GAP CONTROL– “GAP” refers to the space between the D and the opponent’s forwards (mainly in the neutral zone). If the D stay back to far (usually flat footed), the opposition will have large, easily identifiable passing lanes (mostly across the ice). This will lead to a speedy, uncontested transition against flat footed defensemen which is a recipe for failure. “GAP” also refers to the timing of the retreating defensemen off of the offensive blue line. The D should vacate according to the speed of the puck carrier and/or the depth of the other two opposing forwards. “PINCHING” or “CRASHING” is also a factor in this scenario.
PINCHING/CRASHING– when the opposition is breaking out alongside the boards, the read of the D should be as follows; if the pass is indirect (often times thrown around bottom of boards), the D should “crash” down on the forward and disrupt the play. The highest positioned forward can then fill in for that D. If the breakout pass is direct and uncontested, the D should retreat toward the middle anticipating a cross ice pass while the highest forward pressures the puck carrier.
DEFENSEMEN, “USE THE NET”!– how many times have we seen a defenseman go back to retrieve a puck and then simply continue to skate in the direction he has chosen without looking over his shoulder for a glimpse of the fore checkers??? A LOT! OPTIONS; “REVERSE” means to make a tight turn on a close fore checker and head back the opposite direction. If the fore-checker is further away from you, stop behind the net and make him commit to chasing you one way or another. You then step out the opposite side and will have more passing lanes to choose from. If you simply continue skating in one direction, the whole opposing team can overload that side and give you one option, fire it up the boards. Zero positive alternatives.
D-D PASSING– in the neutral zone, the weak side defenseman should “sag” a bit and communicate with the puck carrier as to whether he is an outlet or not. A pass across will relieve pressure and give the forwards time to get back and get open. In the D zone, the weak side D is again an outlet against an aggressive fore check rather than just aimlessly sending the puck around the boards.
SLASH SUPPORT – this strategy helps to get the puck out on the break out. The weak side winger cuts or “slashes” across the top third of the zone and is the primary outlet for the puck carrier. A direct pass or “chip out” will be the available options in getting the puck beyond the blue line. The center should fill the vacant lane on his way out of the zone.
DEFENDING PUCK CARRIER– always expect a “pull” move or “cut back”. This is where the puck carrier will change his direction, mainly because a defender has a good angle on him. Good stick position, angles, and thought process will give a defender the best chance to deny the puck carrier a more direct and dangerous path to the net.
WIDE DRIVE OPTIONS– entering the O zone the puck carrier needs to generate speed and stay wide on the defender. Only good things can happen if this is done regularly; worst case, the carrier is stopped or angled to boards and the puck gets deep in the O zone. Other options or outcomes are; if defended tightly, the puck carrier can make a tight turn towards boards and buy a few extra seconds to make a positive play. If he has an advantage in passing by the defender, he can take it to the net from a tough angle, pass the puck to the goal mouth once he gets deeper, or hold onto the puck, go around net, and look for a team mate to get open.
CENTER IN THE D ZONE - remember how to defend against the pull move or cut back, they’re coming for sure! Stay between the puck carrier and the lowest positioned opponent. Go help the D in the corners when that D has good containment and therefore the puck is up for grabs. If you do this to early when the puck carrier has space, he is going to most likely find that low, open forward and the running around will begin. If the containing D gets beat, you should help seal him off. Lastly, fill the open lane left by the wingers as you hustle to get into the breakout/transition.
PASSING DRILLS 4 SQ PASS– 4 players on outside are still. Skater in the middle passes to any outside player then goes freely on a skate. When a sensible passing angle is created, the pass goes back to the skater. Continue this pattern for 20 seconds or so. Outside players may make one pass on outside while skater moves. Have two skaters, each with a puck, go at the same time. D-DPASSIN NEUTRAL– D partners retreat slowly and get pass from C. They pass across to each other once or twice, then pivot FWDs and continue passing to each other until they reach Red line. BUTTERFLY PASSING – partners make many close passes to each other (b/hand and f/hand), then turn towards outside and make longer passes as they return to starting point. GIVE-N-GO W/COACH– as seen on drawing. Players can be used in place of C. CIRCLEPASS– middle man passes to any perimeter man. Perimeter then passes to any other perimeter man, then pass returns to the middle. This pattern continues for 20 seconds then players rotate.