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09-28-2011, 03:42 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Texas
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Originally Posted by FootKnight View Post
I think my biggest problem right now is that I try to force passes up the middle too much. When I first started playing D, I never passed through the middle, ever. I always chipped off the boards or passed to an open guy on my side. As I got more confident, I started passing up the middle until I thought I was doing it too much (and giving it away), so I went back to more off the boards to get it out of zone stuff. My team asked me to try for more actual passes TO people and now I'm back to passing up the middle too much and giving it away.

The problem is that a lot of the time when I pick up a loose puck in my zone on the left side, I look up and all three forwards are skating right and the left side of the ice is empty. If I have time, I'll skate it out, but usually I've got someone closing on me and I'm not going to try to deke the guy alone in the faceoff circle. I feel like chipping it up the boards will result in a giveaway anway, but not in the middle, I guess.

Should I just chip it up the boards and hope that a forward manages to get it or take comfort in the fact that giveaway wasn't in the middle?
A few things, as a guy who played defense my entire life, including in college:

1. Forwards love to complain about us chipping the puck off the glass and out, sending the puck around the boards, or making the otherwise safe play. "If you hit me with a pass instead of playing it off the boards we'll end up with a lot more opportunities". Yes, I KNOW this, but unless YOU are in a good position to receive a pass, I'm not going to force one. My job is, primarily, to keep the other team from scoring. If you want a tape to tape pass... put your tape someplace I can pass to. It's a two-way street here and at the lower levels, forwards don't want/know to help/know their role. At higher levels such as high school, travel and college, when we had set break outs and practiced them daily, this was no longer an issue. In men's league, you'll have to talk to the guys and explain WHY you can't give them the passes they want. Now that I'm just playing men's league, I've had to explain it plenty, even to guys who once played a higher level, coached hockey.

2. In the situation you describe with all three forwards bunched to one side and the other side virtually empty, a smart and safe play to make is to YELL to the forwards and bank the puck, hard, off the boards on the empty side, at an angle that will propel it back towards the side all your forwards are on. So if you're on the left, and the neutral zone is empty on the left, and all you're forwards are on the right, play the puck HARD off the left boards, but not in a way that will send it down the ice, but instead will bank towards the center of the neutral zone. If you got your forwards attention right before doing this, at least one of them should have the foresight to see what you're doing and start breaking across the neutral zone hard to pick up the puck. Rather than making a "pass" you've put the puck in empty ice where one of your players can skate to it.

3. Regardless of the skill level, sometimes they will be open and you will want to/have to make a pass down the middle. If you don't you'll miss out on a lot of chances to jump start the offense, so if you plan on being anything more than a stay-at-home, play-it-safe defenseman, eventually you have to start making the stretch pass (might have to talk to them about actually being open though - you need to have options as a d-man, your guys shouldn't all be leaving the zone as soon as you have possession, the breakout starts IN the defensive zone and you need them to be spread out, providing you a few different choices for where to go with the puck, safely). My biggest tip here, besides talking to them about the breakout, is to work on a good saucer pass. Forget the spin and keeping it flat in the air... just work on being able to get the puck airborn and getting it to land without bouncing. If your guys DO get open and you have to make the pass, you don't want it getting picked off (say you have a lane, but someone reads the play and skates into your lane before the long pass can connect, but after you've released the puck - if it's on the ice, it's picked off 99% of the time; not so in the air). If you can drop the puck a few feet before it gets to its intended receiver and have it stay flat on the ice and not bounce, your homerun pass will work out a lot more often.

But it starts in the defensive zone. All of your guys shouldn't be on one side of the ice. All of your guys shouldn't be leaving the zone just because their D-man has the puck. The breakout starts in the D-zone and it requires options. My college team broke the puck out with a defenseman behind the net, another 15 feet to one side on the goal line, a forward by the hashmarks on each side of the boards and the center swooping in between the circles. It might take 2-3 passes under forechecking pressure to break it out smoothly and more if you're forced to backtrack, but you keep the passes short, everyone within the zone and the options open. No turnovers. Once you have that aspect down, you can start working on anticipating the turnover and looking down ice for a quick attack.

Last edited by Mithrandir: 09-28-2011 at 03:54 PM.
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