I share this video clip between the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets from a game the other night. I share my thoughts in this blog because I did not provide an audio analysis of the clip.
We have seen a change in competitive hockey over the years right up to the NHL level where it has become acceptable practice to NOT defend entrance into your zone. Every good hockey team should challenge the opponent at the blue line and prevent them from getting the puck in deep to set up offensively in the zone or attack the net. You see defensemen back up almost to the hash marks instead of playing one stick gap control at their blue line when there is sufficient back pressure to challenge.
The acceptable standard for quality defensive hockey and pride in defending your own end of the rink has deteriorated. The competitive culture in hockey at the competitive elite level should not be something that is inconsistent. The players in the NHL are making a living playing this game and fans are pouring hard earned cash going to games and they deserve a better product.
This is one clip but I can provide hundreds that show the same soft play with an absence of pressure. An absence of pressure means the defensive team is not taking away time and space with the puck.
- The two New Jersey defencemen back up to the hash marks in the middle of the ice,
- The back checker choses to reach with his stick hand and place his left hand on the puck carrier’s back instead of accelerating and skating him off into the boards to take the puck away from him with strong side D support,
- All of the New Jersey defenders choose to watch the puck carrier and let him skate the puck into their zone down low below the goal line and make a quality pass to a forward in front of the net (uncovered) for the shot on goal,
- 4 of the 5 New Jersey defenders watch the puck carrier and nobody covers the forward driving a seam (uncovered) for a shot on goal.
This is bad hockey. There is a lack of pressure and the compete culture needs to change in the NHL and competitive minor hockey. Players should come to practice to compete. Coaches should be coaching compete drills with body checking, puck battles and hard nosed play so players learn how to defend and apply pressure. Players need to learn how to “pressure up” in good balance with great posture and play the body individually and as a group.
It is time for Coaches to start teaching and coaching the pressure game in all three zones. Coaches set the expectations and the culture not the players. Draft character players who are good athletes who want to play the pressure TEAM game and set the standards for your organization.