The Finer Points: the art of the one-timer

By: Tim Kolupanowich
@TimKolupan_

Of all tools a top goal scorer can utilize, the one-timer might just be the deadliest. The biggest reason is that it is such a quick shot that leaves almost no time for the goalie to react. By the time they have tracked where the pass is going, the puck is already coming at them.

This is the favorite shot of Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos. Nobody has more goals in the past three seasons than his 156 and, although he has needed to find alternate ways to score as other teams are privy to his setup, the one-timer is still his weapon of choice. Brett Hull had arguably the best one-timer of all time and he used it to score 741 career goals, the third-highest total in history and only Wayne Gretzky scored more goals in a season than the 86 he totaled in 1990-91.

But there is more going on than just shooting the puck, there’s a bit of physics involved as well. There are two big things to think about.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly practices a one-timer during warm ups at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Cassie Storring/CM)

Stick Flex

The first thing to know about shooting a hockey puck is that the power isn’t coming from the player’s arms because they have no physical contact with the puck. Rather, the power comes from the energy stored up in the stick and the more flex put on a stick, the harder the shot will be. The curve you see when a player shoots isn’t an optical illusion, sticks really do bend like that.

While the stick is bending, a high amount of what is called potential energy is built up, just waiting to be released. This is why players hit the ice a few inches in front of the puck, to build up that energy as much as possible before reaching the puck. Once the player releases the shot and the stick straightens back out, all of the potential energy is turned into kinetic energy and that is what fires off the puck. This is why, especially during a one-timer, players will end up on one knee while taking the shot. By getting as low as they can, they add more flex to the stick, therefore more power to the shot.

For additional information on how important the stick flex is to a shot and what the common measurements are, check out this great piece on Hockey Stick Expert.

Push, Don’t Shoot

The other important part of the one-timer to take notice of is that players aren’t re-shooting the puck or taking full slapshots when the puck gets to them. Sure, that is possible when the pass is slow enough (this usually happens during a shot from the point), but often it has to be a hard, quick pass to get to the player set up usually near one of the faceoff dots.  Check out the video below of a Stamkos goal from the 2011 playoffs against the Boston Bruins. He waits for the pass, puts flex onto his stick building up all the potential energy, them simply redirects the puck towards the goal letting the explosive kinetic energy from the release of the shot drive the puck behind Tim Thomas.

A lot of the speed from the shot actually comes from the pass itself. The shooter can add more velocity to it of course, but if they did the same motion with a static puck, the shot wouldn’t be as hard. Accuracy and quickness of the shot coming off the stick is more important than a hard shot. Another good example is when Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen  tied Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils back in 2009. The puck comes to him and he doesn’t try to blast it past Martin Brodeur, he just tries to get the puck off his stick as fast as possible and make sure it’s on net.

The one-timer is deadly, but it has to be executed smoothly or the shooter risks messing up the shot. But if you find a way to get open, let the stick do the work and just worry about accuracy, you too can unleash the best shot in the game.

*Editor’s Note: Hockey is a very fast-paced game and the large number of sometimes-complicated rules can make it hard to follow for a casual/new viewer. The Finer Points is a weekly column that will explain the subtleties and complexities of hockey in an easy-to-understand manner so fans can spend more time enjoying the game and less time trying to figure out what is going on.  

Is there a facet of the game that has you scratching your head? Send an email to tim@coincidentalminors.com.

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