To understand wrist shots, the first distinction we should make is between a shooter on his proper wing, and one who is on his wrong wing. It's important to the shooter, so it's important to the goalie. Let's make sure we know what shooters on their proper wing and wrong wing look like.


Both shooters in the photos to the right are in roughly the same spot, but the shooter in the top photo is on his proper wing - he shoots left and he's on the left wing, and the shooter in the bottom photo is on his off wing - he shoots right and he's on the left wing. On the other side of the ice, it would be the opposite; a right shooter would be on his proper wing, and a left shooter would be on his wrong wing.

 

This Flash clip looks at the difference between what the shooter sees, and what the puck sees in these two shooting positions.

We should also distinguish between 3 ways of taking a wrist shot, shown left.

On the upper strip, the shooters fires the puck off of both feet.

On the middle strip, the player is a right shot on his proper wing and releases the puck on his left foot - he's shooting from his proper foot.

On the bottom strip, the player is again a right shot on his proper wing, but the left foot lifts, and he releases the puck on his right foot - he's shooting from his wrong foot.

We'll be looking at all 3 of these, for both the proper and wrong wing.

 
 

 

 

For the rest of this page, I'll be looking at wrist shots taken from the shooter's proper wing, starting with shots taken from the proper foot, then shots taken from the wrong foot, and then from both feet.

 

Shooting from the proper foot is a very powerful shot because it's a full body move - it uses all of the elements we looked at in the intro to wrist shots. There is a very strong push off the back (left) leg; he really steps into it. The arms pull forward quickly and there's some good body rotation. A good shooter will turn all of this into a clean, smooth motion, and since he's using all of his power, he'll end up fully extended, like the shot to the right, which was a wrist shot, not a slap shot.

 

 
 

I find it's best to just play the video and let it loop, because after a while the elements of the move will become clearer. You'll need to recognize these shots, so just let it run and familiarize yourself with the motion.

Not only are these shots very fast, but because it is a full-body shot, there is a lot of body language in the move which can be intimidating from in close, and a shooter can use this to fool a goalie or make him flinch or tighten up. Notice above how the goalie's upper body leans back a bit. It's as if his body is saying 'whoa!'. It is very, very hard to do, but you have to lean into these shots in order to see them. You may see it go past you, but maybe one day you'll catch up to one of them.

 
 
 
 
 

To the right is another look at one of these shots. People have complained about goalie equipment so much, but the other side is that now, shooters can unload from anywhere without remorse. Here, he is right on top of the goalie and puts everything into it. To make a reaction save on this would be superhuman - you have to get in front of it. The problem here is it's a difficult shot to read.

The shooter is very wide, and the puck is way over, in line with the goalie's blocker, giving the impression that the shot will go there. It's a very powerful shot; a strong leg push, strong arm pull, and full torque from the body rotation - he's swinging for the fences - always a good idea for shooters. From this close, and with all that body language, it is very intimidating for the goalie. He looks like he read blocker side - his left leg collapses a little early, and his trapper is a bit low and tight to the body. Many times, a shooter will get wide to give the goalie this impression and open up room on the far side. It worked here, and it works often.

 
 

 

 

In the intro to wrist shots, we looked at the use of rotation to add power to a shot, and in the two clips above, I mentioned that both shooters made use of it, so I'm going to take a closer look at it, because shooters on their proper wing have a bit of an advantage here. Rotational power is used in all sports; teeing off at golf, a tennis stroke, or a swing of the baseball bat. When a baseball batter swings with power, he pulls the ball. A batter will never hit with more power to his opposite field than to his pull side, because the pull side uses more rotational power.

Similarly in hockey. A player gets the most power into his wrist shot when he uses a full rotation,and this rotation will 'pull' the puck. With our shooter to the left, he starts his wind-up at 'a', and by 'b', he's reached maximum rotational power and should release the puck. Releasing it at that point will 'pull' the puck to his right. Of course, on the ice 'a' to 'b' will be a straight line, but body rotation and a release point forward will pull the puck. Check the clip above.

