Defending Entrance into Your Own End of the Rink
Being able to defend your blue line on the attack rush to force a dump-in or create a turnover to prevent your opponent from entering your zone is one of the keys to becoming a good defensive team and a better puck possession team. Too often you see the defensive pair back up and give away entrance into the zone and a shot on net or quality scoring chance because of a failure to defend (take away time and space).
Keys to Defending Your Blue Line
- Forecheck in the neutral zone as a group (D pair and F’s) to force a puck turnover and change of possession.
- D pairing control of the GAP between the puck carrier and the defensive pairing. The D pairing must support the forechecking forwards by playing the right GAP.
- D pairing positioned to defend by backing up between the dots and protecting middle ice.
- Use of effective angling with inside out control by F’s and the D pairing. Never allow the opponent to carry the puck N-S through the neutral zone. You want to prevent your opponent from entering and exiting the neutral zone with speed and puck control.
The Art of Angling —Defending Entrance Into Your Zone (Blue Line)
Coach Laura Schuler provides an excellent analysis of the strong side Defencemen’s role angling with inside out control to pressure up on the puck carrier outside the dots to defend entrance into the defensive zone. The defending team’s forwards are forechecking their opponent in the neutral zone to pressure the puck and push their opponent outside the dots to force a pass, dump in or puck turnover. The D pairing is supporting the Forecheckers by controlling the GAP between the puck and the pairing. The D pairing is not in a defensive position to angle unless the following steps are in place:
- Control of the GAP (distance between puck and D pair),
- Positioned between the dots,
- Able to match the speed of the puck carrier when backward skating (just before the pivot).
- Back pressure support from F group in the neutral zone.
Rule of Thumb Gap Control
- Puck at the opponent’s Blue Line – 3 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D,
- Puck at the Red Line – 2 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D,
- Puck at your Blue Line – 1 stick length distance between puck carrier and the D.
Video Analysis: Laura Schuler, Art of Angling
Video Clip of Defensive Pairing Backing Up Giving Away Not Defending Entrance Into Their Zone
Defending entrance into your zone (blue line) as a group by protecting middle ice (between the dots) and angling with inside out control in the neutral zone is essential to taking away time and space and forcing puck turnovers.
The D pairing has to get accustomed to controlling the GAP in the neutral zone and getting out of their comfort zone. Anybody can back up and give away ice but that’s not defending.