We’re going to be focusing on a fundamental hockey skill that opens up an entire realm of opportunities on the ice, the saucer pass. This is widely used in the NHL for two reasons; its a lot harder for defenders to intercept a saucer pass and it opens up passing lanes that simply wouldn’t be available if you were to pass it along the ice.
The skills involved with an effective saucer pass are almost a cross between stick handling and taking a wrist shot. Like trying to master any skill in hockey it comes down to one thing, PRACTICE. The biggest thing about a saucer pass is it is all about feel, when taking a wrist shot you don’t care about where the puck might land since you’re trying to put it through the back of the net. With a saucer pass, you need it to land flat in front of your targets stick, and as you can imagine this distance changes every single situation you make a saucer pass.
If you want to see a few examples of the saucer pass being used in the NHL, watch the video below. If not, read on below and we will go over some keys to the saucer pass and how you can practice off the ice.
Keys to a Hockey Saucer Pass
When to use the Saucer Pass
There is a lot of situations where you could use a saucer pass, and we’re going to highlight a few of the common ones but you can use your imagination for the ones we don’t cover. Having the best lightweight hockey stick can certainly help out to rip those passes off quickly! Our review should tell you all you need to know about sticks to pick the right one.
Two on One – When you’re going down on a defenseman on a two on one, he is going to try and do everything to ensure you can’t get that pass over to your teammate. This could mean laying down on the ice to block it or using his stick, so a saucer pass makes perfect sense to either get it over the defenseman or to make it a lot harder for him to intercept the pass.
Stretch Pass / Cross Ice Pass – Whenever you’re making a long pass either across the ice or to a teammate stretching for a breakaway, the chances of it being intercepted go way up. A hard saucer pass is a perfect way to shift the odds of completing the pass in your favor, and potentially getting you an assist on a breakaway goal.
Cross Crease Pass – Any pass in a high traffic area has a high probability of getting either intercepted or blocked, and making a cross crease pass also has the goalies stick in the mix. The saucer pass in this situation is a finesse play, as you want to get the puck a foot off the ice and land it just a few feet away at the back door.
How to Saucer Pass
I mentioned this before but the number one most important thing about improving your saucer pass, is practicing it. We are going to go through some tips to help but this is a skill that doesn’t just come naturally.
High and Soft Saucer Pass – If you’re trying to do a finess saucer pass and it doesn’t need to be hard or go that far, this is going to be similar to a “wedge” shot in golf terms. You will need to open the face of the stick blade with the puck at the heel, and while your making the passing motion you want to roll the puck from the heel to the toe like a wrist shot. Opening up the stick blade (instead of holding it flat like normal, angle it slightly towards your backhand about 15 degrees) and rolling the puck along the blade allowing the natural curve of your stick to raise the puck enhances the height you will get from the saucer pass. This will take a lot of practice but watch the quick video below and notice how much height Draisaitl gets on this game winning saucer pass to Connor McDavid, this goal would have never happened without the saucer pass.
Long and Hard Saucer Pass – If you are trying to make a saucer pass more than 10-15 feet away from you, most likely you’re going to want it to be much harder than the finesse pass we talked about above. To do this, you wont need to open your blade but really keep everything as if you’re taking a wrist shot to score a goal. The actual height of the saucer pass will be control by your wrists and how you follow through on the saucer pass. If you follow through nice and low, your saucer pass should stay fairly close to the ice (less than a foot). If your follow through is high, much like a wrist shot its going to elevate your pass a lot more which can make it easy to be picked off by a defenders glove. The perfect height for the hard cross ice pass or stretch pass is about a foot off the ice. If you’re thinking of a really high pass over all the defenders, that is the flip pass and is an entirely different skill.
How to Practice the Saucer Pass
Obviously, the best way to practice anything is being in full gear and on the ice, whether that is with your team or on your local outdoor rink if you have it available to you. But what if its the off season and HOT outside?
On Ice – The simplest way to practice on the ice is just passing with a partner, at first standing still and changing the distances so you get a feel controlling the height and distance your passes go. The second step would be passing with a partner while skating, varying the speed and distance apart. This will more realistically simulate a game scenario after you get the hang of passing standing still. One tip for practicing a saucer pass standing still is always stickhandle a few times before passing, this give you a feel for the puck and also closer simulates a game scenario.
Off Ice – This is a bit harder since using a puck on anything but smooth concrete or a sheet of fake ice isn’t really effective and it won’t help you get better. If you have either of these two options available, you can set up obstacles to saucer over or even purchase a mini saucer net. An alternative and my personal favorite way to practice a saucer pass is using a golf ball, this allows you to get the feel of your curve in a way that transfers pretty well to on ice performance. You can set up obstacles and even a box/bucket to practice your accuracy and depth.
If you don’t believe what we’ve said about the saucer pass, Bauer Hockey created a video with Patrick Kane discussing when to use the saucer pass and showing you how to do it.
If you can think of any other good tips or references we should add to our article, leave a comment or shoot us an email! We at Going Bar Down would love to hear from you.