Hanging a Forechecker on the Net While Initiating a Breakout
Initiating a breakout is one of those situations that happens multiple times every singe game. It’s important to “arm” our defensemen with the tools they’ll need to be successful in these recurring patterns.
One such tool is the tactic of hanging the forechecker up on the net, as shown in the clip above. This tactic involves two steps:
“Baiting” the forechecker into thinking he’s got a chance at catching you
Cutting tight behind the net, at an angle that makes it so he can’t stay with you
When used properly, this will open up time and space, and make the other team have to make decisions––which is what we’re all about. As the defenseman skated up ice, other players will have to leave their coverage to pick him up. Then it becomes a numbers game; the idea is to draw players to you, then beat them with a pass. This turns a 5 on 5 into a 5 on 4, then into a 4 on 3, and so on until you’ve got an odd-man scoring attempt.
My dad used to say you don’t have to be a great player to be a great defenseman. What he meant by that is that you don’t have to be the fastest, the most technically sound, and you don’t have to have the hardest shot. Being an excellent defenseman means being a SMART player.
Excellent defensive play is more about making the right pass, shot selection, managing gap, body positioning, controlling the front of the net, reading forechecking pressure, etc. These are all mental skills, and these are the skills that make for a great defenseman!
In this video, we see a well-executed 1 on 1 by a Russian defenseman. The key points shown in this example are as follows:
Properly managed gap; two stick lengths as they cross the blue line.
Good upper body posture; arms loose, but compact. Hands at the hips.
Poke check, not swipe check; you can poke check and miss all day long, and still maintain proper body positioning.
Re-closing the gap; after the Swiss player turns back, the Russian defenseman re-closes the gap to maintain proper positioning in case of a re-entry.
I love watching the World Junior Championships each year. It’s a chance to see a bunch of talented, young, “up-and-comers” playing some high-quality hockey, in a fun and exciting atmosphere.
The nature of the games, and of the tournament in general, lends itself to a great study of the game. The players are smaller than in the NHL, there’s a bigger gap between the top and bottom teams, and the games are more of a finesse style of play. Which means, lots of scoring, especially in the early rounds, and lots of well-executed systems play.
Even at the highest levels of play, you still see mistakes made. And games are won and lost based in the DETAILS. In this video, we see what happens when a defenseman fails to have his head on a swivel. On-ice awareness is essential at ANY level of play, but especially at the highest levels of play. If a player doesn’t know what’s going on around him, a good team will take advantage of that and the puck will be in the back of his net before he knows what hit him!
It’s no secret that Sagging Zone Coverage is one of my favorite Defensive Zone Coverage setups. Recently, a few questions have surfaced regarding the Centerman’s role in the coverage.
In this video, we address the role of the centerman as the “3rd defenseman,” and how he or she should play the position effectively. If you haven’t watched our other videos on the Sagging Zone Coverage, take a look here:
Sagging Zone Coverage is one of my favorite Defensive Zone Coverage setups of all time. I love the fact that you can be aggressive, create turnovers, but at the same time never be out-manned in front of your own net.
In this clip, we see Team Canada execute Sagging Zone Coverage masterfully. This is performed almost exactly how we describe it here – D-Zone Coverage: “Sagging” Zone
The only real difference is that they interchange positions more often than you’d usually see at younger age groups.