“We need to do a better job of managing the puck.”
So often after a loss we hear NHL head coaches angrily utter this statement. This is a something that is important in all three zones, but today we are going to discuss puck management on entry to the offensive zone. A few weeks back we spoke about possession options that are available when opposition allows entry to their zone. Today we will discuss what needs to be done when opposition plays with good gap along with strong back side pressure. Thus, opposition has “numbers”. This typically means there is no play in front of opposition’s D and you need to place the puck in behind and make them turn.
By putting pucks in behind the opposition’s D you accomplish several things:
- Allow your teammates to continue skating with speed without the puck.
- Deny opposition the opportunity to quick transition you and force them to advance the puck the full 200’.
- Establish a FC adding a physical component to your game. Possibly wearing down their D. (important in a 7 games series)
- Force opposition’s F’s to have to skate the full 200’ of ice on the back check, thus tiring them out more. (important in a 7 games series)
So often we see forced plays where the risk just isn’t worth the reward. I use the expression, “you can’t force a nickel in a dime slot”. It is a challenge for coaches at every level of hockey to educate their players when to and when not to keep possession. Players trying to make difficult plays where even if they completed the play, the result wouldn’t amount to much. The next video is a few examples of players not managing the puck well and reading the ice in front of them.
As you can see, these are some of the best players in the world that wish they could take these plays back. Coaches need to educate their players – you can still regain possession through an aggressive FC and puck pursuit game. There are several ways to make D turn and go back for pucks:
- Hard rims
- Cross corner dumps
- Area plays in behind D (soft chips, open ice passes)
A puck recovery plan is important for all the above plays. You can’t expect your players to buy into this type of game if they don’t have a plan to get the puck back. Be organized in your plan and include all five players. Once they see that they can create offense effectively and without risk, they will embrace this concept and your team will add another dimension to their attack.
With most teams in the midst of the playoffs, be sure of one thing. At some point coaches will be coming into the locker room between periods preaching to their team, “we need to manage the puck better”.