That 'maximum rotational power' point is pretty well standard. I don't know the exact point - I heard 17 degrees forward of the body, but I can't guarantee that. I do know it's in that area. Often you'll hear an announcer say after a home run, 'the hitter got that one in his wheelhouse' or 'the pitcher put it right in his wheelhouse' meaning the ball was hit at the point where body rotation is at its strongest - the batter wheels around on the ball.

Before we get too excited about reading players, remember that they are very, very tricky. A lot depends on their orientation to the net, and as we can see in the Flash piece (Below), this allows them to shoot for any part of the net.

 
 
 

His feet are pointing in the direction he is skating, and note that when a player is on his proper wing, most of the time the net is in his 'wheelhouse'. Move him to his off-wing, and see which direction he has to skate to put the net in his 'wheelhouse'. Keep this in mind because it will come up when we look at players on their off-wing. CLICK AND DRAG TO MOVE HIM, USE THE LEFT AND RIGHT KEYBOARD ARROWS TO ROTATE.

 
 

 

 
 

Since we're looking at shooters on their proper wing firing the puck off of their proper foot, does this mean they will always pull the puck? No, but that is where the 'sweet spot' is, and if they want to unload with all of their power, that's where they will go. Again, 'pull' doesn't mean one side or the other - that depends on the shooter's orientation. On the clip to the left, note how he fully extends after the release.

 
 

 

 

Once again as a reminder, we have just seen what a shooter on his proper wing shooting from his proper foot looks like going to the 'pull' side. What does he look like going to his opposite side?

 

To the left, the red lines show a pull shot. The puck is dragged forward, then at the dotted line, more body rotation is added and the puck takes off to the shooter's right.


The blue line shows a shot to the opposite side. The puck isn't dragged as much, and there's less rotation. On both, the arrow shows the follow through and where the puck is going.


Opposite side shots have a shorter release. The shooter could fire the puck opposite side from where his stick is, but to pull it, he has to drag it a bit more.

Imagine a right handed baseball batter pulling the ball over third base, and then sending one over the second baseman. When he goes over the second baseman, the bat doesn't come around as much to hit the ball. There is less swing so there will be less power, and the follow through isn't as clean. It's similar for hockey. Since the motion is slightly different, it will look slightly different to perceptive goaltenders.

Here are two strips for comparison. Above, the shot was high short side. The release point of the puck is more to the shooter's left, there is more reaching or bending of the upper body, and the twist on the follow through isn't as clean. Compare the right hands above and below. We saw in the intro to wrist shots how the hands have to move out to shoot opposite side.

Since the upper body reaches, and there is less rotation, there are also some differences in the legs. Less rotation means he doesn't twist off of the back foot as much. This means less power gets transferred to the front leg so the shot is potentially less powerful. However, a good shooter can compensate for this by leaning on the stick and use the whip of the stick to add power. It's slightly easier to do this when going opposite side. I'll explain on the video clips.

 

This is a good clip to see how a shooter adds power to an opposite side shot by dropping his leg. Click through it slowly to see that by dropping the right leg, his weight then rests on his left leg and the stick. You'll often see shooters dropping like this to load the stick. It can be a great fake, because the lowering implies a low shot, but loading weight onto the stick creates a whipping effect on the stick, and those shots are hard to keep down; they tend to spring up with the stick.

Here again, the right leg drops before the shots goes. Compare the two clips to the left and right to see if you can pick up the very slight differences. I think the most useful one for goalies is the release point of the puck, which is more to the middle of the shooter on the pull shot, and more to the outside of him on the opposite side shot.

Again, the right leg drops and the shot goes high. Good shooters really can put the puck anywhere, but if you want to play the averages, it's always a good idea to stay on your feet, and keep your hands up.

Here's a very snappy goal. Look at the neat footwork. On taking the pass, he does a little hop, which loads up some momentum, then a big push with the right leg, and then he really leans into it. The right leg doesn't bend down, it goes straight back, meaning all his weight is forward. And look at how the body is leaning over the stick. There's a lot of weight and power in this shot, and it is all done very neatly. Once you look closely, you'll see that there are very good reasons why the best are the best.

