Quick Guide to playing Defense(foot or skate hockey in non-contact/checking play)
Figured i would assemble my experience and thoughts on defending, as lately I've been thinking about this subject a fair amount and i think i need to put in down in writing. These will be for non checking/contact league, as physical play tends to modify things a bit and not a lot of us play with big hits.
1) Keep playing the man
No checking/contact league doesn't mean you can't touch opponents at all. You need to play it more like a basketball player, that is get in the way of the opponent, but don't rush towards him. As he is coming towards, just get in his way and follow him. If he decides to keep coming at you, HE will check you and get a penalty(or at least a bad rep amongst the other players). He can do every deke in the book, if you follow the body, you will be ok.
Follow Lidstrom(#5). He gives good example on playing the man while not ''hitting the player''. Yes there's a little pushing going around, but i think you can get away with this even in outdoor pickup games. A lot of people love when you get a little physical as it adds intensity to the game.
2)The middle is king
I can't stress, you have to stay in the middle. Giving the middle is a disaster. Even when your opponent is coming full speed towards the middle, its better to get in his way and risk getting runned over then to step aside and let him get the middle. People on the side get poor shots/have to make passes. These tend to fail a lot more.
Robidas does this very well.
3)Cut the pass at all times
Whenever you get outnumbered, always cut the pass. Trust your goalie, even if the last time you trusted him he let an easy one get in. In the long run, shot < pass+shot in terms of scoring. Bend your knees, the stick low, dont run into your goalie(stop just before that). When the puck carrier takes the shot, be quick to CLEAR any rebound. I can't stress this enough. On a 2 on 1, you want to clear the puck most of the time. Keeping is likely to make you lose it right in front of your net.
Lidstrom showing why he's the best
4)Bending your knee = key to poke check
I can't stress this enough because i even see guys in the nhl not doing this. Bending your knees will give you extra range and allow you to have an explosive acceleration following the poke check. If you poke check by leaning your back forward, even if he does lose the puck your in a situation where you have 0 acceleration potential. A quick tip to remember - when you poke check, you want to pokecheck as if you were sitting down on a very low chair.
I really like ed5k. He thoroughly explains the art of the poke check in here.
5)Don't be results oriented
Result oriented is a term that comes from gambling, where one makes the right play but gets a wrong result, and after that starts doing bad plays because ''the right play didn't work''
You decide to stay in the middle and give some room on the boards to an attacker. He takes a shot and scores a snipe top shelf over the goalie's shoulder.
The next time you get a similar situation, you decide to leave the middle of the ice and get the player.
THIS IS INCORRECT. Because his shot got in once last time, does not mean that in the long run staying in the middle is incorrect. You have to see the long run. For everytime he gets a sick top shelf snipe, he will get stopped by your keeper 10-20 times.
You decide to cut the pass in a 2 on 1. The puck carrier seeing your cutting the pass, takes a shot and scores. It would be incorrect though, that from now on you go for the puck carrier and stop cutting passes. Pass + shot > shot. If you decide to stop the shot, he will pass and score a lot more often then when you just give him the shot.
6)Shout like a Spartan
Communication is key. Talk, shout, point, whatever you need to do. You have to communicate to your other teamates on how to approach situations. Tell your defenseman to take this guy or cover the pass or whatever, but don't be afraid to talk, point or whatever you need to do to make your point clear. Don't be afraid to be the guy ''in-charge''. Don't do it in an ''angry'' way. Do it in a friendly but firm way.
Ed5k again explains very well. This might be a little advanced for beer leagues or pickup games but believe me, it does wonders.
7)I even stick lift the canes of blind people
In non checking league, stick lift becomes the no.1 tool if the opposing team sets up in your zone. Do not stick lift ''just for the sake of it''. If you stick lift too much, you lose the element of surprise and opposing forwards will expect it and position themselves to stop you from doing so. Wait for a player to make the pass in the crease and then lift using both hands. Also, if your in a position where stick lift is impossible(in front of the player), just whack his stick sideways. It's not as good but still does the job.
Kids these days!
8) Playing Defense is fun
I want to finish with this point because it's very important that as a defensive player, you matter A LOT, despite sometimes not being the flashy goal scorer. Anytime i make a good defensive play, such as a solid stick lift or pokecheck, i always add a +1 to a personal count that i keep, so i know im doing well or not.
