No matter what level of hockey you play, whether it’s ice, inline, or roller, it pays to have a healthy repertoire of moves with which to beat the goalie on a quality scoring chance. Whether it’s a good head fake on a breakaway, a quick leg kick on a shootout attempt, or a snipe from in close, the best players know how to make the most of their scoring opportunities. The best players put the puck (or ball) in the net when they’re privileged with the chance to do so.
Getting to this point, though, takes a lot of watching, a lot of learning, and ultimately, a lot of practice. Apart from having some inane creativity, a goal scorer has to have the ability to learn from the past and improvise for the future. One move, which I’ll call “the ‘tweener” (for all intensive purposes), is, in my eyes, the quintessential example of the skill, creativity, and improvisation demanded of the best goal scorers in the world.
The ‘tweener, as you might have guessed, is nothing more than a shot that is taken from ‘between’ the shooter’s own legs. The skill required by this shooting tactic is probably most evident. While most high level players have the ability to pull it off, I’m sure you’d find that ability alone doesn’t result in mastery . . . even for the best of players in the world. Like anything, it takes practice. That said, with practice, it’s something that essentially any hockey player can learn and implement in a game. Should it be your go-to move on a breakaway? Probably not. But that’s conventional wisdom speaking. The ‘tweener is typically associated with showboating, so naturally, we avoid its precarious implications. If you score, it looks great. If you miss, however, it looks twice as bad as a miss by conventional scoring attempt.
It is this fear, however, that puts limitations on creativity. Over the past couple of seasons, in the NHL, we’ve seen several instances where a player has attempted to play or shoot the puck from between his own legs. If memory serves me correctly, the majority of these attempts have resulted in goals for, rather than against. From Daniel Sedin’s hat trick capping, through-the-legs goal against Calgary, to Pavel Datsyuk’s ‘tweener at full speed to create a rebound for a following Darren Helm, we’ve seen that the between-the-legs shot can be a game changer at the highest level of hockey. With this in mind, I think that it is beyond fair to consider it as not only a means of improvisation, but also as a legitimate strategy to get the puck past the goalie and into the back of the net.
The bottom line: don’t let the possibility of failure stop you from trying something. This sounds like a life lesson (and it is), but as you’ve seen, it has its implications in hockey, as well. So you might get a few chirps from the guys calling you a showboating bender. Live with it. The same kids will be the ones thinking ” . . . wow,” when you actually pull it off.
I leave you with a man whose name few knew; that is, until he dared to challenge convention, to get creative on the biggest stage in the world. On November 26, 2005, in the 15th round of a shootout against the Washington Capitals, the Rangers’ Marek Malik, a defenseman, had the game on his stick blade. The ‘circus shot’ that ensued would change the game of hockey forever. A true tribute to creativity and the ‘tweener. Enjoy.