Keys to Defending the Neutral zone

Defending the Neutral Zone – TLPF Hockey

There are different coaching philosophies out there. Think Less Play Fast Hockey is about advancing the concept of playing “fast”. The elite teams play with speed and physicality in all three zones. Physicality doesn’t mean being overly aggressive or making “hits” but rather playing shoulder to shoulder, skating players off and making contact that respects your opponent. The goal should always be to separate the opponent from the puck and retain one’s balance and control of the body in recovering the puck.

The neutral zone should be defended with speed and physicality and I share some of the keys below. The video clip shows the SENS giving away the blue line and not playing with speed and physicality so I breakdown what in my opinion are mistakes in defending the zone because there is an absence of speed and physicality. You don’t have to agree, feel free to disagree. The articles are written to provide the TLPF Hockey perspective about how the game should be played.

Keys: Defend with Speed & Physicality

  • Defend entrance into your zone as a group and don’t give away the blue line,
  • Don’t back up and give away ice,
  • Challenge at the point of attack,
  • Protect middle ice (between the dots) with proper angling technique and fundamentals,
  • Get shoulder to shoulder with attackers (get on their inside shoulder) and take them to the net,
  • No stick checking; play body|stick|puck or stick|body|puck but no reaching, close the gap and get shoulder to shoulder,
  • Never “stationary” or “watching”, find your coverage responsibility,
  • Don’t everyone focus on the puck carrier, players without the puck must be covered,
  • Don’t give away inside position on your opponent,
  • Keep yourself between the opponent and your net.

Video Breakdown of SENS Goal Against – Failure to Defend the Neutral Zone SENS vs. PANTHERS (6-1) LOSS

  • SENS player coming off the ice with the opponent engaged in an attack rush.
  • Group backed up and gave away ice they didn’t have to give up.
  • Group didn’t challenge at the point of attack. D pairing backed up and Forwards didn’t angle to protect middle ice (between the dots) with proper speed and physicality angling to support the D pairing.
  • Too many players focused on the puck carrier.
  • Strong Side D, #74 gave away middle ice and didn’t play the body. Back up between the dots and force puck carrier to beat you wide (outside the dots), pivot when the puck carrier is just outside your outside shoulder and force the puck carrier wide.
  • The SENS player defending low let the opponent get inside position on him and he failed to keep himself between the opponent and the net. Also failed to keep two hands on his stick and play the opponent’s stick (stick under opponent’s) to prevent stick on puck.
  • As a group the SENS players didn’t execute man coverage.

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