NHL players are exceptional at the details, including playing “stick-on-puck” and “boxing out,” oftentimes creating turnovers and scoring chances for their teammates and themselves.
Details are what make up the competitive advantages within the game. This goal by the Toronto Maple Leafs is a perfect example of two small details making up the goal.
1. “Stick-on-puck” is a phrase you hear at any rink where ice hockey is played.
It’s a solid strategy in order to knock pucks away from the opponent to create a turnover for your team. While it’s said over and over and over again, you’ll still struggle to see players consistently apply this simple habitual detail.
Second, “Boxing out” is a phrase mostly known in the basketball world even though it happens all the time in hockey and other sports.
It’s a great way for players to give themselves space and access to the sporting object. In this case, access to the puck.
Rather than reaching for the puck and pulling it away, Zach Hyman takes 1 extra step and is able to make Darnell Nurse reach and end up on his back. Nurse is then in a vulnerable spot where he could easily be called for a penalty if he’s not careful.
If you look closely, Nurse start by trying to swipe at the puck and leading stick-on-puck to knock the puck away from Hyman.
#74 Ethan Bear doesn’t do a good job boxing out and protecting the puck from Engvall. Meanwhile, Zach Hyman of the Leafs does a great job boxing out and protecting the puck.
Both plays, Pierre Engvall going stick-on-puck and Zach Hyman boxing out, are small details and the team that executed the details get rewarded with a great goal.