Some principles on defensive hockey tactics (nothing for experts but for the "casual fan")

during the playoffs i have read several posts about hockey tactics in some discussions and was a bit amused how people mix things up. i am not an expert (coach) for myself, but i know some principles about hockey strategies. i hope that people with greater knowledge than me correct my mistakes and add thoughts. i am not trying to teach anybody wrong with this post, just want to find some clarrification, so that everybody is on the same page. for those who are familiar with this, please add your knowledge. please excuse my bad english since i am not a native speaker.

the explanations follow after the jump

trap system:

used by the devils in the 90s.

no man forecheck in the off zone, all five players are in the neutral zone. when the opponent tries to skate with the puck into the neutral zone he is opposed either by one winger or the centerman, depends where he enters the zone. the purpose of the trap is to maintain a men superiority around the puck. there exist different forms of trap system to this day. f. e. sometimes the centerman plays the first man to forecheck, in some systems he stays passive in the middle ice.

note: the best way to overcome the trap is to shoot the puck deep, since carrying the puck through the neutral zone is quite impossible. so martin brodeurs stickhandling capacity was very important for the devils trap, coz it prevented the opponent for establishing a forecheck. the invention of the trapozid is one rule against trap systems.

left wing lock:

forechecking system, 2 men forecheck in the o-zone (c and rw); leftwing guards the left point (blue line); right d guards the right point and the left d plays the last man in the centerice of the neutral zone. the left wing is also responsible for the first forward back check.

note: left wing lock was used very effective by the detroit redwings during the late ninetys and early 2000s. jaromir jagr refused to play the left wing lock once in pittsburgh coz he thougt that it was to defensively, although the system was inventet in his motherland.

forechecking systems:

there exist several different forechecking systems and mixes of them. it often depends on gamesituations, lines, and players which forecheck is used. forechecking is done for two purposes: 1st to force an takeaway and create a scoring chance. 2nd to prevent the opponent from lauching an attack. forechecking usually occurs after dump-ins behind the opponents goal line or in the o-zone/neutral zone at the boards after the opponent starts his offensive.

forechecking can consist of 1 forward (usually a winger), of 2 forwards (one winger and centerman) or of all 3 forwards.

nowadays usually the forwards rotate on the forecheck, so that one (or two) is always on the puck while the other one is securing the free space and chases in as the puck is played anywhere else.

the most aggressive form of forchecking is the 3+ version. here the defender joins the forecheck to prevent the opponent to get the puck out of the zone. hockey commentators call that "pinching in by the defender".

note: the rangers use that strategie sometimes during these playoffs when they try to set pressure on the opposing d. most teams use this system just occationally, most times against a tired group (after icing etc.), because it is very dangerous to run into an odd man rush having just one d back.

note2: forechecking is primarly a defensive strategie, although it is implied in the ozone and the neutral zone. it is very true that the rangers DON'T use a trap system, but using forechecking systems doesn't automatically mean you play more offensive than a trap-team.

1-3-1 (guy boucher) system:

mixture of forechecking and trapping system. purpose: prevent the opponent from carrying the puck through the neutral zone AND shooting it deep at the red line.

rw stand in the middle of the ozone, sometimes even at the blueline. in some situations he does a light forecheck sometimes not. at the red line the lw, c and right d are lined up from left to right. they stand there. the defender and the left wing try to prevent a breakthrough at the boards and a possible dump in. the center stand or moves slowly around the faceoff dot and tries to secure the middle of the ice. when an opponent tries to break through the middle the center forechecks him and tries to bring him on one side of the ice. the left defender plays the last man back. he is reponsible for eventually breakt hroughs and to get to the puck first after dump ins. since he stays so deep in his zone, he is always in a very good defensive position.

defensive zone tactics:

staggered high: the wingers are positioned next to the opposing pointmen (defensmen) at the blueline. center plays against opposing centerman, ds are responsible for opposing wingers.

note: responsibilities of centermen and d men differ in every system. it depends how much pressure the defense wants to put on the puckcarrier. don't want to go into detail here.

note2: that was the common tactic in the past and some teams on internationally sized ice still use this tactic. it is not very useful in the new nhl ice. since the ozone is too big, the pointmen have too much space to be covered by the wingers.

staggerd low: the wingers protect the high slot and try to get into shooting and passing lines. rest is similar to above.

collapsing: all defensive players hustle back from their positions to the low slot to block all possible shots and passes.

note: collapsing is actually not a "hockey tactic" per se. it is more of an desperation move after your defensive tactic is outworked by the opponent. no coach wants his team to collapse permanently, coz collapsing means havoc in the dzone, especially in the slot, which is never a good thing for a goalie. puck luck an right anticipating where the puck goes is very decisive after collapsing.

that is of course not a complete coverage of hockey tactics, but you can find these tactics in every nhl hockey game, especially in the playoffs since the game is played way tighter then. there exist some ohter tactics especially on the wider open international ice, but i think this post gives an short overview about strategie in the game. of course tactics are changed during the course of a game by coaches and sometimes even by players as the game goes on since hockey is a very fast sport and situations change in a short time.

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