OTTAWA, ONTARIO – With Charlie Coyle still stinging from Michal Neuvirth robbing him of a buzzer-beating tying goal in Philadelphia on Feb. 25 with a sprawling paddle save, the Wild winger looked at his phone and saw a text message pop in from “Dr. Shot.”
“Get rid of the puck!!!” the text read. “You held onto it too long. That’s why the goalie came across. If you didn’t hang onto it, it would be in the net.”
Nobody cares about the split second like Glen Tucker does. A split second in hockey can mean the difference between scoring and not. Tucker, Coyle’s offseason shooting instructor, teaches several specialized techniques to get shots off lightning fast at his Shoot to Score Academy in Waltham, Mass.
Tucker’s list of NHL clients is impressive. He has worked with Islanders captain John Tavares since he was 7 and has worked with everybody from future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to Bruins stars Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara to Rick Nash, P.K. Subban and Jack Eichel.
Coyle works out in the summers with Boston College star Colin White, and White referred Coyle to Tucker a few years ago. Coyle credits much of his breakout, team-leading, 21-goal season to work he does in the summer with Tucker.
“He just knows the technique and works on shooting from uncomfortable positions,” Coyle said. “That’s hockey. How many times do you get the puck in the slot and you can cock it with perfect form? It’s not a lot. So you’ve got to be able to spring it from anywhere as quick as you can.
“He calls it a twitch.”
In fact, Tucker developed what he calls a twitch board — a 4-foot-long, 1-foot-wide board that sits 4 inches off Tucker’s synthetic ice. It won’t allow a player to get “load” or follow-through with his stick.
“He compares it like a plane taking off a ship’s runway,” Coyle said. “You only have so much runway before the plane’s going to fall into the ocean. So if the puck’s in front and a guy’s stick is right there, you can’t cock it back and get the shot off. You just rip it.”
Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman showed video of Coyle working with Tucker on Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” Wild-Canadiens telecast.
Coyle, 24, has surpassed his career high of 12 goals in 2013-14 by nine goals this season with 13 games to play. He says if you look back to many of his goals this season — not some of the slippery smooth dangles he has scored off, but some of the tight-area goals including his first of the season against the St. Louis Blues — they came off quick shots with no load.
“Just a little twitch,” Coyle said.
Said Tucker: “Everybody wants to go bar down and score the highlight reel, but at the end of the day, as long as you’re raising your hands and celebrating, that’s the main thing.”
Tucker says in his extensive history of coaching hockey players, Coyle’s work ethic is right up there with Tavares’ approach as the most impressive he has seen.
Tucker’s facility is almost an hour’s drive without Boston traffic from where Coyle lives in the offseason. Coyle arrives a few times a week … after he skates for two hours, after he works out, after he does his yoga and Pilates.
“He shoots probably 1,500, 2,000 pucks without a break,” Tucker said. “I’m like, ‘Charlie, get some water or something because I need a break.’ ”
Coyle stands 6-3 and weighs 220 pounds, so Dr. Shot altered Coyle’s sticks because “they were too wimpy. That’s why he was always breaking sticks.”
He changed Coyle’s flex from an 87 to a 95 to give him a stiffer shaft, changed his lie to get his heel closer to the ice and softened up his blade.
Coyle also uses skills and skating coach Adam Nicholas out of Maine.
“He helps me get in position to receive those pucks and gives me skating techniques in and out of corners,” Coyle said. “Those two guys have been huge for me.”
Both Nicholas and Tucker send Coyle video throughout the season to refine things. Tucker calls his videos “Medicine from Dr. Shot.”
“If you don’t feel well, you go to the doctor and get some medicine to feel better,” Tucker said, laughing. “Charlie and I set a goal this year of 20 goals. Then, from there, we’ll set the goal higher five goals a year, and before you know it, he’ll be hitting 30, 40 goals a season.
“Congrats to him. He got to 20. He’s worked his butt off to get where he is, but I believe he’s a perennial 30-goal scorer, I really do.”