Hockey is one of the most popular sports around the world. Many consider it to be a combination of hockey and soccer, so it comes as no surprise that the latest stats reveal there were over 100 million registered players globally as of 2014.
One of the most interesting stats to monitor is the save percentage. This stat measures the percentage of shots a goalie stops, and is usually presented along with the shots-on-goal score. Using this data, you can gain a good understanding of how effective a team’s netminder was in that game.
Why is save percentage important in hockey? Well, simply put, shot quantity and quality are important, as is the ability to stop those shots. The more you can do to increase your save percentage, the better, as it means you are helping your team more often. Here’s how you can improve your score:
Attend Full Strength Drills
No question about it, full-strength practices are the best way to improve your game. There’s no substitute for playing an entire team game, as this will increase the chance of you making the correct read on a puck or shot, and give you the opportunity to work on your reflexes. Regular attendance at these drills also leads to better overall team cohesion and communication, as you are forced to work as a group and pay attention to detail, rather than focusing solely on yourself.
Most clubs will have full-strength sessions after practices on non-game days as well, so be sure to attend those as well.
Play Drying Drills
Another great way to improve your save percentage is by doing some dry-walling. This entails stopping shots that are high and far from your goalies, as the puck will likely bounce out of the netminder’s reach. This is why it is important to practice this technique, as you can become more confident in your ability to stop these high shots. There’s also something intriguing about seeing those puck drops. It’s like a magician holding your breath while he performs his magic, only to have you gasp in surprise as the puck magically goes in the netminder’s glove.
Reduce Your Rebounding Time
In case you’re wondering, a rebound is when the puck comes off the skate of a player who has just missed a shot and settles back on the ice. When a team is defending, it is of vital importance to limit the amount of time the puck spends in the air. This is why it is a good idea to practice some wrist shots and slap shots, as this will reduce the amount of time the puck spends in the air, allowing you to freeze the goalie and put the puck in the back of the net.
Use A Stopwatch
One of the greatest things about hockey is that, unlike other team sports, it is possible to track the stats of individual players while keeping track of the game state. This is possible because goals are not scored in isolation, but are part of a sequence that often includes several attempts by various players. This is why you can track the saves made by each goalie, rather than just looking at the final score, as there will often be several saves made in the waning stages of the game. In this regard, the use of a stopwatch is invaluable. This device will allow you to keep track of the exact amount of time a particular player spends on the ice, including time spent in the neutral zone. This may be an important stat to track if you have a young athlete on your hands, as it will allow you to gauge their progress throughout a game. Using a stopwatch also makes it easier to plan individual drills or sessions, as you can simply set the timer for how long you want them to spend on the ice. This makes it easy to integrate this training into your existing routine, as many sports fans know that planning and sticking to a routine can increase the likelihood of reaching one’s full potential.
Focus On The Mental Element
Like with any skilled sport, the mental aspect of hockey is just as important, if not more important, than the physical. Just like with any sport, having a clear head while on the ice is of paramount importance, as this will improve your decision-making, and give you the confidence to make the correct play, regardless of the score. In this sense, it is important to develop the mentality of a professional, even when playing at home in front of friends and family. This will increase your self-confidence and make you feel more comfortable in your own skin, leading to greater responsibility and, ultimately, success.
Of course, the physical aspect of hockey is also important. After all, you aren’t a professional athlete just because you play hockey, you have to be able to contribute on the field of play as well. So, it’s a bit of a balancing act, and something that takes time to develop.
Even experienced goalies can improve their save percentage by using these tips, and coaches and sports psychologists can help individual goalies and teams improve their game. Just don’t be afraid to try new things, as this is how you improve your game, and one of the best things about hockey is its openness to new ideas and techniques.