Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goaldiggers Game - 2011-07-31

I took a nap after my afternoon skate, and woke up a couple of hours before puck drop to eat and get ready for the game. I went to verify what time the game started, and realized that I was looking at the end time. The game started in less than an hour. I quickly took the dog out, threw my stuff in my bag and got to the rink. The team was just taking the ice as I got there, and we were really short with me being the 7th guy there. I got ready, went to put on my helmet and... it wasn't there. As I was scurrying around, another player came, and I had to run to my car to get my wallet, and buy a new helmet.

My first shift was the start of the 2nd period, and we were down by 4. I knew the team would need a boost as they had to be exhausted, and already down by so many is tough. I set out to just disrupt chances on my first shift. I did fairly well too, directly to contributing to a scoring chance, and a goal. I felt like we were able to start a comeback with two fresh players.

Then I started to slow down. I just didn't have the energy to go full out against their two top players that were obviously ringers. I knew if I did go full out, they'd just go around me without problems, and I'd be extremely tired later in the game.

Other than that, There honestly wasn't a lot worth mentioning.

This was a good experiment for me though. I've often considered doing morning stick and puck sessions on game days when I'm not working. I know if I were to do those, I'd skate hard and work up a good sweat. This was a perfect example of a morning skate, then game. I think that I felt warmed up, but without a full bench, I didn't have the rest I needed while playing.

The being unprepared for games is becoming a problem though. I need to be more focused and prepared for games. No more showing up to games so that I don't get the full warm up experience. I need a few minutes before taking the ice to mentally prepare.

Goalie Training - 2011-07-31

A goalie friend of mine needed a couple of shooters for his training session he had planned. I've always been curious what his training session was like, so I accepted his invitation. While I didn't work very hard (the focus being on him), I did pick up a lot from the coach, and had a lot of good practice with my turns, and shots. I'm glad it was a light skate for me as I had a big game that night.

It was interesting to see how the training went. It was neat to see him improve dramatically over the 30 minutes that I worked with him. I would skate down, take a shot, and we'd stop for a minute while the coach told him what he did well, or didn't do so well.

My backhand is weak. any time I went to it, it was just a pathetic attempt at a shot. I used to work on it by playing with a left handed stick, but lately I haven't worked on it at all. I would miss shots, whiff, and it made me feel bad as they don't help the goalie practice.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is a good game?

I wish I could have half of the golf skill that my father has. I can remember him hitting golf balls in the yard every day for practice. He'd go play 45 holes on a Saturday, come home, and hit more golf balls. As I played with him, I learned a lot about personal performance in sports. He could go out, shoot par, but still lose money because of the games he plays with his buddies. He can go out and shoot poorly (yeah, high 70's is a poor round for him...) and win money. Sometimes he gets lucky bounces on the course. Sometimes he only has to play better than his friends to win money. Sometimes he shoots incredibly well and still loses money.

So why am I talking about my father's golf game? The point is that there are multiple ways to measure success in your performance. You can score well, but still play poorly. You can achieve victory over your opponents, and they played better than you and your team.

In the past month, maybe six weeks, I feel I've played extremely well. I've only had maybe two games that I've considered myself average in that time. How many goals have I had? One. I am not a goal scorer, and I'm ok with that. I'm not going to lie, scoring a goal feels great as it is an obvious contribution to the team, but that one goal wasn't the best feeling I've had in these past six weeks. The best part in the last six weeks or so was probably the penalty kill with the Piranhas against the Sharks. Hurting the other team's chances made me happier. Last Tuesday in the Goaldiggers game, I disrupted a talented player's chances as he tried to show boat and he was visibly upset about it and it put a huge smile on my face.

When I say I play a good game, or when I'm pleased about the game I've played, I believe I've done something I was set out to do. Perhaps I gained confidence in my skating, and showed it in a game. Maybe I helped my team by playing defense well, and getting the puck out of the defensive zone. If I've done something to frustrate the other team, that is a huge bonus in my book because I've probably disrupted their opportunity, and gotten in their head. I guess that this in combination with just my "impressive" physique got me the nickname Squirrel in HNA.

I will skate hard, I will do what I can to disrupt the opponents, and laugh when I succeed. I will stay in shape so that I can work harder than the opponent and tire them out. A night of me improving my own play, skating hard, disrupting the opponent, and helping my team generate their scoring chances, is a good night as an individual even if I don't get a shot on goal myself.

Piranhas vs. Caerbannogs - 2011-07-28

In my previous post, I mentioned how I was concerned about my recent performances, and how I sharpened my skates. I spent warm ups just getting used to the edges and I felt good with them. I felt better and more prepared for this game than recently too. I can't put my finger on why. I think maybe I'm getting too much sleep, because last night I just didn't sleep well.

The opposing goalie was weak. He loved to handle the puck, and was good at it. Unfortunately, he just flops around on the ice. It was clear we just had to get pucks to the net and traffic to bang in loose pucks. The opposing team also didn't have anyone who could handle the puck, nor anyone who I felt was a stand out player.

On one of my first shifts, while back checking, I was trying to just lift the stick of the winger. He was moving his feet as hard as he could, and I just was going about half effort. I didn't realize it until about the blue line. I stopped trying to lift his stick to get next to him, and then I was able to break up the play a lot easier. This was the pattern for me all night. If I back checked hard enough, I could catch them and force turnovers. This makes sense as they're carrying the puck, and I'm not. I know I skate a lot slower when I have to take care of the puck.

Going in the opposite direction, I felt I did an outstanding job along the boards again tonight. At one point I was able to beat two different individuals along the boards and move the puck into their zone very quickly. I don't think my line realized that I was winning these battles, as when I finally did gain control, they still were not in the offensive zone. I took the puck to the net, but the goalie brushed it aside. After that work, I was very tired, and went and changed. I came off, sat down, and then the opponents scored on an odd man rush. That was very frustrating to me as we had a potential scoring chance but it just didn't happen.

