Hockey strategy – defensive zone

Principles
* The primary job in the defensive zone when the opponent has the puck is to limit good offensive chances, not to get the puck or to prevent shots. If they want to shoot from along the boards, 6 inches in front of the goal line, they can do that all day. It’s not going in. Better 20 of those shots than 2 cross-crease passes to an undefended man on the back door.

* Think ahead. Where the puck IS isn’t that important. The important thing is where it’s GOING. Same with opposing players.

* Play the man, not the puck.

* Goalie takes the shot, defense takes the pass.

* Keep your head on a swivel, and know what the situation on the ice is. Know where the attackers are, and know where the rest of your team is.

* Don’t chase the puck. Pick up a man in your area of coverage, and stay with him. If you’re going to let someone else grab him, communicate. If you’re going to pick up a man coming into your zone, communicate. If you find yourself chasing the puck, head back to your zone, pick up the man there, and be patient. If everybody does this, there’s no chasing the puck.

Hints and strategies
* In the defensive zone, I’ve usually seen it work better if defense concentrates on an area from, say, the face-off dot to the opposite post, and lets the centers handle digging the puck out from behind the net or the corners. Reason being that a guy behind the goal line or in the corner isn’t going to score by himself very often, but an undefended man in the slot or on the goalie’s weak side is a very dangerous threat.

* On a 2 on 1, the defense should stay to the middle with a little bias towards the potential pass recipient. The shooter on a 2 on 1 will generally want to pass, and so will get too deep to get a good angle before trying to shoot… again, the pass is more dangerous. NEVER skate laterally towards the puck carrier. Doing so

* Playing the man coming into the zone, it usually works best if the defenseman plays a little angled to the inside, and then skates backwards roughly to the post. Doing so force the attacking forward to choose between going straight forward, getting deeper in the zone but losing angle, or heading straight across. Playing the man straight ahead gives him the choice between forward and outside, or forward and inside… and forward and inside is exactly what he wants to do anyway. By angling to the inside a bit, you can usually prevent the man from getting into the slot and getting a good scoring opportunity on the rush.

* If you’re behind the man with the puck, don’t chase him behind the net. When he gets around the other side, you’re behind the net and out of the play. Cut him off in front of the net instead. If you’re on the man and can physically impede him, go ahead and take him behind the goal line.

* If you have to clear blind, do so along the boards. Only pass up the middle if you KNOW it is safe.

* Opposing players don’t have a right to sit in front of the net, or on the back door. This is a no-checking league, but I’ve never seen anyone called for “pushing”, anywhere. Or “lifting the stick”. If his stick isn’t on the ice, chances are reeeeal good he can’t score. If someone is sitting in front of the net, or on the back door, it is more important that the D take care of them than just about anything else.

* Only block shots if you KNOW you can block them. Otherwise, you’re either screening the goalie or risking a deflection. This goes for blocking a shot with your stick as well. If you let the goalie see the shot, and don’t give the guy too much time and space, the goalie should stop most straight on shots. If you deflect it, all bets are off.

* Don’t screen your own goalie. If the attacker can shoot between your legs and be on net, you’re screening the goalie.

* If a shot from the point is about to be made, the areas by each post are extremely dangerous for rebounds. Make sure you’re ready to clear them.

* When the puck is on the way out of the zone, don’t assume it will get out until it actually does. It may be very tempting to join the rush, but it’s not always a good idea. If you’re skating forward, and the puck gets picked off right inside the blue line, there may be 2 or 3 opponents behind you. Not good.

* Don’t give up skating if the attacking team gets a breakaway. Skate hard to keep pressure on the carrier. Hold up in front of the crease, though, so you can clear rebounds. If the goalie stops the breakaway chance, it’s only fair for you to prevent a tap-in off of a rebound.