The best teams defend with pressure on the puck as a group. Swarming the puck is also synonymous with outnumbering or overloading on the puck to create a player advantage. The tactic is used in forechecking and in puck battles to provide the best opportunity to win pucks.
Defensive Zone SWARM
How a defensive group pressures up on a corner puck is a good scenario to describe the swarming or outnumbering/overloading defensive tactical play. How defenders pressure up in their defensive zone on a low corner puck or puck below the goal line; whether it’s a D and F or two D with a low F covering the net zone or even two D with a low F with two other low F’s positioned strong side low below the hash marks in coverage. There will be variations on how the group decides to pressure up based on the situation. Every defender must know their role and how to execute that role.
SWARMING – Good Habits
- Win the race to the loose puck.
- Speed, speed, speed & physicality.
- Outnumber on the puck to create a player advantage.
- Box Out the forecheckers from accessing the puck.
- First player always creates puck separation while 2nd player recovers the puck.
- Set the edges on both sides of the puck (seal) to contain the puck battle area.
- Take the right approach angle.
- Support the puck with “structure” to secure the puck and to exit the tight space.
- Strong hockey position for leverage, balance and effective use of body & stick.
- Communicate as a group.
- Convert to offence quickly to exit the area and trap the opponents below the puck.
- Exit plan (options) on the recovery.
- Get into defensive position to man up into coverage should the opponent beat the SWARM.
Pressure Triggers (Read & React)
Knowing when to pressure up and how to pressure up individually and as a group is a critical part of the teaching process. Players must be taught what triggers pressure and how to effectively pressure up to gain access to the puck and box out the opponents. How to separate a player from a puck with effective use of body and stick is an art. Players should work with skilled players who have perfected the technique.
Defensive Team (Blue) Loads the Box (Five in the Box) on the Puck
The defensive team (blue) swarms the puck in the corner and sets the edges to contain the puck battle. There’s nothing more important in your defensive zone than winning pucks and exiting the zone. How a defensive team pressures up on pucks and uses their resources is a key part of defensive strategy.
The defensive group in blue has outnumbered their opponent in the corner to play 5 against 3 down low in the corner. Defenders have to posses strong technical hockey skills to win pucks consistently. Strategy and tactics are important but equally important are the players’ skill levels to use their body and stick effectively to win pucks and exit the zone.
Rod Brind’Amour Teaching the DZ SWARM – Twitter Video
Beating the DZ SWARM
The defensive group pressuring up knows the forecheckers are going to do their best to create space and move the puck outside the swarm (defenders pressuring up) to a teammate. Relocating the puck outside the swarm of defenders is necessary to escape this puck pressure tactic to one of the following areas for recovery:
- Dot space in the face off circle
- Low to high puck side
- Strong side to weak side
COLORADO AVALANCHE BEAT THE DZ SWAM – LOW TO HIGH 4 ON 4
The ability of a defensive group to contain a puck battle to a specific area of the ice and apply puck pressure to recover a puck and exit a tight space is a big part of today’s game. Players have to come back to the puck in their own zone and defend as a five player unit. Swarming the puck is a defensive pressure tactic when executed properly (good habits) will support a group’s ability to win pucks and break out of their own end of the rink.
Taking away ice & your opponent’s ability to carry the puck in zone is a critical part of defending. The goal of defending should be regaining puck possession and control and converting to the offensive game. Swarming the puck (pressuring up) to win pucks must be a big part of your team’s defensive game plan in all three zones. Swarming the puck should be practiced by puck location in the defensive zone; half-wall, corner, below the goal line and the HOUSE.