Brind’Amour’s CANES

A Head Coach has the privilege of setting the culture for his/her team and there is no task more important. The values and beliefs of the Head Coach become the basis for all decisions made by the coaches, players and the organization. Rod Brind’Amour has set the culture in Carolina and the players have bought into his program of excellence.

After watching the CANES sweep of the Islanders it is undeniable that the CANES have taken on the personality of their Head Coach. This 2018/2019 CANES team play a tenacious, relentless, smothering, physical, hard working game in all three zones of the hockey rink. What is most impressive is the consistency and discipline in their execution which should be no surprise because those traits were the foundation of their Head Coach’s game and career in the NHL.

Keys to the CANES Sweep 

  1. Ability to advance the puck on the Islanders net and win the game below the hash marks in the offensive zone. The team that advances the puck on net the most generally wins the contest. The CANES won the down low game and ability to take the puck to the net of the Islanders which is something most teams struggled with against the Islanders during the regular season.
  2. Play a smothering relentless checking game in the defensive zone and neutral zone. The CANES applied pressure at the point of attack in both of these zones playing with speed and physicality. The CANES took away the Islanders Attack Rush Game and Down Low Game in the offensive zone by playing more man coverage than zone which limited the Islanders scoring chances in all four games. The CANES limited the Islanders ability to make plays with the puck with their tight checking which reduced their quality scoring chances and offensive output.
  3. Establish the forecheck in the offensive zone to support puck recovery and the ability to advance the puck on net.
  4. Consistent back pressure support by forwards which allowed the group five on five to defend their blue line, recover the puck off dump ins and exit their zone with puck support.
  5. Speed & physicality of the CANES was evident in all three zones. The CANES consistently won races to loose pucks, pressured up as a group and won the puck possession and control game as a result.
  6. Support of the puck offensively and defensively as a group in all three zones.

This CANES team is well coached. If this group keeps up this work rate and team game in all three zones and plays like this the remainder of the playoffs there is a good chance they hoist the Stanley Cup in 2019.

A video link of the G4 Highlights that support the Keys to the CANES Sweep:




Leafs Full Credit for G1 Victory Over Bruins


You have to give the Maple Leafs full credit for their game 1 victory over the Bruins last night. Five on Five the Leafs played a solid game as a group and worked hard in all three zones supporting the puck offensively and defensively. Impressed by their work rate in all three zones.

Keys to Victory – Defence

  1. Leafs took away the Bruins strength which is their down low game in the offensive zone below the hash marks. They didn’t allow the Bruins to run their Give and Go Plays by playing more man coverage and boxing out between the dots protecting middle ice. Collapsed the box down low in the house to defend against attacks on net.
  2. Protected middle ice (between the dots) in in the neutral zone with forwards Angling which prevented the Bruins from entering and exiting the neutral zone with speed and puck control. This tactic limited the Attack Rush ability of the Bruins.
  3.  Solid Back Pressure Support by the forwards between the dots for three periods allowed the Leaf D pairings to defend entrance into their zone and consistently get five players back into the defensive zone to defend.
  4. Leaf forwards didn’t get caught below the puck in the offensive zone which supported the ability to provide quality back pressure support for their D pairings all night.
  5. Leaf defenders did a decent job at not allowing the Bruins to get between them and the net in the defensive zone for most of the night.
  6. DZ exit play was better with support of the puck in the defensive zone.

Keys to Victory – Offence

  1. Stretched the ice on the Bruins and exploited the perimeter with the Bruins protecting middle ice all night.
  2. Got the puck to their skilled forwards taking advantage of their speed and skills to score key goals.
  3. Turned the puck over in the neutral zone and created attack rush opportunities by defending the zone. A good defensive play is the start of a good offensive play.

Video Link Below of the Highlights that support the keys to Victory mentioned above:

The Importance of Winning Puck Recovery Battles


When you watch teams that consistently win puck recovery battles along the boards there is evidence of strategy, tactics, and skill at play in their execution. These teams understand how important winning puck recovery battles are to winning the puck possession and control game and ultimately the hockey game.


A puck recovery battle is a pressure trigger that requires a group tactical plan to be executed by players with the skills to get the job done. The coaching of this group tactic should be broken down into the elements of a tactical plan and the skills required to execute that plan. A planned approach with players having the skills to execute the plan is recommended.

Group Tactical Plan Elements

  •  Outnumber on the puck as a group for tactical advantage
  •  Structure the group to contain the puck battle area
  •  Define the roles of each player in the group P1-P5
  •  Passing option(s) upon puck recovery in the tight space
  •  Box out the opponent from the puck
  •  Skills teaching with emphasis on proper fundamentals
  •  Exit play options from the tight space area upon recovery of the puck• Defensive plan in lost  battle situations

Technical Hockey Skills & Abilities of Players

  • Checking Ability
  • Pressure Up Ability (Individual & Group)
  • Touch passing skills in a tight space
  • Communication
  • Strong Hockey Position for balance and safety of players and always two hands on the stick
  • Compete Level
  • Grit & Courage

Video Analysis

Every coach likely supports the concept of a planned approach to winning puck recovery battles and not leaving the process to chance. I share a few video clips of puck recovery battle situations for you. The teams that lost the puck battles may not have executed a planned approach or there were simply mistakes made.

Video Link:

Final Thought

Kids benefit from being coached to win the puck possession game. When kids play more with the puck than without the puck they enjoy the game more and their offensive skills improve.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu

Neutral Zone Play

Neutral Zone Play often Overlooked

It is important for a player’s development to play tactics that support playing with speed and physicality in all three zones. For a player to improve offensive skills they must have the opportunity to play with the puck more than without the puck.