Because our line adopted the plan of throw everything at the net, we had a lot of face offs in their zone. While our center does win way more than his fair share of face offs, he was tied up a few times, and then I was able to get in, and get a quick backhand on net. I think at my level, a lot of wingers don't realize that sometimes they need to get in there and help win that face off. I know I don't do it enough, but I'm going to focus on it a little more now.

At one point, I picked up the puck below the goal line in the opponents zone. Usually I've been just throwing it into the slot, but that has not worked out well. I've needed to take my time, and make the right play. This was a case where I did just that. I didn't have any options, so I went behind the net. The center read it perfectly, and I was able to give him a backhand pass. It was just an inch or two too far for him and he missed it. The puck went past the traffic, and exited the zone. This is the type of scenario that I need to think about, and make sure that I'm connecting on passes.

It did get a little chippy for me in the second. I was standing in front of the net, like I enjoy doing, and the defensemen kept attempting to lift my stick. It didn't do a whole lot of good. I would keep moving when he came by me until my heels were almost in the blue paint. This caused the goalie to start giving me good shots to get out of the way. This is a good thing as it does distract them. Had there been any shots at those times, those players weren't focused on the play. During one board battle, I came to help the center. The opponent had his top hand on his stick, while he was using his other hand to keep the center pushed up against the glass. He was doing a fairly impressive job of working the puck one handed. I came in, tangled his stick up, and tried to rip it out of his hands with my stick. He dropped it, and wanted a penalty called. He whined to the ref for a second, and then gave me a good shove. It was a shame though that the shift in his focus caused him to lose that battle, which would ultimately result in us clearing the puck out of our own zone.

We would win the game 3-1 with an empty net goal. I had another solid defensive game, where I felt I was effective. I really didn't have any scenarios where I was unhappy with my decision, or my results. I'm seeing more and more that I'm not as bad of a skater than I thought I was. I've got greater than average speed in this league, and I need to use it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sharp skates - I like it!

My performance in the last Goaldiggers game was a little concerning to me. I've been playing extremely well for the past month. I'd like to continue that pattern, so that I can become more reliable, and become more confident which is a huge hole in my game. I came out slow, and without energy. Knowing it is summer, and that we were at the Edge, I knew the ice was going to be awful, and suspected that my skates needed a good sharpening. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the place that usually sharpens my skates so I tried someplace else.

I just got back from the game with the freshly sharpened skates and it just makes a big difference for me.

Sharp skates are a must for me now, especially in the summer. I always read that you're supposed to get them sharpened every 10ish skates or so depending on how aggressive you skate. As I've gotten to become a better skater, I've started become more comfortable on my edges, and even more aggressive than I was a year ago.

So now that I'm starting to learn more and more about my skates and what I do like, I need to figure out what hollow I do want. I've always just gone with a 1/2 inch. That's seemed fairly standard. To be honest, I have been too afraid to try anything else. I got a 1/2 inch hollow this time, so maybe next time I'll try an eighth up or down. I don't know.

What I do know is that I'm playing a lot more than I used to, and I'm skating harder than I used to, so I'll need to get them sharpened more. I remember a stretch when I first started playing, I went about 6 months without a sharpening and it was a different experience afterward. If anyone has any advice after seeing me play, please, talk to me about it because this is something I know very little about. I'm a light guy, I play different positions, on different types of ice and it all needs to be accounted for.

Goaldiggers vs. Draggons - 2011-07-26

I missed a Goaldiggers game simply by disorganization on my part. I forgot to write it down on my calendar. I hit the ice and I just didn't feel too much energy. I don't know why. I was sure to get plenty of sleep, I had a great lunch and a light dinner, but still I felt no jump in my game. As a result, I feel I wasn't that noticeable out there. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though.

I had done a decent job of getting the puck out of our own zone and into the neutral zone. What I did do well was work along the boards. I was able to work hard against the boards, and not give up any pucks easy. I didn't win every battle, but I'm not going to.

At the end of the first, I was just tired as hell. It was not acceptable in my book. It shows that I was unprepared for the game. As a result, the next shift I was able to take, I tried to fore check as hard as I could. When I do that, I force bad passes, generate scoring chances, and just generate a little bit of momentum. I was able to not only make the defensemen make a bad pass, but able to intercept it, and control it for a moment. While we didn't generate a scoring chance off it, it helped not only me to get going, but it helped the team as well. A couple of good shifts by our line and we started to play just a little bit better.

As the game went on, I realized that I wasn't covering the point very well. I kept coming down too low to help which is a habit I've been picking up. One of their stronger skaters tried to skate around their zone and just go around me like I was a pylon. It honestly surprised me off that he wouldn't respect me enough to protect the puck better. As a result, I worked extra hard to make his shift more difficult. As he tried to dangle around me, I knocked the puck out of the zone. He didn't like that and became frustrated with himself, as evident by him banging his stick against the glass. This put a big smile on my face. He still got to the puck in the neutral zone before me, but I didn't let up. He continued to skate around, and I stayed on him hard. It ended up getting clogged up by the boards on the opposite side, my work was done.

Overall, I played a solid defensive game. I had maybe one or two opportunities on offense. If anything needed to change, it is my mentality and preparation going into the game. Games during the week are tough because of work, but that is no excuse. I need to get into a pattern to come out flying with energy.

No one on the ice had a whole lot of energy. The Goaldiggers' bench was a little short, and the ice was very slow. We still played a solid team game, despite not getting a whole lot of shots. We won the game 1-0, and that is our first shut out that I know of.