Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies
Cycling. Setting up behind the net. Activating the defense in the offensive zone. Exploiting the high seam area. Protecting the puck low to buy time and find players who are open. Getting open off the puck. Screening the goaltenders. Making tight plays to sticks at the net. These are all tactics and strategies in the attacking zone.
Once an attacking team has possession in the offensive zone, the brilliant coaches in the great game of hockey really turn on the creative juices. The goal of every attacking team is to create offensive chances. What constitutes a “chance” differs from coach to coach, but in essence, a chance is a shot taken from inside the scoring area. There are three general philosophies to create these offensive chances:
- Shooting through traffic
- Creating separation
- Creating deception
Taking shots through traffic (players in front of the goaltender) will obviously distract the goaltender or deny him the opportunity to see the puck. Goalies are so good these days that a shot without traffic between the shooter and the goalie in many instances is a giveaway. All of the top offensive teams make sure that one player is always in the net are and moving across the sight lines of the goaltender or planted in front of the goaltender. Often this tactic results in the opposition trying to clear the net by moving this player which results in a double screen or possibly a penalty. Both favor the offensive team.
In the separation tactic, the puck carrier creates the time and space needed to make successful plays and create shots. Players away from the puck have to work to get open and separate from their check. They should move to areas where they can receive a pass and be ready to one time the puck or shoot quickly. Sometimes players off the puck can move into an area and then push off their check or push back into an open space. It sounds like a simple principle to separate from your check but I find that a lot of offensive players off the puck skate into their check and essentially “check themselves”. When you watch smart players they always seem to be able to get open and as a result they always have the puck.
The puck carrier also needs to be deceptive so that the defending team doesn’t know whether he is going to shoot or pass. Deception tactics include faking a shot or pass or simply looking the defender off. Looking the defender off the puck means looking at an option, making a motion to pass in that direction and then skating or moving in another direction. Usually the defender will turn his feet toward the first look and as a result give the offensive player room to move by. Coaches often talk about the triple threat position and we mention it several times in this book. When an offensive player has the puck he should always keep it by the hip on his forehand side which gives him the option of pass, shooting, or making a move on the defender. This triple threat position creates deception simply by where the puck is and the options available. All of these tactics play themselves out through many practiced and set plays that we will now explore.