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01-22-2014, 02:41 PM
AK Dandyman
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Here's my thoughts on our d zone defensive system. Not a lot of answers, just something to chew on.

It was awful at the start of the season, it did improve somewhat but it's still ineffective due to our players mix and a number of other reasons.

Early in the season, Eakins tried to play a full swarm in the d zone, which is to put high puck pressure on opposing puck carrier, to force them to outside near the board, then our second player(usually a forward when opponents cycle up the puck) come in from an angle(blocking the passing lane to the middle angle) would come in to double team the puck carrier and dispossess him with a body check or pinching him to the board. Also, the D men would not go chasing further than above the faceoff dot(Krueger's syetem had the d men chased all the way up to the blue line), if puck carrier skates back high to the blueline, our d men would hand over the check to a forward teammate about when they hit the faceoff dot and then retreat.

This failed because of many things, but one of the biggest problems was with the forwards. They were coming in late because they're not in the right d positioning to start with but that can be taught. However, the number 1 problem was, when our forwards got there to the puck carrier for the check, they do not put a body on the opposition or even get in the way as they would only waive their sticks and then fly by. When our d man is chasing the puck carrier taking puck back towards the blue line or an open space, the d man's job is to prevent the puck carrier cutting into a prime scoring position. Therefore in this situation, our d man is relying on the forward teammate to stop the puck carrier by getting in the way. However, our forwards, especially these skill guys Gagner, Eberle, Hemsky, Hall, Yakupov, don't deliver hit nor use their bodies to get in the way(Perron or RNH would at least get in the way).

On top of not able to check opponents there, some of these skill guys would try waiving their sticks to intercept a pass, and then proceed to take a skating angle that's "assuming" they can pick off the pass and breaking out for offense. When they couldn't intercept the pass, they're in no man's land(bad d position). This allows the opposing players space to freelance in our d zone and go anywhere they want without having to stop or being put to a stop. And our forwards are caught behind the play and always too late to get back in a good defensive position even this has been a single zone play in our zone for a while(not like this is a counter attack breakout where the forwards getting caught up ice). The opponents would just give n go, move their feet and they would maintain possession until they found someone wide open.

This is why other teams can control the play so well in our zone for a long duration of time and generate dangerous scoring chances so often. Our 2 D men are basically killing an even strength penalty because they're shorthanded as their forwards couldn't stop or check anybody. For example, we almost never see our skilled wingers pushed the opposing d man out of our zone at the blue line after that opposing d man passed or shot the puck. Therefore, their d man can pass the puck, then move into better offensive position freely to receive a return pass in open because our forward would just skate by them. If the opposing D man was body checked(like most of the NHL teams forward are required to do so), he would have to skate from a stand still or skate farther to get open again. That means his teammates have lost an offensive passing option because his D man is not in position to receive a return pass after getting body checked. This would have given our d men or another forward more time to get in on the puck carrier instead of the opponents just give n go past them skating free in our own zone.

I think Eakins finally figured out this swarm weren't working with the players we have, so he changed it to a more passive zone d for the forwards instead of having the forwards to "swarm" the puck carrier by hitting and pinching them to the board. Now the forwards are supposed to stay on the "correct side of the puck", and to clog up a the middle more forcing the opponents to pass on the perimeter.

I am going to call this tone down version of the swarm, the buzz. Our soft forwards are like mosquitoes since they can't knock anyone out of position with their bodies, they'd go towards the opposition quickly and try a strategic sting on the puck carrier(by trying to steal the puck from them). and failing that, we're supposed to still be in the correct defensive position to disrupt opponents from making that perfect pass to the player in prime scoring position. With the swarm, they are further out of position because the soft forwards would just skate hard at the puck carrier and then fly by without hitting him.

The buzz basically disrupts or delays the opposing team getting the puck to prime scoring position. It is better than swarming. However, it's still not very effective because at the end of the day, when we don't put a body on the opponents, they can still skate freely in our own zone to receive pass.

Take a look at how other team hemming us in our zone with them moving the puck and themselves freely around untouched by pass and go, especially how much freedom their d men have when we have our skill guys on the ice.

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