This was a message I sent to a friend making a forward to defense transition as well:
-First and foremost I'd say is to practice skating backwards in every way possible. I like this drill: http://vimeo.com/7044412
The escape turn in that video can be a lifesaver behind your own net. Like if you're carrying it behind your own net and you have someone on you, escape turn and roll off of them.
-One thing I notice with myself and my beerleague team is poor gap control. You need to stick close to the play. Oftentimes the defense will follow the play slowly up the ice, so your forwards will get the puck in deep, but will have to stay deep and the point positions will be vacant for a few critical seconds as the D skates up. When you stick close to the play you become the second or third wave after the forwards and possible 3rd man high forward and you get a great opportunity to shoot. The same goes for coming back when the other team is breaking out. Don't turn and skate back preemptively. It will open up a big space in the ice for their winger to take and be open to receive a pass and build speed.
-Stick on puck. Stick on puck. Stick on puck. Stick on puck. That's all it takes to breakup a play. You don't have to make the diving play or the blocked shot to stop someone every time. When you're chasing someone down the boards, just get your stick on the puck and break their control. You don't necessarily have to hit the puck hard enough that it will fly 30 feet, but just enough so that they have to settle it down or don't have full control of it again. They usually have to stop skating or stop entirely when that happens.
-In front of the net, you need to be all over the screening player. So much so you can smell what they ate before the game. Whether its getting body position, boxing them out or lifting their stick. Make sure you're always in contact with them and disturbing them. I like to always be messing with their stick so they can't focus only on the play, they'll need to make sure their stick will be ready when a shot comes in. When a shot finally does come up, lift their stick, even above their shoulder if you have to: The can't bang in a rebound if their stick isn't on the ice. If the puck does drop into the crease or nearby and you're not sure what to do, put it hard off the side boards or into the corner. Basically anywhere that isn't in front of the net.
-A little stick lift can make all the difference in a play.
-The invisible rope. For defenders, one is in the corner, the other is in front of the net. When the puck is reversed around the boards as one defenseman goes into the corner, the other comes to the front of the net. The center should cover the short inbetween time. Try to keep an even amount of space inbetween both defenders. Two defenders behind their own net or in one corner leaves the slot open.
-Defending when the puck is behind your own net: This is tricky. Simultaneously you want to be close to the puck in case it jumps out, but you also need to cover the player in the slot. I try to go with player in the slot. When the play is in behind your net, its almost the least important thing; The opposing player in the slot waiting for a golden opportunity shot is the most important thing. When it goes in behind, look for their guy in the slot because that is where they will want to move the puck.
-Keep the shots from the outside. Same with opposing players skating into your zone. The best shots come from within the dots, keep them as far out to the boards as possible. If you can't get the pokecheck or body position on them coming into the zone, force them outside and grind them out in the corner, that will be the best moment you have since they have to turn into you( remember, stick on puck ). If they are protecting the puck really well and you can't get stick on puck, get your body on them and slow them down so they can't start doing laps like Forsberg did.
-When you're penalty killing, stick to the box or triangle formation and try not to get sucked into the corners. Make sure the puck stays on the outside. They might have 2 guys near our net, its kind of a catch 22 since you have to cover the guy in the crease and the one off to the side. Be ready for the pass, that will be your best opportunity to break up the play.
-More penalty killing and general breakout prevention: When they're trying to break out of their zone with the puck, the D will be looking for a pass, they wont always carry the puck themselves. Get on the open players. Open players like wingers. Come as far as even their blue line where the player is waiting for a pass. Just being near him will remove him as an option for a pass. As long as you're within a stick's length of him, he's covered. This basically combines a few things: Gap control, stick on puck, the player with the puck being the least important player. If they manage to get a pass by, be ready to hustle back. Being this aggressive in the neutral zone *can* result in 2-1's, leaving your defense partner out to dry.
Thanks for this post It's been over a year since I got back to playing beer league and I definitely need to better my ability to play d (it's not to say that I was a good d man before the injury). I have a lot of fun playing with my current team, but I would love to be less of a liability for my team and be able to help out our goalie. Thanks again for your post!
What about tying people up? What should I remember when doing that?
when in front of the net, if they're in their stance put your stick between their legs, drive through with a stride as if you are shoveling snow. If you're not behind him always have a stick on him ready to lift or hack down on to let him know your there even if a pass to the front of the net is not being anticipated.
You can also hold the stick in a cross checking way and push him from the back of his pants where the kidney pads are.
When in doubt off the break out, high off the glass. Never up the middle unless your 100% sure.
Do not stare at the puck or the eyes, watch the hips, they tell you where he is going. Just go where he is and it will all work itself out. Keep your stick to the inside at all times. Eventually you will learn to mind the gap.
The most important thing about D is knowing everything. If you try to drop into the play, or make an iffy pass, and there is a ringer expecting your weakness, it will likely cost your team a goal. As a goalie, you should already know this, but be aware of who is on the ice, and where they are at all times. Just like any position, you must be ready to move it the moment the hot potato comes to you. Try to get a regular D partner if you can, develop a rapport. Once you know where he will be without looking, you will make a decent D pairing.
Last edited by reecardo: 12-12-2012 at 12:53 AM.
Reason: mind the gap!
I really appreciate the tips in this post. For someone who is relatively new to the sport it's great to cross reference my experience with a wider body of knowledge.
I will share some tips I have received from coaches/players I respect:
1. One stick rule behind the net: As a D, if you are chasing a forward behind your net, only follow him to the other side if you are within a stick length. Anything more and you should be sliding in front of the net and your partner should take over. MAKE SURE your team mates know this rule as well so they can anticipate what you are going to do.
2. A**holes and Eyeballs (aka: compress and contain): In the corners, if you can see their eyeballs (they are facing you) you contain them. If the forward has his back to you, compress quickly.
3. Leverage: In front of the net, use your top hand to push on the lower back of the forward screening. This works great in the lower divisions where balance is an issue for most players.
4. Gap control: By the time the opposing forward hits your blue line, you should have no more than a stick length between you. Use your stick to guide the forward to the outside. This is a problem for guys that don't skate well backwards. If this is the case for you, practice at every opportunity you have.
5. Stick-Hands-Body: As others have said, stick-on-puck, stick-on-puck, stick-on-puck. Once you get the forward on the boards, follow the stick-hands-body rule to rub them out. Get your stick on the puck, then aim for the gloves and finally take the body on the boards. If you do this right, you will skate away with the puck or at the very least, separate the forward from the puck into a safe area.
6. Up the boards: More often than not, in my league, the forwards are all headed straight up the ice and NOT posting up on the half wall during a breakout, NOT crossing lanes, or swinging back in a regroup to help out. The simple rule 8 year old kids learn is that if you see your forwards numbers (his back to you), bank it off the boards. This is a percentage play.
Remember, the defensive zone is all about STRUCTURE and the offensive zone is about creativity. DO YOUR JOB!
I can only speak from my limited experience but these are some of the things I hear over and over from coaches and experienced players.