Even the best shooter in the world can’t score from their zone but passing is a skill used all over the ice. As coaches are fond of saying, the puck moves faster by passing than skating. Any Leaf fan who watches elite passers like Mitch Marner knows that.
Forwards, defencemen and even goalies need to be able to move the puck effectively. There are several types of passes and mastering each one makes you a better player.
Players can move the puck in creative ways that are hard to read by using the boards to carom the puck. Sometimes, if an opposing player is in the way, passing the puck off the board so a teammate can retrieve it on the other side is the most effective way of keeping puck possession or getting out of the zone safely.
Offensive players sometimes bank the puck off the back of the net evasively when pursued by a forechecker, then spin and move suddenly in the opposite direction.
When a defensive player places their stick flush to the ice to block a pass, send a “saucer” pass that floats up and above the obstruction before landing smoothly on the other side. It can be hard to practice saucer passes without the right gear.
Leading companies like HockeyShot Canada make gear designed specifically to help players work on their sauce at home. The miniature nets are perfect passing targets, and you can get an optional “sauce tutor,” which blocks the top part of the net. That way, pucks that wouldn’t land crisply on a teammate’s stick won’t get into the net.
The sauce kits also come with a shooting pad, so it feels like you’re passing on the ice at home, even if you set the nets on the grass.
The Drop Pass
Sometimes, you need to move the puck backwards to move forwards as a team. The drop pass can be very effective, but it’s also risky if your teammate doesn’t see it coming and is unprepared.
However, several NHL teams have used the drop pass to confuse the defence during zone entries on the power play. A forward will skate towards centre or the offensive blue line, only to drop the puck to an open teammate with space to skate.
It may seem counterintuitive to move the puck backwards rather than forwards, but the trailer has the advantage of surprise and often has a choice of open teammates they can pass to up ahead. The tricky part of the drop pass isn’t the pass itself but feigning your intentions to catch your opponents by surprise.
Perhaps even more importantly, it’s crucial to be in sync with teammates before doing a drop pass, or you’ll catch them by surprise and cause a turnover.
Teams thrive when they become more than the sum of their parts and passing makes that happen. It’s harder to stop five players who seamlessly move the puck than five speedy skaters, so work on these passing skills and others at the rink and at home to become the perfect team player.
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