Elite goal scorers can put the puck in the net from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. However, those low-percentage heaves toward the net from inside the blue line are notoriously inefficient. Modern sports are all about maximizing the chances of success by analyzing the most effective tactics and techniques. Basketball has become a 3-pointer game, while baseball is all about launch angles and strikeouts. And in hockey, the slot has become key.
The slot is typically thought of as the area of the ice in front of the goalie and between the two face-off circles in the defensive end. It’s a prime scoring position, as goalies must defend the entire net; they cannot use angles to cut off a portion of the goal. Fortunately for the goalie, the slot is also where defenders lurk, ready to put their checking skills to the test whenever a speedy forward dares to skate into their zone. According to Sportlogiq, nearly half of all goals scored in the NHL are from the inner slot. Therefore, it is crucial for defense to keep the puck out of that area.
Players such as Alex Ovechkin don’t need to rely purely on the slot for their scoring opportunities — but not every hockey player is blessed with his once-in-a-generation talents. For most players, the slot is the go-to area for goal opportunities. Simply carrying the puck into the slot is unrealistic since the defense will no-doubt make every effort to poke check the puck away and clear it out of their end. Most teams would rather pass the puck into the slot from the outside, allowing for a one-timer shot or a quick wrist shot that takes advantage of the goalie having to move laterally.
It’s a simple fact that the closer you are to the net, the easier it is to score — especially when positioned in the slot. Without the benefit of angles, goaltenders are sitting ducks against shots both high and low. While it may be more fun to let a giant slapshot rip from just inside the blue line, a well-placed pass to a winger lurking in the slot will surely lead to more consistent scoring chances.
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