By: Robbie Schremp
Hockey is a game of simple math. The best players in the game are the ones that can solve these equations quickly…and can also do them while using their skill at a high pace.
The biggest way that players use simple math is in counting the amount of defenders/teammates in certain areas of the ice. By doing this, the players are able to do a quick “risk assessment” and conjure up the best play available to them at a certain point within a sequence. In taking quick glances around, they recognize where they are on the ice…where their teammates and defenders are…and where the open space is to make a play. Here are a few examples:
1 white jersey (you) vs. 3 dark jerseys all around you in the corner…let’s rim release behind the net to our defenseman.
3 white jerseys (your team) vs. 2 dark defenders on a rush…time to use your peripherals to see if player #4 will be open on the second wave…or if defender #3 will be fast on the backcheck.
1 white jersey (you) vs. 2 dark defenders on a rush and you see a 3rd tracker in your peripherals hounding you from behind…chip around the D and go try and get it.
When the best players in the league get the puck, they are immediately counting off numbers from both sides. Then they’re recognizing spaces of the ice and where those players are and using problem solving strategies like we used to do in elementary school math.
Another way that hockey players use math to make plays is in recognizing angles. Most people talk about angles defensively, but the best players know how to use angles to their advantage offensively as well. They can take angles to support the puck or to make passes off the wall. But the true geniuses of the game can recognize angles through analyzing time and space. Here is a perfect example:
Watch here as Eichel does both counting…and recognizing angles. He gets the puck through the neutral zone and then recognizes he has a 1v2…
Or does he?
By recognizing that with his speed he can make this play into a 1v1 by going to the outside, it completely negates the far defender because he has no angle to help his partner. Eichel recognizes the numbers and angle he has in his favor along with his skill set…takes the path to the outside…and absolutely snipes.
Problem solving at its best.
The next time you watch a game, take a look at some of the best players and notice how they are constantly observing their surroundings. What they are doing is surveying the numbers in their view and going through different problem solving strategies to try and make the right play for the situation. The best can do this in an instant…and it’s a lot of fun to see!