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Playing Behind the Net

Playing Behind the Net

Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies

Wayne Gretzky played behind the net so well that this area became known as his “office.” Gaining offensive positioning behind the net opens up many opportunities for direct-shot (high-percentage) chances. To effectively use the back of the net teams should automatically move the puck to this space when they don’t have another option. The offensive player at the net now reads his teammate is in trouble and moves to the back of the net area. When a pass is made to the back of the net the offensive team will always get there first because the defensive team never overplays this area. Using the back of the net forces the opposing defense and goaltender to focus on that area while losing track of where players are in front. Sometimes two defenders can be drawn into this area; if the defensemen are unsure of who should be covering the player behind the net, both may jump in at the same time. Now at least one offensive player will be open in the dangerous scoring area in front of the net.

Figure 4.3 Pressing the net.


One of the most effective plays from behind the net occurs when an offensive defenseman skates hard from the point (blue line) looking to receive a pass in the slot (figure 4.3). If the defenseman pressing the net is unable to receive a clear pass, the second option off of this play becomes very dangerous. As this defenseman moves to the front of the net – pulling as many defenders with him as possible – the boards-side forward steps into this “soft spot” vacuum and often gets to take a dangerous shot through the traffic created by the pressing defenseman.

The second play selection from behind the net (figure 4.4) is also hard to defend. The big decision that defenders must make about the offensive player standing behind the net with the puck is when or how they should flush him out from behind the net. If the defending defenseman attacks the offensive player from one side of the net, two options open up. The first is that players in high-percentage scoring areas may be left open. The second option is for the player with the puck to reverse the flow and create some “back-door” deception. When flushed out, the player with the puck angles the puck (similar the half-boards cycle) to a teammate filling this flushed-out position. Defenders who were focused on the player being flushed out must now divert their attention back toward the other side of the net. This refocus often opens up back door or backside plays.

Figure 4.4 Options for a player being flushed from behind the net.

Continue Reading: Stretching the Zone: Low-High Plays

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