The Boy’s and the Devil’s teams have both, of late, had problems putting the biscuit in the basket, bulging the twine, solving the keeper — that is to say, scoring goals. Both have had a string of low scoring games. In the case of the boys this has translated into three regular season ties in a row before their most recent 4-1 loss. In the last of the three aforementioned ties, the boys had the other team to thank for the tying goal on an egregious defensive error. We’ll take a tie however we can get it, but having the other team score goals on themselves is generally not a prescribed stragegy for success.
The girls, on the other hand, opened their season with a 1-0 win followed by a 1-1 tie. Women’s hockey is generally low scoring. However, one goal a game is not going to win many for you.
It’s not that either team doesn’t know how to score or that there is a lack of effort. Rather, there seems to be a generally lack of ability to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Shots are misfired or heaved squarely at the goalie. I joked with one of the Devil’s teammates recently that the crest on the goaltender’s sweater is not a bulls-eye she should be aiming for. To borrow a phrase from baseball “Shoot it where they ain’t.” That is, of course, easier said than done in the heat of battle. Tougher to do when you know you need a goal and you clutch your stick a little tighter trying to force something to happen. To their credit, both teams have run up against very good goaltending where sure goals were kept out my an outstretched pad, the butt end of a goal stick or the flash of a leather glove.
The Boy, himself, is experiencing a multi-game drought. He has had several very good chances to score in each of the last few games. He has never been a prolific scorer; he tends to be more of a grinder and playmaker. Yet some of the scoring opportunities he has missed lately have been a little confounding. Pucks have jumped over or seemingly through his stick. He simply hasn’t been able to finish. A couple of times I haven’t been able to figure out how the puck did not end up in the net.
Hockey, and I suppose sports in general, can be funny in terms of the ebbs and flows that can occur within and across games. Momentum is a often used word for good reason. It has been said that scoring is contagious and I’m sure when either of these breaks through there will be a flood of converted chances. It would seem not scoring is contagious as well. In practice, the coaches diligently work on plays and strategies designed to prompt these breakthroughs. The boys have practiced offensive zone break out drills and powerplay situations, while the girls have focused on creating scoring chances and going hard to the net. Coaches hope the drills taught and lessons learned translate from practice to game. It’s no doubt heartening to see when this is in fact the case. A practiced tactic that makes its way into game-play proves the players were listening and learning. That’s really the most you can ask of players. Presumably with listening, learning and practice come execution; which will ultimately lead to the desired result; in the cases of these two teams…more goals.
The Devil’s coach has rightly surmised that part of their dilemma is a lack of power. He has suggested working on shooting at home into a net, against a wall, a garage door, etc. I’ve nailed two pucks together in an effort to strengthen the Devil’s shot. She has admittedly been negligent with the extra work, but has school basketball, homework and general kid stuff competing for her attention. When we were kids (here comes my father’s voice again) we’d be out on the driveway or in the backyard practicing for what seemed like hours. But, in my case at least, there was far less to be distracted by.
Of course, as I recently watched the local NHL hockey team struggle through eight consecutive periods of scoreless hockey, I was quickly reminded that all teams, at all levels, are susceptible to lulls in execution.
So with no lack of effort or chances, perhaps the key is to simply continue to do the good things, limit the bad and wait for the flood gates to open. The hockey gods will smile upon you soon enough. If that doesn’t work, it’s back to the drawing board. We, perched in the stands, will do our best to will a few in.