Most players who’ve played any level of competitive hockey have a pretty good idea of what a “reverse” breakout is.

There’s a D-to-D reverse and a D-to-center reverse, but for our purposes today we’re just going to be talking about the D-to-D reverse, because I want to look at what the forwards should do on that breakout to maximize their speed.

As a reminder, the D-to-D reverse:

One defenseman picks up the puck in his own zone to start the breakout, and heads to go behind his own net. His d-partner is standing in front of the net, making it look like your prototypical “wheel” breakout, where the d-man would actually skate it behind the net and start heading up ice. The d-man with the puck bumps it back off the wall and continues on (only after hearing his partner yell “reverse,” of course), then comes out in front of the net on the other side, and the d-man who was once in front comes down to pick up the puck.

It’s usually used when the d-man who picks up the puck has some pressure, so he’ll take that forechecker with him and leave the puck for his partner who has more time. It looks like this:

So then the question is, what do the forwards do?

Some coaches (and in certain situations this will happen naturally) will ask the center to adjust.

Normally, he would be mirroring that defenseman who’s picked up the puck as he goes behind the net and brings it up (in a “wheel”) so he can provide him a pass option, or he can be a pass option for the winger on the wall who’ll likely get the breakout pass. (Unless Kronwall is out there, in which case if I’m that winger I’m yelling “Keep! KEEEEP! ****ING WHEEL IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.”)

What that means is that when the puck is reversed he has to completely halt his momentum, and turn back the other way so as to provide those same options for the new puck-carrying defender.

That would make his pattern look something like this:

And that’s assuming he can make a tight turn at a good speed there. A lot of centers would be forced to stop and start (booooo stop and starts).

Now, somewhere along the way, one of my smart coaches realized that “hey, that completely kills that center’s speed, and now he’s stuck in quicksand trying to get up ice.

He had that center carry on his path, and in this case the right winger would make the read, and come over and fill the middle lane while the center takes his, like so:

That allowed the winger (now in the middle of the ice) to come across low and flat, meaning he can get the puck before skating into coverage if the d-man decides to use him, and he can be coming from behind the left-winger if he gets the puck, setting up either a chip-and-support or a quick one-touch pass to the RW who’s low enough to get possession and get his head up.

For my money, that’s the easy decision. Just have the center communicating with that right winger (or left, if the reverse happens in the other corner) saying “Switch” and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Oh, and one more note: no reverses behind your own net. Reverses should happen in the corners, otherwise a quick mess-up/wrap-around and the puck’s in your net before your goalie has a chance to flinch.

Here’s one last look:

It’s a lot easier than my crazy internet scribblings make it look, I promise.