web analytics

Forechecking on Penalty Kills

Forechecking on Penalty Kills

Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies

Now that you have cleared the puck 200 feet (55 m) from your net (initiating the forecheck) with the help of your expert face-off alignment, let’s look at ways to respond to your opponent’s breakout. Many coaches prefer different styles of up-ice positioning, and it all depends on the objective of your attack. For example, do you want to angle your opponent toward the red line? Do you want to take away speed and a primary passing option? Do you want to pressure deep up ice or meet the attack at the far blue line? Do you want to prevent a long pass and possible breakaway? Your team’s objective determines how your players, especially the two forwards, align themselves on the forecheck.

After clearing the puck or carrying it out of the defensive zone, penalty killers have three options:

  1. Change to get fresh players on the ice. A change is the priority at any time close to 30 seconds into the shift.
  2. Pressure the puck when it is dumped down, and try to disrupt the breakout
  3. Challenge the PP and try to score. Many PP units have a forward on defense and are made up of the team’s best offensive players. On most teams these players lack defensive skills, so the PP unit’s ability to defend is below average. If attempting to score, don’t get fancy—take the puck straight to the net. If you try to make too many plays, there is a better chance of a turnover and most likely you will be caught and too tired to react appropriately. If you simplify the attack and go hard to the net, more than likely you will draw a penalty or get a decent scoring chance.

This section describes five forechecking options. In reality, the PK unit rarely disrupts the PP breakout deep in the opposition’s own end; therefore, it is important on the forecheck to position yourself in the neutral zone so that you are able to pressure the entry.

Tandem Pressure is a more aggressive style of forecheck pressure allowing the forwards freedom to angle and press the puck carrier. This style puts more pressure on the opponent in the neutral zone but can spread out the 4 penalty killers over two zones.

The Forwards Wide approach offers token pressure up ice and creates 4 player alignment across the defending blue line. This forces the opposition to chip or dumpt the puck into the zone and accomplishes its goal of “taking the puck out of the power plays hands” where the PK now has an equal chance of retrieving the puck. The Forwards Wide approach works well against power plays who prefer to carry the puck into the zone on entries because pressure can be applied on that puck carrier to turn over the puck.

The Retreating Box (or the Backing-up Box) keeps all puck possession to the outside and allows angled pressure and no cross ice passing. The Retreating Box works well against power plays who prefer to dump the puck into the zone because it keeps the PK D further back into the zone and therefore gives them a better chance at puck retrieval. The Retreating Box does allow the power play more possession  entries but never through the middle. In other words, opponents can skate with speed on the outside of the box and maintain possession of the puck until challenged deeper in the zone.

The Same-Side Press forecheck forces the opponents’ entry towards one side of the ice where all the defending pressure can be applied. This system allows both forwards to angle the direction of the play and allows their strong side defenseman to step up and make the blue line harder to enter. Teams who move the puck well laterally in the neutral zone may have a chance to break this forecheck but the Same-Side Press makes it difficult to enter on the strong-side.

The Passive 1-3 backs up in unison and tries to hold a close gap in the neutral zone. This formation is more passive but has the same goal of getting the power play to dump the puck into the zone (taking the puck out of their hands) and giving the 4 penalty killers and opportunity to retrieve and ice the puck. This alignment is primarily set up to confront the PP unit at the blueline and force a turnover or dump in.



F1 angles and pressures the opposition, trying to get there as soon as the opposing player picks up the puck (figure 10.8). F1 recovers after forcing a pass or stays in the battle if he creates a scramble. F2 angles in on the first pass, making sure he is in position to get back while trying to force the player to unload the puck. D1 and D2 maintain a tight gap, making sure they are aware of any stretch players. F1 fills in the mid-ice lane, while F2 stays up in the middle, skating backward or angling forward and trying to force the entry to one side.

Figure 10.8



F1 angles and pressures the opposition, trying to get there as soon as the opposing player picks up the puck (figure 10.9). F1 then moves back and takes the wide lane while skating forward. F2 swings and takes the opposite wide lane, also skating forward. D1 and D2 stay up in the middle; they need to have a tight gap and confidence to be tight in the neutral zone.

Figure 10.9



F1 forces the opposition if he can and then skates backward up one side of the ice in line with the dots (figure 10.10). F2 skates backward up the other side. D1 and D2 tighten up in mid-ice. All four players skate backward together. Once the opposing puck carrier crosses the blue line, F1 or F2 forces that player to his backhand. Therefore, if the player is a left shot, then F2 forces him toward F1. F1 tries to deny the pass back to where he came from.

Figure 10.10



F1 and F2 wait in the neutral zone for the opposition to break out (figure 10.11). F1 angles the puck carrier to one side with a good stick, preventing passes back. F2 angles across to the same side and goes after the pass of the puck carrier. D1 and D2 tighten up in mid-ice. D2 is ready to challenge passes to the far side, and D1 is ready to retrieve pucks dumped in.

Figure 10.11



F1 applies pressure only when he is sure he can get the puck and clear it or can force the other player as he picks up the puck (figure 10.12). F1 now retreats with a tight gap, initially skating backward and then forces the puck carrier to one side. F2 stays in mid-ice behind F1, also skating backward with a tight gap. D1 and D2 stay up; they need to have a tight gap and confidence to be tight in the neutral zone. They also must be aware of any stretch players getting behind them. D1 or D2 must attempt to contront the entry at the blueline by standing up to the carrier and forcing a dump in.

Figure 10.12

Continue Reading: Pressuring The Entry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

AlphaOmega Captcha Classica  –  Enter Security Code