Shot blocking (Part 1)
There is no doubt that a well executed shot block made at a pivotal point in any game can swing momentum and serve as the impetus that leads your team to victory.
This week’s column is Part I and it will introduce both shot blocking techniques and fundamentals that should provide a solid framework for introducing, teaching and practicing this critical, fundamental defensive skill. Next week we will end our tutorial on shot blocking by dissecting specific shot blocking “musts” regarding “situations” such as odd-man rushes and shots from the point.
There are three accepted body alignments when shot blocking. They are:
1. A standing or upright stance.
2. Stacking your legs while diving or sliding.
3. On one or both knees.
The alignment selected is predicated upon where the shooter is positioned and the type of shot about to be taken. In other words, your approach to a shot being taken from the point will differ from one that you would employ if the shooter is flying down the sideboards.
• The most general rule-of-thumb is this: You must strive to get as close to the shooter as possible WITHOUT taking yourself out of position or out of the play. Why? Just like a goaltender, the closer the shot blocker the more he/she will cut down on the shooter’s available angles. Also, the puck, again similar to a netminder, is far less likely to sneak past you and end-up in a more proficient and productive area for the offense.
• When shot blocking, always try and keep the front of your legs pointed towards the puck, while stacking your legs and tucking your arms.
• The positioning of your shins is a very important aspect of the shot blocking equation. That is where you WANT the puck to hit in the vast majority of cases.
• You must be cognizant of the need to control/collect rebounds/caroms resulting from your block.
• You must move towards the shooter in as controlled a state as possible, with the primary focus being on correct timing. In other words, arriving at the most optimum time frame to stop the biscuit. Remember, a major misjudgment takes you out of the play and hands the opposition far more time and space to attack.
• Still another core component/consideration to Grade A shot blocking involves the notion of “recovery time.” Your ability to regain total body control and rejoin the play efficiently and quickly as possible is paramount.
• The ultimate goal, of course, is to block the shot in a manner that will push/deflect the puck away from your net. Or better yet, out of the zone altogether.
Next Week: Dissecting/assessing the particular shots you’ll face and offering specific counter measures leading to successful blocks.
Paul T. Lubanski is a lead instructor for USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program in Michigan. He is also the State of Michigan Coach-in-Chief for USA InLine Hockey. He is available for private individual or group coaching and/or player performance enhancement sessions as well as for motivational speaking presentations through his affiliation with the Farmington Hills (MI) Association.