There’s Power in Numbers & How They’re Organized

Hard Forecheck Pressure – Defending Up Ice A Common Hockey Defensive & Offensive Tactic

Hockey Concepts Have Not Changed – Anatoli Tarasov’s Vision 1975

  • Retaining puck possession is of key importance
  • Retreating and rebuilding attacks is encouraged when appropriate
  • It’s more about the players without the puck than those with it
  • Interchange positions to create confusion & openings
  • Attack with speed & counter attack as quickly as possible
  • Pass the puck and then immediately move to make yourself available fore a return pass option
  • The puck belongs to your teammates
  • The purpose of having the puck is to return it to a teammate

In the clip below we examine how the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defensive zone break out structure beats the hard forecheck pressure by the Florida Panthers. It is common practice for teams to defend up ice with an aggressive forecheck in both the offensive zone and the neutral zone. The strategy to defend up ice is about regaining puck possession and scoring as a unit off the puck recovery.

Tampa Bay Lightning bring five players back deep into the defensive zone to outnumber their opponent below the hash marks. Set up a structure (five in the box) to support the puck offensively strong side to exit the zone. In the clip you see TBL players support the puck through the neutral zone on the attack rush as a unit.

Rugby Coach speaks to power in numbers and pressing the ball/puck to regain possession & score on the recovery.

Power In Numbers & How They Are Organized

The Rugby Coach is speaking to the use of resources (players) to support the ball/puck as a group and deploying tactics that support regaining possession and scoring off the ball/puck recovery (dual purpose). What we are seeing in hockey is the elite teams pressure the puck in all three zones and deploying tactics to retain puck possession and to recover the puck back as quickly as possible to counter attack and get back on offence.

The best defensive teams in their own zone are excellent at winning races to loose pucks as a five player unit, outnumbering off pressure triggers and regaining possession for the purpose of quickly attacking the opponent.

Breakdown of the Tampa Bay Lightning Goal Against the Florida Panthers

  1. TBL bring five players back deep into the defensive zone to support the puck recovery and exit play.
  2. The low F #19 Goodrow curls inside to set a passing lane for the D and receives a short pass.
  3. F#19 Goodrow runs a give and go with F#37 Gourde whose stationary on the half wall.
  4. TBL run a 3 on 2 (outnumbered) Attack Rush Play with D#81 Cernak part of the 3 player attack.
  5. TBL move puck in the o/s lane and take the puck deep for a play on net.
  6. TBL #37 Gourde has time to arrive late (Arrive on Time) skates by a defender to the net to bury the rebound.


The Tampa Bay Lightning, last years Stanley Cup Champions, get it. The have mastered the concepts referenced above and support the puck extremely well offensively and defensively. The five players on the ice are interchangeable, they defend up ice, win their share of puck battles and will bring four players down to the net zone to score a goal as demonstrated in the video.

The common problem defenders have defending the Attack Rush is they are too puck focused. As defenders you must always have your head on a swivel and expect the attacking team to have their D pairing fully engaged in the offensive game plan. Often the offensive team will take the puck deep into the offensive zone on the Attack Rush, turn back or run a delay and move the puck to players arriving late (on time) to support the puck offensively above the puck. The TBL goal scorer is F#37 who was stationary in his defensive zone to work the give & go with F#19 Goodrow. Defenders can’t allow offensive players who arrive late in the zone to skate by them uncovered for a play on net.

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