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Being on the Right Side of the Puck in the Offensive Zone

In Skills, Tactics by Mike Coldham

Every young competitive hockey player should be demonstrating the right habits on the ice during games. The development of good habits starts on ice during practice and off ice in video sessions with the team. One important good habit to emphasize with serious competitive players is being on the right side of the puck in the offensive zone. This article and the video shared is intended to focus on the importance of not being caught below the puck in the offensive zone.

Every young player must understand the importance of playing sound positional hockey in all three zones to support the puck offensively and defensively. In the offensive zone every player must be defensively responsible while performing the following tactics:

  • Forechecking
  • Puck Recovery Battles
  • Down Low Play Advancing the Puck to the Net
  • Cycling the Puck etc Attacking the Net (off the rush or from any position in the zone)
  • Forcing Puck Turnovers

Forwards must be aware of the need to transition from offence to defence based on situations in the offensive zone. A forward line should always retain a third player high tactic in the offensive zone to support the puck defensively and offensively. The third player high should be a rotated throughout the offensive and defensive puck pressure situation.

Defensemen who pinch down the boards on the puck side must be sure of their ability to recover the puck and make a good puck management decision. When a D pinches down there should be a forward above the puck positioned to cover the D on the same side of the ice.

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How to Avoid Being Caught Below the Puck in the Offensive Zone

Forwards should not be standing still below the puck or stationary watching the play when their team does not have puck possession and control.

Forwards should be cautious against being too far below the puck in the offensive zone forechecking because a good hockey team that can move the puck effectively can trap the forecheckers with a quality exit play.

Forwards should cover for a pinching D on the strong side. Always have a forward above the puck in puck battles along the boards and careful not to have a third forward too far below in the puck in puck battles.

Transition from below the puck to at or above the puck with stops and starts based on the situation being mindful of your defensive puck support responsibility.

The video below provides a good example of the importance of NOT being caught stationary below the puck in the offensive zone when your team does not have puck possession and control. The SENS get caught with two forwards below the puck who should not have been below the puck when the puck battle ensued.

The Senators give up a two on one that resulted in a goal against. Ottawa has the worst GA record in the NHL at the moment. As a team they give up too many odd player attack rushes in games – it’s a bad habit that needs to be replaced by a good habit and mantra like never get caught below the puck in the offensive zone.

Be on the Right Side of the Puck

A good player must know and understand that a good offensive play starts with a good defensive play. In this video clip you see evidence of exactly that. An excellent play along the boards by the Panthers forward to separate the SENS strong side D from the puck with timely second player puck support to recover the puck and exit the zone. I think the video illustrates for players why being on the right side of the puck is important.

About the Author
Mike Coldham

Mike Coldham

Mike has over 25 years of coaching experience as a Technical Mentor Coach of people in Business and Sports. Now retired after 35 years of public service, Mike created the TLPF website to support the development of competitive minor hockey players. Mike works with competitive hockey players to help them learn how to play faster which requires tactical knowledge and skills.


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