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Two Drills that Helped the Penguins Win the Stanley Cup

By Ian Taylor, OMHA Executive Director, 10/20/17, 10:45AM EDT

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Video Coach | Presented by Hockey Intelligym

Welcome to OMHA Video Coach where we review a video clip from game action and then break down the sequence into frames identifying key skills, individual and team tactics, strategy and hockey IQ. Video is a great teaching tool that can be used by both players and coaches.


Take a look at these three separate videos from the Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. Interestingly, all three videos were taken during their 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs run. So, while the start of the season is a great time to introduce Small Area Games, it also shows that they are a great way to mix up your practice curriculum during a long season, players love to compete and as the Penguins show – they increase tempo, engagement and overall fun - something that every team, at every level can use and can benefit from.

Drill One: NEUTRAL ZONE KNOCKAWAY

This clip was taken from Penguins practice heading into game one of the Stanley Cup Finals.

  • All players start with a puck and must stay between the bluelines in the neutral zone
  • Players must keep possession and control of the puck while trying to knock-away the puck from other players.
  • Players who have their puck knocked away and over the bluelines and out of the neutral zone are ‘out’.
  • As players are eliminated, with 4-5 players remaining, reduce the ‘game area’ to the Centre faceoff circle. Last player with their puck wins.
  • Skills include puck control (dekes & fakes), puck protection, evasive skating, edge control, stick checks as well as reading pressure and space.
  • This can also be used as a great (and fun) warmup for players while goaltenders warm-up in one of the end zones.

Drill Two: Cross-Ice Game

In this clip, the Penguins are playing 3v3 - depending on the age and skill level of your players, this could be 4v4 or 2v2 with Support.

  • Cross-ice games provide a great opportunity to simulate game play by reducing space, forcing players to read and react and make quicker decisions.
  • Once again, lots of skills are in play - Skating kills – tight turns, use of edges, Offensive skills - puck control & puck protection skills, spacing and support, and; Defensive skills – angling, stick in passing lanes,  stick checks, body contact (& checking depending on the age & level), forechecking, - everything you will see in your next game!
  • Goaltenders will face more activity as well – monitoring play, more shots and scoring situations as well as opportunity to handle the puck.

Game Implementation

This play came from the Penguins first-round match up against Columbus. Notice how they are emulating play established and reinforced in practice, the Penguins play aggressively below the goaline initially in a 3v3 battle, then to 2v2 once in possession. At one point there are 8 of the 10 skaters below the hash marks.

Once again, the skills involved closely resemble the cross-ice game from practice including quick & close support, evasive skating, and puck protection. It also includes manipulating the feet of the defensemen, forcing switches of the defenders, Cycling the Puck and a situation we have visited with the Penguins previously in Video Coach, Hunting the Dot.

Introduce game-like competition to your upcoming practices – give your players the opportunity to use all the skills you are teaching them in a competitive situation. Players will love to compete and you as the coach will enjoy the transfer of those skills into your upcoming games.


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The Hockey IntelliGym is a breakthrough cognitive training technology that hones hockey sense and has been scientifically proven to improve player safety. IntelliGym has been used by thousands of players - from OHL teams, to USA Hockey, to last year's OMHA Minor Midget champions - to improve individual players' points total, heighten spatial awareness, and foster better anticipation of the play. Recent research from the University of Delaware suggests training with IntelliGym is a great way to reduce concussions and other on ice injuries. The software, which can be used on any computer, can be purchased here.

"What I'm noticing with IntelliGym is that it compliments my use of area games or situational pressure drills in practice. My players are recognizing and executing their options faster than they have in the past.  This improvement has translated to games. They are moving to open areas to support their teammate with the puck."


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Taylor is the Executive Director of the OMHA and former Director of Hockey Development. A proud hockey dad of two, Ian has over 25 years of instructional and coaching experience. 

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