Do you even need a good slap shot?
How many times do you think a forward takes a slap-shot in a game? I think back to my playing days, and I’d say I probably only took one a game to dump the puck in – maybe one or two more if I was out on the penalty kill.
So you can understand how it makes me a little crazy as a skills coach when forwards ask to work on the boomers? It’s not a complete waste of time, but they’d be much better served working on something else.
Specifically, all players, defensemen included, need to work on getting their shots off FASTER.
Over 75 percent of the goals scored in girls hockey are scored from the hashmarks down. That means three-quarters of the goals come from shots taken from the slot or rebounds.
Think about what’s happening in front of the net in those scenarios.
If you happen to get an uncontested breakaway and there’s no one there to obstruct or deny your shot on net (other than the goalie of course), then you may have the luxury of TIME and SPACE and could decide to shoot a slap shot, wrist shot, snap shot or backhand.
But how often does that happen? You rarely get that kind of time and space, and even if you do, you’re more than likely to shoot a snap shot or backhand on that breakaway because you can get them off more quickly and be a bit more deceptive leading up to the shot.
Typically, when you’re in the slot taking a shot or trying to fight for a rebound, there are lots of bodies around and not much time or space. The defenders are simply trying to deny shots on net by either lifting your stick, getting in your shooting lane or a mixture of both.
They aren’t going to give you the time or space to take your big wind up and wait for the perfect shot. That’s why the snap shot and backhand are so lethal from in tight because if you do them well, you can get them off almost instantaneously. They require very little back swing and very little change in body position to release.
And when you get really good, you’ll even learn how to position your body in what little space you might have down by the net to ensure that you get your shot off even more quickly. Once you learn how to position your feet, hips, and hands properly relative to the direction the puck is coming from and your target, you’ll become a threat to score every time you touch the puck in the slot.
Now, this skill of quick release shooting isn’t just for forwards. The ability to get a quick, hard and accurate snap shot off from the point is an underrated skill in the Women’s game.
I get it. The boomer looks impressive, is typically much harder and can strike fear in your opponents.
But it takes more time to release and has this annoying tendency to hit shin pads or the glass instead of the net.
This happens with the snap shot from the point as well, but you don’t need as much of a windup as the slap shot and when you get good at it, you won’t even have to look down at the puck before putting the snap shot on net, which means you can spend more time looking at the target and avoiding any obstacles in your path.
It takes great technique and strength to get a hard, fast and accurate snap shot in from the point, but it is something that coaches and scouts love because they are shots that generate second opportunities for your forwards in the slot, who are ready to use their snap shot or backhand to put the puck in the back of the net.
So don’t wait for the perfect shot, don’t worry about getting the boomer off, and focus on getting pucks on net quickly and driving the net hard for rebounds.
Your coaches will thank you for it - and the goalies won’t like it at all.
We’ll continue on in future columns breaking down the Top 7 Game Skills – we’ve still got to cover heads-up handling, talking, deception, attacking 1-on-1's and defending 1-on-1's.
Until next time, work hard and dream BIG.
Your friend and coach,
PS - I’ve created a follow-along video series to help you take your shooting and stick handling to the next level this off-season where I cover the snap shot, slap-shot, wrist-shot and backhand (as well as a bunch of stickhandling skills).
You can do all the skills and drills off the ice and make sure that your shot is a lot faster in the fall. Check it out at:
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is the founder and director of Total Female Hockey.