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Among them are Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. The former has regained his scoring instincts, as evidenced by his many goals since mid-February, while the latter has already set a new individual high for his number of goals scored.
But what makes their shooting so dangerous?
We sat down with Tim Turk, NHL skill development coach and elite shooting expert, to unpack the fearsome shots of the two young Canadiens players.
However, before we dive into that analysis, let’s start by defining what constitutes a good shot in the NHL.
According to Turk, several elements come into play. One of them is the position of the body, that is, where the hips are in relation to the shoulders. An elite NHL scorer looks like his chest is going to explode when he shoots. He can thus generate incredible power when he shoots the puck at lightning speed.
The speed at which his hands move a short distance and the position of the puck are also part of the lot.
“No matter how they get the puck, it’s automatically in a good position, which allows them to handle it more easily,” Turk said. Guys take up less space to shoot, are more deceptive, and can explode in certain areas. This is what characterizes their success. »
It is also necessary to anticipate potential obstacles, such as defenders trying to close certain shooting lanes.
“You have to read the whole game and react according to what [le défenseur], Caufield pointed out. Defenders constantly cause openings based on how they move their stick. »
According to Turk, the stride formation, which means a left-handed shooter moves their left leg back and vice versa, has been responsible for more than 70% of perfect goals in the League since 2003.
Now that we’ve established the characteristics of a good shooter, let’s take a look at some of Caufield and Suzuki’s goals.
March 5, 2022, MTL@EDM: Caufield opens the scoring
Video: MTL@EDM: Caufield draws hard
“To me, shooting is elite level,” Turk said. There is a pause in the stride formation. His leg kicks back, then he shoots inside to dodge the defender’s stick. It’s an incredible preparation from Caufield. »
Caufield quickly adapts to the changing position of the defender’s stick to find free space in a crowded area.
But he still has to generate incredible strength, combined with a sneaky draw, enough to give the goalkeeper nightmares for months.
“It’s a great example of shooting from the hip, almost like a cowboy pulling his gun out of its sheath. It’s so fast, it’s unbelievable, says Turk. Look at his elbow. A lot of players bring it inside. Him, he brings it right next to his hip. That side move is really good. It’s like a catapult, but with an angle. »
Besides generating a lot of strength, Caufield also removes an important cue, when he keeps his arms tight against him. This is because goalies tend to spot the distance between the forearm and the biceps. This tight arm formation therefore allows Caufield to shoot towards the net without the goalkeeper being warned.
In addition to drawing slyly and adapting to the situation, the icing on the cake is the frequency with which he changes his angle of attack. There are only slight changes in angle to his stick, but it’s enough to completely change the trajectory of the puck anticipated by the goaltender.
“When you get the puck back, you don’t even have to worry about shooting hard,” Caufield said. It’s so hard for goalkeepers to follow that kind of shot.
In closing, great precision is required, a natural skill that can certainly be improved with hours and hours of practice.
December 4, 2021, MTL@NSH: Suzuki ties the game 1-1
Video: MTL@NSH: Suzuki scores an equalizer with a good shot in AN
The first thing Suzuki does is send a clear message to his teammates that he’s in a perfect line of fire.
“You can see that when he retraces his steps and comes back to his position, he has nothing on his mind but to shoot, and he makes it clear that he is the best passing option. , observed Turk. If you count the time the puck spends on its stick blade, until it finds the back of the net depending on where the pass is coming from, that’s a sniping shot. And, again, we see the formation in stride.
“At this level, in this situation, if you can put the puck there, you are an elite level shooter. The keeper didn’t stand a chance. »
But it’s not just a perfect shot.
Most shots are saved or blocked, resulting in rebound opportunities. The key is to anticipate extended play beyond the initial shot.
“Even if he doesn’t score, he’s going to create a rebound or another high-level scoring opportunity,” Turk said. He aims directly at the target. It’s perfect. Suzuki is such a smart player, you see that on every game.”
Suzuki uses his vision and intelligence to not only anticipate the game and adapt to the coverage of opposing defenders, but also to be in a perfect position to capitalize on any opportunity that may arise.
There are certain characteristics that the next generation of NHL snipers tend to share: talent, anticipation, good hip and shoulder positioning, a penchant for camouflage in their puck draw, a attention to detail and, above all, a relentless thirst for improvement.
That’s a lot of information to process, which emphasizes the player’s ability to analyze it while ensuring that their natural talent is at the heart of their decisions.
Luckily for Canadiens fans, when it comes to putting all the pieces of the sniper puzzle together, they have two great examples at their disposal for the next few years.