This one falls under “The Basics,” because it really doesn’t take that long to explain.

When your team has three forwards in the offensive zone and solid possession of the puck, you have a lot of leeway from your coach to get creative, and have very little positional rules. Still, when the puck changes sides you want to do it as efficiently as possible, so there’s a rotation.

Priority 1A is keeping a guy high. Let’s take a look at where players will typically be to start, and where they eventually go.

Of worthy note: the more you can change sides (go east to west, as coaches put it), the tougher it is on the defense. They have to rotate, they have to switch checks, and the center becomes like a dog chasing a tennis ball, who you can wear out. Confusion is a plus, so you want to be able to do this well.

Here’s where you would typically start.

F1 has the puck, while F2 supports him low. He can use F2 to cycle, he can use him for picks, either way, they’re playing out their little 2-on-2 down low against the opposing D and center.

F3 is staying high in case of a turnover, but he’s also trying to find a soft spot in the defensive coverage where he can take a ceiling-scraping one-time on a quick pass from F1.

The D, as always, are where the D are. Good D. /ear scritch

So let’s say the puck goes around behind the net to the other corner – maybe the opposing team thwacked it there, or a bad pass sent it that way. Either way, it goes there and your team momentairly loses the puck.

F3 is to become F1, as he’s the closest to that side of the ice, and therefore the puck (I probably have him starting a little heavy on the strong-side in my diagram. You want to be somewhere near the top of the circles though, not in the middle).

F2 is a little tougher to draw because he has reads to make. I had a coach who preferred we went side-to-side without the puck in front of the net; that way if F3 doesn’t win the race to the puck, you’re not trapped as deep on the backcheck. Once he gets there, he has to decide if A) he’s going to be in on the puck battle, or B), his teammate is going to get solid possession and he should pick a side to support him on.

And F1 simply heads out of the corner to become the high guy, the new F3. No odd man rushes allowed.

All in all, it looks like this:

The only time this would be different is if F1 and F2 are in a puck battle while the puck goes side to side (or they just take it side to side), in which case F3 would just come straight across the tops of the circles.

F3 is precisely why teams are so good when they get the lead. When you’re down, coaches often “activate” F3 more, allowing him to take more chances, out-number your opponent on the puck, and get more creative. Once you’re up, well, you just remain dilligent about keeping that guy high, and your opponent never has much of a chance to create off the rush.

Comments (4)

  1. Add a few circles, some zig zags, and a cork screw and that’s EXACTLY how my rec league team does it…

    • In our rec league, the primary difference between good and bad teams is that D pair.

      The good teams have them about where JB drew ‘em. They’re available for point drives, pinching to hold the zone, cutting through if the opposing wing is napping, etc. etc.

      On the bad teams those guys are often barely straggling over the red line just as the other team wins possession and heads back at them. If they step up they’re beat. So they head back too soon and leave humongous big space for opposing forwards to cross and pull up and whatever they damn well please. Or they stand still to try to take away that gap, and can’t recover when the counterattack does a little chip-by with speed.

      It’s actually quite comical to watch a series of poor three-on-two rushes where both bad teams’ D hang back way too far.

  2. Okay, I hear you about why that coach wanted F2 to use the front of the net instead of the back, but with F2 moving through space and F1 going high, I’m not sure where F3 goes with the puck should he win that race. Up the boards to the dman? Eat it until F2 can get somewhere to support him?

    My default read as F2 is to use the lane behind the net so that F3 has somewhere to shovel it. Is that just flat out wrong? In rec, I’m typically a little faster than most of the guys I play with (sadly I have the creativity of an enforcer with a head injury), so I tend to play a little more positionally aggressive. Would you suggest more patience and to use that front lane instead?

    • I think the best way here is to read the situation. If it’s pretty clear that F3 is going to win the race, then support him along the boards behind the net so that he has somewhere to cycle to (alternatively you could use the path in front of the net if there is a direct passing lane for F3 to potentially get you the puck). If it the d are going to get there first then the path suggested is a safe route to make sure there are not odd rushes.

      The real skill is in reading a play that could go either way. Do you join the battle via the most direct route? Play it safe and pass side-to-side in front of the net just in case? You say you’re not creative so my advise would be to play the pass on the boards if you can see F3 has that option straight away, otherwise play it safe and take the route suggested. This may also give you a split second more to assess the situation and choose your angle of attack.

      Remember the key to a good line is communication so make sure to discuss it with your line mates so everyone’s on the same page!

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