 

 

Now we'll look at shots from the proper wing fired off of the wrong foot. First, let's review what it means to shoot off of your wrong foot. When a left shooter fires the puck off of his proper foot, his right foot will end up forward of his body. (right). When a left shot fires the puck from his wrong foot, his left foot goes forward (below).

When the right leg lifts up, weight from that leg gets transferred onto the stick, which will load up with flex. We saw this above on opposite side shots. Although it's called shooting from the wrong foot, there's nothing wrong about it, and goalies must be able to recognize it. Once that back leg goes up, they have pretty well committed to shooting. They can delay it a bit, but not for long because it's an unstable position. Because the shot is sprung from a bending stick, it has a very snappy release that doesn't take up much ice; there's no sweeping it from behind. Everyone can shoot off of the wrong foot, but what turns a shooter into a sniper is being able to get that back leg way up, and really lean down on the stick for a lot of flex.



To the left and right are two views of the same goal. Click through slowly to see how the angle of lean sort of forces the shooter to pull the shot far side. It doesn't happen every time, but shooters tend to pull these shots on their proper wing. Note that nothing about the shooter's body language is saying it will be a low shot. It's a bad read on the goalie's part. Also, I can't resist. Watch how the trapper starts up and out and gradually goes to sleep. As the puck is released, it's down and facing the wrong way. As he is beat, it goes up in the classic 'went down early' pose. Everyone has this problem, but staying on your feet helps a lot.

Here is a shooter going opposite side and it's not the smoothest motion, as you can see by the follow-through. He's cutting left, but has to shoot right, off the wrong foot. The puck is trailing behind, and he has to reach out - it would be a hard shot to keep low. Shooting opposite side off the wrong foot when you're cutting in on the wrong wing works really well (we'll see them later), but I suspect that the angle of approach on your proper wing makes opposite side shots a little awkward. Still, he gets the goal as the shot goes in via the 'area of death' - that unreachable zone right beside your head.

Here's another wrong foot shot, but it is low. It is a bad goal, but the shooter is one of the best there is, and maybe a low shot in this situation was a bit of a surprise for the goalie, because he really looks like he got crossed up. The shooter's motion isn't quite as fluid and the shot isn't a hard one, or even a particularly difficult one. Sometimes a bad goal isn't really all that bad -I think he was just expecting a standard high shot (and maybe got lazy too)

 

 

 

While shooting off of both feet doesn't offer a lot of power, the shot has enough advantages to make it very useful. Below, you can see why the shot isn't all that powerful: it's basically all arms. Leg power involves transferring weight from one leg onto another, and that doesn't happen here - the feet stay evenly weighted. Without much power behind it, the shot is only useful close to the net.

 

The power a shooter generates to fire a puck is basically rotational power, the same as for a golfer, a baseball hitter, a tennis player, etc. If power is limited, that means rotation is limited, and that's true here - when the weight stays evenly distributed on both feet, you rotate over two points, not one, and rotation over two points is awkward. The reason I'm mentioning this is because a shooter needs rotation to shoot the puck far side, just as a baseball hitter needs rotation to pull the ball. This is one reason why you'll notice a tendency for shooters in this position to go short side - they don't have the rotation to pull it. Another reason why they prefer the short side is because the puck is carried at the release point of a short side shot, giving a shooter the element of surprise if he wants to fire the puck quickly. All it takes is a flick of the wrists and the shot is off.

To the left, the shooter is in the process of shooting, so he is inches away from the release point of the puck. It is very common for shooters to coast in to the net with the puck in exactly that position, so it's easy for them to fire the puck very quickly. The red dot shows the release point for a pull shot to the goalie's glove side, and the blue dot shows the release point for a short side high shot. Often, you'll see shooters carrying the puck near the blue dot, clearly indicating short side high. This shot was short side low, so he released it back a bit, closer to his foot. Remember that shooters need room to cup the stick to keep a puck low, so the release point has to be farther back.

