After seven years with the New Jersey Devils, Scott Gomez jumped across the Hudson River to join the New York Rangers. The Anchorage native was a member of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team and also played in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
The breakaway is the most exciting play in hockey. They don’t come along every day, but if you practice a few simple techniques, you’ll be ready the next time you’re one-on-one with a goalie.
When I’m on a breakaway, I always look at where the goalie is. Is he out of the crease or back in the net? Both the shooter and the goalie are trying to do the same thing: make the other make the first move. When you’re the shooter you’re at an advantage because the goalie can’t really fake you out. So be patient and look for an opening.
Sometimes a player makes the mistake of carrying the puck in front of him so the goalie knows what he’s going to do because he can’t shoot the puck from that position. As you get close to the net, bring the puck to your side so you can either take the quick shot or make a move.
Players must learn to protect themselves, especially along the boards. When going into the corner, use some fakes with your body, stick or skates to avoid being a stationary target. Keep your skates parallel to the boards rather than pointing toward the boards.
As soon as you pick up the puck, move out of the area quickly.
If you can’t avoid being checked, position yourself to accept the blow. If you are checked from the side, keep your head up, get a good stable position, feet apart, knees bent, body in a low position, forearms and hands on the boards.
Some people say that when you’re coming in on a breakaway or penalty shot you should have a strategy of what you want to do before you get to the goalie. I think you have to take what the goalie gives you. If he comes out to cut down the angle, try to deke around him. If he’s back in the net, pick your spot and shoot it.
A lot of times a forward will deke himself out. He’ll have the goalie beat but he already has his mind made up that he’s going to do something else. He’ll actually fumble it before he can shoot it. Remember, make the goalie make the save. Don’t make it easy for him.
In some ways a breakaway might be easier than a penalty shot because you don’t have time to think about it. On a penalty shot, you have more time to think and you know everybody’s watching you. A breakaway is just part of the game. Just go with the flow. Don’t think ‘Oh wow, I’m on a breakaway.’ And if you miss, just get the puck. Don’t get discouraged. Keep your head in the game.
photo by Getty Images • Illustrations by Mike Curti