(Note: with their being no actual hockey games over All-Star weekend, the features “The Whiteboard” and “Systems Analyst” are trading days this week - Systems Analyst will run tomorrow.)
This isn’t the most advanced topic in hockey, but it’s certainly an important one: what are the responsibilities of each defensive player off a lost faceoff in your own zone? A breakdown there often results in a quick goal.
Let’s run through every position.
For starters, the obvious: don’t lose the draw clean. If you can’t win it back, you’re best just tying up the opposing center and let the winger coming through help out. But for the sake of today, let’s say the centerman loses it clean. Here’s what things look like to start:
The centerman that won the draw, the big bad “X” there (or possibly a “K?”), he’ll be doing one thing: heading to the net. The d-man that he won the puck to will likely walk it off the wall (or at least he’s supposed to), and try to get the puck on net, so that center wants to provide a screen or to redirect the puck.
That defensive centerman has to stay with him, plain and simple. He has to lift his stick on attempted tips, maintain body position, all that stuff. Since the opposing center is going to become a low player, it’s only natural that the forward who usually defends low, the center, would stick with him.
The left winger’s job in this situation is the most Usain Bolt-ish, and possibly the most important. He’s lined up on the inside, and his job is to get out to that defenseman who’s about to get the puck. You don’t line up on the wall because you always defend inside-out. You want to keep that d-man on the wall, and out of the middle of the ice.
The LW’s job is also to front, and hopefully block the coming shot. The problem is, the winger lined up on the offensive side of the puck also has a job: to pick you.
Of course, “picks” aren’t legal, but you’re allowed to have an area of the ice and make someone go around you. So that winger will line up “off” the hashmarks, as he just needs to get in your way, and that provides him a better angle. That’s why it’s Usain Bolt-ish: when that puck drops, you have to be ready in those starting blocks so you can hit the hole between him and the center before it closes.
The good news is, he can get some help in that race…
His check just happens to be that pesky guy that’s about to try to close off the left winger from getting out to the point, so he (the RD) can line up a step ahead of the left winger, and help create a hole like a blocker. Obviously “picks” and “creating holes” aren’t legal plays, so you have find a way to do it with some body position, some sneaky stuff.
After the initial flurry of activity, the right defenseman just stays with his guy there, wherever he chooses to go. Pretty simple.
As a reminder, wing is a pretty damn easy position. The weak side winger stays low near the slot, and since the puck is on the strong side, he’s….well, in perfect position. More or less, anyway.
You do want to drift up a little in case the draw isn’t won perfectly clean and your left winger is able to grab the puck so you have some momentum to go support him. Also, you don’t want to make a d-to-d one-timer look too appealing, so you want to front a little higher than you normally would. But still…hard strides aren’t exactly in your near future.
HERE’S A DIAGRAM FOR YOU:
The left defenseman is lined up directly across from his guy, but he has a tough read to make. That wall-side forward he’s covering is likely also going to the net, assuming the other team isn’t running some trick play. So if that forward chooses to go above the pile of centerman, he runs the risk of getting picked and losing his guy:
That means that playing him “soft” is the right option, and going underneath the pile, and picking him back up on the other side:
BUT, you can’t plan on doing that every time, because if he grabs the puck off a slowly won faceoff, you need to go stop that shot.
Also, that forward may choose to go under the pile, so all in all, it’s a read play – that’s your guy, be sure to stick with him.
It’s pretty basic when all goes according to plan, but when one thing breaks down – the left winger can’t get out to his guy, the left d-man loses his… – it can put your team in a tough spot awfully quick.
Any questions? Maybe someone wants some art advice?