 

Another reason shooters like going short side when they're on both feet is because it's easier.

It's not easy shooting across the goalie's body to get the far side (red-area A). There isn't much of an angle and the stick needs to sweep across, giving the goalie a clear indicator of where the puck is going and some extra time to react as well. It's an awkward shot to go high, and a sweeping shot low is not a difficult stop for a good butterfly goalie.

To get the puck through 'blue area, B' you have to shoot it low, but over the stick to hit the five-hole. It really isn't a lot of room, just a small triangle, so shooters will try to power it through, usually adding some body language to keep the five-hole open a little longer.

 

 
 

In 'blue area C', the shooter usually sees something, either high or low, and since the hands and puck are all set, it just takes a flick of the wrist to fire the puck. In areas A and B, the shooter doesn't exactly have to thread the needle, but they are tough shots, whereas in area C, there is almost a zone, or a band of net to go for. It's always tempting. Here's a small Flash piece that takes a closer look.

 
 
 
 
 

Here's the video clip. The shooter has got to get it over the pad and under the blocker if he wants to go there, not right into the pad. I'm sure someone on the bench had a comment about this one. However, many times if a goalie plays things right, he forces the shooter to do something unimpressive. If you're playing your angles well, you'll get a lot of shots into your chest.

 
 

 

Here's why you can't always take your angle off of the puck. It's common to dangle the puck out there, then pull it in and get the shot off. Goalies who fall for this will end up exposing too much net on the far side when the shooter pulls it in. It's also common on most shots to include some pulling in to change the angle

Here's another clip of a player cutting in under pressure and going short side. By going short side, they can use their body to protect the puck.

 

Going short side is a strong tendency, but, as we have seen, shooters can be very tricky and they are not as limited as we would hope. First of all, they can coast in this position for quite a while, holding the puck in a good shooting position while the angle changes, waiting for something to open up. It's very difficult for a goalie because the puck is sitting right at the release point, and as the angle changes, he's got to move to cover it, but moving opens up holes that the shooter can take advantage of immediately. Even if they coast for half a second, a lot can change. Then there's the possibility of a deke or a pass. With all these options to consider, a goalie's panic factor increases, making it likelier that, either through too much movement or not enough, holes will open up. In this clip, the shooters coasts and cuts a bit, leaving his stick behind and goes short side. The problem for goalies is that when the shooter is wide like this, he has some great options: short side like he did here; a deke to the backhand for a lot of room on the trapper side; a deke and backhand through the five hole is common because the goalie will spread out to cover the far post.

 

 

Here's a look at a relatively minor change in angle. The camera is a puck view and has moved two feet, from a to b, which is nothing - a right shot cutting in can pull his stick in from a to b in a split second to open up more on the trapper side. , and it takes a split second to move that distance when they are cutting in, but there's a big enough change in how much net is visible.

 

Another problem with this 'both feet' stance is that it is the standard preliminary position to shooting off of one foot or the other. It's the most natural move in the world to shift your weight onto either leg to get a much stronger shot off. Below, the shooter coasts for a second and then unloads with a wicked proper-foot short side high shot. Again, I can't resist mentioning the trapper. It's not in position until the shot is released, so the shooter had a lot of time to look at that top corner. It's not a good idea to needlessly show net - get the glove up, get it out if possible, and keep it there. Also, we've seen enough of these shots to understand why you must be aware of the shooter's high short side. This doesn't mean overcompensate - just make sure it has coverage.

 

 

Here's a similar shot where the goalie makes a really nice save. Again, the shooter coasts briefly, and then launches a rocket, high short side. Here's a still from the clip, which tells the whole story. The shooter is well into his release and the goalie hasn't budged. He's not collapsing or going down, both of his hands are perfectly placed. When the shot came in, his trapper dropped a couple of inches, which is normal, and then moved up to make the highlight reel save.

 

And here is one where he goes five-hole with a full, swing for the fences shot. So, while shots from both feet can be weaker since the legs aren't as involved, the shooter can more than make up for it with a very fast release.