DEFENSE AT THE PUCK – TRANSITIONAL THINKING

John Becanic Transitional Pyramid Hockey Ice Hockey Coach Tips and Drills Hockey Sense

TRANSITION! The game of hockey like all other sports has a language that catches on and is used over and over. You often hear coaches demand of their players that, “we want to play fast in transition.” As coaches, we create all kinds of drills to work on the offensive component of transition. Meaning, once you have created the turnover how quickly can you go on offense? But there is the other side of transition – how quickly can you recover to defend after losing the puck? In some cases, it is reloading above the puck and in others it’s simply stopping and getting your feet moving back down ice to try to strip the puck back. In either case, there are two major factors to a team’s quickness in transition; the work rate of the players and their TRANSITIONAL THINKING.

In this week’s Pyramid Hockey IQ tip, we are going to focus on Defense at the Puck transitional thinking. To simplify, consider the time frame of once you’ve lost possession of the puck and how quickly can you get your stick and your feet going in the direction of the puck. If you can get your players to think quickly and create this back pressure, it will allow your D to play with tighter gap and squeeze opposition’s space and time.

So often we see young players lose the puck and either:

  1. Keep skating away from puck and end up 50 feet away from it. You can’t be a 5 to 50 player. Meaning, you can’t go from 5’ away from the puck and then to 50’ because you didn’t stop on the play.
  2. Quit on the play and watch as opposition separates them from you.

As coaches, you can teach your players to think quicker in transition in several ways:

  1. Through good habits developed in practice.
  2. Using video review, teach your players the proper routes in their recovery skating.

In the supporting video, we will see clips of players who, immediately upon losing the puck quickly recover it resulting in a goal. Note that there is very little time between losing puck to when they have their stick and skates pointing down ice.

As we see in the first two clips, both Matthews and Dermott of the Toronto Maple Leafs quickly recover to steal the puck back from opposition after losing it. Immediately upon creating the turnover, they advance puck to their teammate and join the counter attack.

In the 3rd clip, we see Spezza of the Dallas Stars lose the puck, then is slow in his response to recover. The player that passes Spezza in the offensive zone is the eventual goal scorer.

Again, these are habits and a compete level expected by all players as they advance in the game. If you can have your players think the game quicker in transition it will lead to;

  1. A more difficult team to play against.
  2. A team that plays fast.
  3. More transitional offense.
  4. Aggressive defending.

Pyramid Hockey John Becanic Hockey Sense Hockey IQ


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John Becanic is the founder of Pyramid Hockey and serves as an IQ consultant to individuals, teams and organizations all over the world. A veteran coach of over 1500 games, John has long been known as pioneer with the implementation of video and analytics to develop both the player and coach alike. Using NHL video, John looks to increase the Hockey IQ of player by focusing on the 4 Components of Hockey. Offense at the puck; Offense away from the puck; Defense at the puck and Defense away from the puck.