I had my second assist of the season in yesterday's game against the Delaware Phoenix, but despite having three or four breakaways, I didn't score. (I have NO GOALS this season—a frustration I've been meaning to write about, but haven't gotten around to.) Nielle happened to mention to me after the game what I'd already figured out for myself on that last breakaway: I'm getting too close, waiting too long before I take a shot.
I think the reason is twofold: (1) I've been working on not panic-shooting from the top of the faceoff circle for years (probably unwarrantedly at this point), and (2) I've gotten faster. This means that by the time I decide I'm close enough to shoot, I've tripped over the goalie. (This is precisely what happened on my last breakaway; I decided too late to cut in and try for a backhander.)
Nielle's suggestion was that if I'm coming down the left side, don't bother to try to cut in for a backhander—just shoot from the goalie's blocker side, which is usually weaker. (She actually suggested that I fake a shot first, then shoot, but I think that's probably a recipe for whiffing in my case.) My idea of how to solve the problem was to practice with a cone in the net—or rather, at the top of the crease, where the goalie is likely to be. (Am I alone in practicing most of my shots when the net is empty? I'm assuming not, because goalies are often hard to come by, and when they're around, they want a real warmup, not some goofball sending weak wristers their way.)
I started out writing this before practice, but now that it's after practice, I can tell you what I actually did: Upon entering the ice, I got out two cones and set one near the top of the left faceoff circle, and the other at the top of the crease. (The first cone was designed to remind me to cut a bit to the inside rather than staying out along the boards.) I then practiced skating in and shooting both forehand and backhand. The very first time I executed an amazing top-shelf backhander; the rest of the time I split among lifting it ever-so-slightly into the net, missing the net entirely, and hitting the cone. However, I ALSO got the chance to practice on a real live goalie (namely, Nielle), as several of the drills involved taking the puck in and shooting. I worked on shooting from farther back, with more success than I'd anticipated. Occasionally my shots were weak or wide, but I also had some interesting scores from shots that had never been in my reperatoire before. (My favorite was a backhander that flew through the five hole; on that one, I just let fly when I was the right distance from the crease rather than waiting until I'd cut across to the far post, and I happened to be right in front when that moment arrived.)
NOW, if I can just remember to shoot from farther back in Saturday's game, stay more mobile when crashing the net (I'm usually in too close in this case, too), and visualize myself skating on an Olympic-sized rink (because I seem to be much more aggressive when I feel like I have more room to maneuver), maybe I'll finally have a point in the G column.
I've totally been neglecting this blog lately, I know. I have game summaries to write, videos to post, observations to make about which of my skills have improved, which have a long way to go, and which ones only show up in practices, not in games. And yet, I am completely blogstipated.
I thought when my blogging mojo returned on avocado8, it'd return here too, but that has not been the case. I think it's partly that I have an audience now, and I'm all too aware of it. The pressure to write something that others will not only appreciate but agree with (as to facts; it seems my game recall isn't always up to snuff) is sometimes—ok, nearly always—suffocating. I also feel like if I go back to writing about my PERSONAL hockey experiences (and this is somewhat related to the previous point about game recall), I'll end up disappointing my readers. And yet, that's how this blog started, and from whence springs the most enjoyment. I want to write about hockey the way I experience it, whether it's entirely factually accurate or not. It's about perception: perception of progress, of setbacks, of accomplishments, of annoyances.
Does this mean I should stop writing game summaries? That I should turn the focus back solely on ME, ME, ME? (I'm not sure that's even possible anymore, since my hockey experiences are all in a team environment now.) Should I try to turn this into a shared blog, where other beginners are invited to write about their hockey experiences as well? (This might take the pressure off of all of us to maintain our hockey blogs, actually.)
I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. All I know is that this blog needs a new mission statement and a new design. I think the former should come before the latter, but maybe in tackling the latter, I might decide on the former. If you'd be interested in contributing to a group blog about beginner hockey experiences, let me know in the comments or via e-mail (lori at avocado8 dot com). I might end up just discontinuing regular posting (already the default mode, it seems) and cleaning up the design to make the archives more readable.