Anyway, thats all i got for now, i will probably add more later. If you have questions or want to add more, go ahead. I haven't covered the ''when do i go from skating backwards to forward'', because to be honest, although im getting pretty good at it, i want to experience more of it till i reach a solid conclusion.
Nice guide and very well done. I enjoyed it.
thanks for the post. I love ready posts like this and trying to improve as much as possible. Im gonna save this post and refer back to it later, thx.
Right now im playing LW but am eventually transitioning over to D. I fill in for a D-man who may not be able to make our beer league games. Im hoping to switch full time to D when the next season starts in August.
Thanks, first tip is obviously most important. Good way to do it I've found is to just stare at the guys chest and be aggressive. Even in a non-contact league, this is possible. You don't need to check him in the chest but just stand your ground, it really helps if you're short in this regard ^_^
So when some people play the man, they just back off and off and off. You basically run (rollerblading for me) at him until you're right in front of his chest and take away his speed, his stick usually stops moving and you can kick or poke the ball away or force a quick pass.
Great points, this pretty much goes under defending the middle/knees bent thing but big thing I notice in my beer league when d-men make mistakes is they think at the blueline is when you need to STEP-UP on their man, but then they commit way too much and the opposition easily gets by.
Make sure when they are coming in at the blueline thats when you CLOSE THE GAP, not necessarily make a move to take the puck and get caught flat footd/goin the other way.
Also do the last point - I completely agree. Playing defense is fun.
Telling a d-man to pinch does not mean "stand at their blue-line poke-checking while they skate at you full speed with the puck"
Nor does it mean "when you're the last man back, try to deke through all 3 forecheckers... twice."
It means "When we've got the puck, make sure you jump into the play."
This thread needs more love.
Nice post OP.
Great post. All very accurate tips. Communication is definitely key.
Good post! I'm a new defenseman and there are very useful tips there! One question about communicating. What do you say? My team doesn't talk much, I try to, but I'm not exactly sure what to say.
"TIME" - No one close by, take your time with the puck.
"MAN" or "MAN ON" - There's someone right on his tail.
There's others too:
"POINT" - In offensive zone, defenceman is open on the point and looking for the pass.
"WALL" - Look for the pass further up the wall.
Be careful, some teams will yell false commands at yours. So make sure to take a look or use the guy's name.
I was playing my first game back at defense last night. The other team was trying a lot of stretch passes across the ice, so I had to chase a lot of pucks into the corner behind me with a forechecker right on my tail.
The question is, what angle should I take on the puck and how should I play it in that situation? I was caught between going to the boards and getting cut off trying to go behind the net on the backhand, and I didn't want to stay too far to the middle of the ice and sell that I was going up the boards and get cut off there...subsequently I was kind of caught in between and usually got pinned.
That's an excellent, excellent summary. It took me a while to learn a lot of those points.
I would add a few things to the list:
The glass is you're friend
If you're getting crowded or your forwards aren't in position for a breakout pass, chip it up and out off the glass. Never a bad play. Same thing for taking an icing when you've been stuck in the zone a long time, give your guys a break.
Know when (and when not) to pinch
In the offensive zone, a lot of scoring opportunities happen due to a bad pinch at the point leading to an odd man rush (or breakaway). Don't pinch if the player on the other team has the puck or is coming towards you because he has all the momentum if he wins the puck battle. Pinch when the puck is coming towards you and you can clearly win the race.
Don't be afraid to play in the offensive zone
You don't need to be glued to the boards and blue line if your team has possession. If you're on the weak side, skate up and join the play. If you're on the strong side, get closer to the boards to give a passing option. Just remember to communicate and that you need to play defense first!
Don't screen the goalie!
Don't do it! Give him a clear lane to see the puck. He has pads and a glove and is way better than you at stopping pucks, so let him do his job. Get out of the way and tie up anyone coming towards the slot or clear rebounds.
Thats one thing I COULDN'T STRESS ENOUGH USE THE STICK LIKE ANOTHER PART OF YOUR BODY
Up...I feel like this should be stickied, or added to the good topics list.
Agreed. Lotta gems in this.
If I could add anything on the "play the body" part...
Watch the bellybutton. - The bellybutton doesn't have a toe drag, deke, etc and is easy to follow. If you watch the puck, you'll get beat by players more skilled than you.
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