Hockey 2.0 is a series of articles I will write throughout the season on offensive, defensive and neutral zone hockey strategies. Each article is intended to bring you a foundational understanding of the game. For those who have played hockey or still do, share your input on each topic. I miss playing. Watching, analyzing and writing about the game can be rewarding, but there is nothing like being out on the ice. For those who have never played or don’t yet know the game from a player or coach’s perspective, my goal is to enhance your game viewing experience. When you understand “why” things happen on the ice, you may find yourself absorbed in its nuances and subtleties. Steadily, the game will become more than just wins or losses or stats on a computer screen. You will begin to live and breathe hockey on an entirely different level. – Bobby Scribe.
Scoring chances. No matter what the strategy may be, the ultimate goal of any offensive zone entry is to generate one or more scoring chances. The three elements for a successful zone entry are puck possession, puck control and avoiding turnovers.
On the most basic level, an offensive zone entry will either involve an entry with the puck or a dump / chip to a place away from the goalie and defenders. If the space (called gap) between the attacking forward and defender is large enough, the forward should and often does enter the zone with the puck on his stick. If not, he sends the puck behind or away from the defender. With this “dump” comes the ever important pursuit & the intended puck possession deep in the offensive zone.
The dump and chase falls into three categories.
1. The chip;
2. The cross-ice or corner dump-in; and
3. Rimming the puck around the boards.
To make the reading easier, I will refer to the attacking forward with the puck as the F1, at all times. The supporting forwards will be F2 and F3. While coaches would not necessarily give these designations similar treatment every time, I want to make it easy reading, keep it simple and keep it consistent. The defensemen will simply be D1 and/or D2 (when necessary) or I will refer to him / them simply as the defender or defenders.
The diagram you will see after each section is divided into colors. Blue represents the forwards, green the defensemen and red the travel of the puck. Forgive the rather amateur illustrations. That is a work in progress and this tech stuff is not yet my strength.
The chip may be the most effective offensive zone entry when executed properly, especially with the elimination of obstruction penalties. You often see the chip executed by skilled forwards who are superior skaters and stick handlers. It starts with the attacking forward (F1) drawing the defender (D1) away from the boards. This is sometimes unnecessary if the F1 is already poised for a mid ice drive and the D1 is taking away the forward’s north-south space. The F1 then chips the puck past the defender and toward the boards. The puck’s placement is critical to this chip’s success.
What does the D1 do now? Turn and go for the puck? The F1 has all the speed and by the time the D1 turns to retrieve the puck, the F1 is often on the puck and now within the zone. This forces the D1 to retreat and defend against the pass to the F2 or F3 (the trailing and lateral forwards) or check the F1 to separate him from the puck. The checking option can be a problem because, even if executed properly, there is at least one supporting forward (the F2 and/or F3) behind the F1 so even a body on the F1 doesn’t necessarily change possession.
The F1 can also (on a set play) chip the puck behind the D1 and have the F2 (who is coming without the puck and with speed) retrieve it.
Here is a diagram of the chip (click on the image for a larger view):
Cross Ice / Corner Dump in
As the name suggests, this is a dump by the F1 across the ice, at an angle, away from the defensemen and the goaltender. You will see this dump-in when the F1 (a) has no time and space to chip the puck (b) is facing back checking pressure or (c) the offensive team intends a line change. The keys to the cross ice dump are getting the puck to the half boards and (when there is not a full line change) ensuring the F2 and/or F3 are driving wide on the opposite side of the ice to retrieve the puck. Here is the diagram:
Rimming the Puck
Finally, we have the sometimes used “rimming the puck” around the boards. Immediately after this dump-in, you will see the goaltender attempt to cut the puck off. Why? Because he can. That is why this version of the dump and chase is the least effective and should only be used if the chip or cross ice dump are not available (I am looking at you, Terry) and, even then, the F2 and F3 better be skating hard toward the corner and have the angle on the defensemen, while the F1 protects the near boards in the event the goaltender retrieves the puck and sends it back. Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of a turnover. Here is the diagram:
A few things to watch out for during games: Look at the gap between our attacking forward and the defensemen when the puck is either chipped, cross iced dumped or rimmed around the boards. Could the forward have chipped the puck behind the defenseman with support from the F2 or was the F2 driving wide, thereby requiring a cross ice dump? Who got to the puck first in either scenario? The D1 or D2 or our forwards? How many of the dump-ins occurred due to a line change versus as part of a set play to get the puck deep and recover possession? So much to see and learn. This is why hockey is the greatest spectator sport.
We will stick with offensive zone entries for the next article. What will we cover? You will have to wait and read. GO KINGS!