If the shootout is the most exhilarating play in hockey, Thomas Vanek is the most dangerous man in the game. The Buffalo Sabres shootout specialist remained flawless in post-overtime action this season, notching a tally in Round 2 of a dramatic 10-round shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week, making him 5-for-5 on the year.
Nothing fancy about this goal: Vanek glided down the ice and fired a laser of a wrist shot under the right pad of Canadiens goalie Carey Price. The Sabres’ leading point-getter straight up overpowered the netminder.
Many would attribute Vanek’s shootout prowess to his elusive dekes and fancy stickwork. There’s no denying his skills in those areas are major contributors to his unblemished streak this season.
But in a game like this, where the Sabres battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period and then gritted out a five-minute overtime period, Vanek’s superb endurance stands out as the reason he reigns supreme in the shootout.
Two exercises that keep Vanek a step ahead of defenders and goaltenders are the Power Step-Up and 180 Reverse Bench Jump. The Power Step-Up, which Vanek performs under resistance, reinforces proper ground-force application in relation to the skating motion.
The 180 Reverse Bench Jump is a plyometric exercise that “mimics the forces applied when you’re stopping or changing directions,” says Cal Dietz, strength coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team, where Vanek played collegiately and returns to train in the off-season.
“At the beginning of summer, we jump forward in that movement, and then laterally,” Dietz says. In other words, start with more basic movements and work your way up to the 180 Reverse Jump. The same goes for the Power Step-Up: perform without resistance in the first few weeks of your training, and progress to performing with resistance.
Perform 4-6 reps of each exercise for 2-3 sets. Rest is especially important between sets of these power movements; aim for 60-90 seconds rest.