As teams roll through the regular season and into the playoffs it becomes increasingly difficult to score. It’s the best teams with the best goalies and yes, the whistle is put away a bit more than the regular season.
But the reality is that players are more dialled in and committed to good puck management and defending harder than ever before.
This post will focus on players defending harder, and more specifically, defending within five feet of their immediate area.
If you look at most even strength goals, when the puck has been passed from Player A to Player B, the defending team is typically within five feet of the opposing player when he scores. Thus, your ability to defend the goal being scored can be accomplished by simply moving your stick or body 5 feet towards Player B.
When working with young players I constantly emphasize that they are five feet from being a good defensive player. Five feet, that’s it!
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There are three key components required in defending the radius around you away from the puck.
1. Eliminate sticks and be ultra-competitive when defending rebounds
Puck recovery off of a rebound in the defensive zone is extremely challenging with today’s emphasis on shot volume and Corsi ratings.
Teams now throw pucks at the net from all areas of the ice and are quick to recover their own rebounds. Thus, defending the rebound is a critical tactic that allows a team to avoid opposition sustaining IZO.
As you can see in the video below, the defending teams had players in position to defend but their lack of awareness and competitiveness allowed the opposition not only to collect rebound but score off of it. In defending rebounds, players need to not only to have an awareness of opposition but also the puck.
By quickly contesting and/or recovering the rebound, you likely will deny the opposition from directing a second shot to the net.
Remember, coaches are constantly telling their players to hound and recover pucks while working on IZO. Thus, your compete level and awareness are critical to counter this.
Lastly, players must stop on pucks and engage in the battle. Looking to go on offence before you have possession is a recipe for disaster.
2. Awareness of opposition away from the puck and position your body and stick accordingly