across the ice off the wall when on the attack instead of carrying the puck into the corner.
When you are playing your off-wing, the puck is protected more easily on your forehand as you cut east-west. Basically, it is easier to carry the puck on your forehand as you cut laterally across the ice than it is on your backhand. A righthanded right winger cutting off the right wall on entry will have to pull the puck to her backhand in order to protect the puck from the stick of the defender. A lefty on the right hand side will have the puck on her forehand as she cuts across, making it easier to protect the puck as well as easier to shoot or pass.
3. It’s easier to shoot high percentage shots
When you carry or pass the puck east-west in the offensive zone, the goalie has to constantly adjust to the puck’s movement. This prevents her from being able to set for your shot, which increases your chances of scoring. Shots where the goalie has less than 0.5 seconds to react go in exponentially more often than ones where she has more time. I call these high percentage shots “green shots.”
As I mentioned above, it’s easier to carry the puck laterally across the ice on your forehand than on your backhand. While you can do this from either side of the ice, the puck will be shielded by your body on your off-side only. The goalie will have to adjust her positioning as you carry it across which opens up holes and gives her less time to react to the release of your green shot.
It is also much easier to shoot a one-timer on your off-side. Being able to catch a pass on your proper side in stride and release a one-touch shot is a very tough skill. Not impossible, of course, but it’s much easier to do on your off-wing. When you execute this skill on your proper side, the timing is tough. You have to let the puck come across your body in order to shoot it effectively, and that timing is hard to read. When you shoot a one-timer on your off-wing, the puck isn’t coming across your body, which makes it easier to receive. It is still challenging to adjust the positioning of your upper body to generate a powerful quick release shot while still keeping your feet pointing at your target, but it is easier on your off-side.
So keep practicing your pass giving and receiving on your backhand because shooting from your off-side means more goal scoring.
Coach Kim McCullough is a leading expert in the development of female hockey players. She is the Director & Founder of Total Female Hockey and has coached at the Provincial and National team level. She is currently the Head Coach of the Toronto-Leaside Jr Wildcats in the Ontario Provincial Women’s Hockey League. To take your shooting and stick-handling to the next level this summer, click here.