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Defensive Zone Coverage

Defensive Zone Coverage

Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies

Defensive Zone Coverage refers to coverage once the offensive team has set up in the zone and all five defensive players are also in the zone…this may happen off a face-off in the defensive zone, after the opposition enters the zone and takes a shot on net, or when the opposition enters the zone and maintains puck possession for several seconds. Following are some key principles to remember in defensive zone coverage:

  • Maintain mid-ice positioning.  Players are often in such a hurry to get to the outside to apply pressure to the puck carrier that they over commit and leave space in the most dangerous scoring area-the low slot. Few goals are scored from this outside area but in a lot of teams defensive play they will be caught with too many players covering the outside space. At younger levels often two players will go at the puck carrier not seeing that the other has already committed. Once players understand the value of mid ice positioning they will be less anxious to jump. It is important to pressure the puck carrier to deny time and space but only one person at a time.
  • Stay between the puck and the net. When checking players, make sure you always have great defensive side positioning by staying in a direct line between the puck and the net (figure 9.1). Support players defensively down low below the dots should always be on this line from the puck to the net.
  • Be ready to block shots. In today’s game, it is much more common for defenders to get into shooting lanes and block shots (primarily with the legs) or discourage opposing players from taking a shot. Although blocking a shot hurts, it takes away good scoring chances. Players who sacrifice their body to block a shot are respected by teammates and coaches. There are times when a player sprawls to block a shot which requires timing but most of the shots that are blocked are by players who make themselves big in shooting lanes. Many teams include blocking shots as part of regular practice routines.
  • Keep your stick on the ice. In offensive situations, coaches often remind players, “Keep your stick on the ice, and be ready for the pass.” We believe this is even more important in the defensive zone. By having your stick on the ice, you take away passing lanes and often intercept pucks. When you look at a video clip of all five defensive players with their sticks on the ice, it is amazing how much more space is covered. Although you often see players holding their sticks up in a comfortable position, their hands at their hips, this is a bad habit.
  • See the puck, see your man. It is important in all sports for defenders to be able to see where the offensive player is and where their coverage responsibility is. Keep your head on a swivel and look back and forth between the two, because the position of the puck is changing while at the same time your check is moving.
  • Find the stick on rebounds. When the puck is shot on goal and there is a rebound, defensive players often try to find the puck, and the free offensive player finds it first and scores. First cover the opponent’s stick, and then look to respond to the loose puck. The goaltender should tell the defensive players where the puck is (in the corner…in your feet). This will help defenders respond once they have covered the stick and taken away any immediate rebound chances. Some defenses also make the mistake of trying to knock the player down in front. When the puck is in the net area the first rule is to take a stick. Next, it is important to get body position on the player and finally you may attempt to move the player or knock him down. These principles will all be reviewed in the following systems.

Figure 9.1 Great defensive side positioning requires staying in a direct line between the puck and the net.

Defensive Zone Systems

2-3 System

Low Zone Collapse

Half-Ice Overload

Man on Man Coverage

Situational Guidelines for Defensive Zone Coverage

Handling the Low Two on One out of the Corner

Defending a Player Behind the Net

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