One of the best things we can do to support the development of a player’s offensive skills is to teach them how to pressure up and check properly in one on one situations and as a member of a group in puck battle situations and when forechecking. The start of a good offensive play is a good defensive play. The teams that play fast, support the puck in all three zones to win the puck possession and control game. Teams forecheck in the offensive zone with structure and tactical thought but there seems to be an absence of this tactical thought and structural play in the neutral zone.

Neutral zone play is often overlooked but one of the key areas of the ice surface to defend. Forced puck turnovers in the neutral zone help you to create offence on the counter attack. Many teams do not deploy a forechecking group tactic in the neutral zone to force puck turnovers. Denying the opponent the ability to enter the neutral zone and exit the neutral zone with speed and puck control is a strategic advantage for any team.

Neutral Zone Forecheck

I am not a fan of systems or set plays. I equate a five player unit supporting the puck defensively in the neutral zone as a group tactic that requires thoughtful design and execution.

A neutral zone forecheck to support the puck defensively as a group based on strategy and tactical play for me is part of hockey fundamentals. We’ve lost possession of the puck and we want to get it back by working as a group to regain possession and control.

Whatever tactical structure you deploy to forecheck in the neutral zone to corral the opponent into an area to create a puck turnover should be based on the situation. Whether as a group you play a one-two-two or a two-one-two, alternating or another structure it should be based on situational hockey. What matters is the players know they have to work together as a group to regain puck possession and control and create scoring opportunities off the counter attack game. The players should also know when to use the best structure for the situation which is a coach’s role.

A neutral zone forecheck should be run off every face-off loss situation and any loss of puck possession in the neutral zone. A basic structure to pressure the puck in the neutral zone has the following elements:

  •  F-1 pursuit of the puck,
  •  F-2 preventing a weak side exit option,
  •  F-3 provides secondary support puck side or middle ice for F1,
  •  D1, D2 GAP control to support the forechecking forwards.

Neutral Zone Play Skills & Tactics

  • Proper Angling
  • Effective Use of Body & Stick
  • Puck Separation (ability to separate a player from the puck without the need for a collision)
  • Forechecking Structure
  • Counter Attack off Puck Recovery

Performance Measurement

  •  # Forced Turnovers
  • # NZ Counter Attack Scoring Chances off Forced Turnovers


Players get better offensively as individuals and as a team when they play with the puck more than without the puck. When your players play more in the offensive zone than the defensive zone you are likely winning more hockey games than you’re losing and your players are happy they’re playing with the puck and being chased rather than doing the chasing.

Focus on defending the neutral zone with a speed and physicality and win the puck possession and control game.

Video Link|Neutral Zone Play Often Overlooked

3 on 2 Attack Rush An Offensive Pressure Tactic


Young hockey players should be taught the 3 on 2 Attack Rush as a “Pressure” tactic because it requires speed and skills to effectively execute the play. Young players should be taught tactics that support the development of their technical hockey skills:

  1. Skating,
  2. Shooting,
  3. Passing,
  4. Checking,
  5. Stick Handling (Puck Control).

The 3 on 2 Attack Rush should be played as a pressure tactic for the following reasons:

  1. Forces the opponent to provide excellent back pressure support from their forwards or they will get beat by proper execution of the play.
  2. Takes advantage of the odd player advantage situation when executed properly.
  3. Takes advantage of your teams speed and skills.
  4. Forces the D pairing into man on man coverage which creates an “open” offensive (shooter) player.
  5. Creates quality passing and shooting lane options.

Execution Keys:

  • The puck must be moved to the player in the outside lane at or just before the blue line,
  • The player in the outside lane should try to beat the strong side D to the outside with speed and take the puck deep into the zone to force man on man coverage,
  • The player in the outside lane can take the puck in behind the net or delay and turn back should there not be a play option on net off the Attack Rush,
  • The offensive player taking the puck wide and the player(s) without the puck driving the net (middle or outside lane) must use their speed,
  • Players driving the net must have their stick on the ice (target) for a pass and be ready to receive the puck,
  • Players driving the net should try to get on the offensive side of the puck (between defender and the player with the puck),
  • The width and depth of the offensive zone should be used to create time and space,
  • Setting of quality passing lanes by the players without the puck, 
  • One of the players without the puck should drive the middle or outside lane (weak side) to force the weak side D into man on man coverage,
  • Forward 3 without the puck control skates into open ice (soft spot) above the puck in the slot and sets a quality passing lane. 
  • Players go to the net hard, sticks on the ice to receive a pass, rebound or deflection opportunity on the net.

Player Development Focus

Driving the net hard with speed and skill is one of the best plays in hockey. Teach the kids the 3 on 2 Attack Rush with speed so that can add the skills learned to their tool box.  

Play Animation Video Link:

NHL Video Clips (3) of the 3 on 2 Played with Pressure:


Solution to Pucks Chipped Behind D Pairing


A puck chipped in behind the defensive pairing into the offensive zone (OZ) is a pressure offensive tactic designed to recover the puck and advance the puck on net off the recovery. Teams that execute this tactic effectively include a strategic forecheck that supports puck recovery and structure (triangulate) to advance the puck on net off the recovery. 

The forechecking team often use a basic forecheck pattern where they send a forechecker:

  • Down the weak side wall into the corner and area below the goal line to prevent the strong side D from a hard rim exit pass,
  • On the puck to win the race to the loose puck,
  • Down the wall strong side to prevent the D from an exit pass up the wall and also to support puck recovery in the corner.

Teams will make minor variations to the forechecking pattern during the game as necessary. 

Every defensemen who has experienced a forechecker pressuring up on them in the race for a loose puck into the strong side corner knows they need help to recover the puck and make a quality play with the puck. Often the support of teammates isn’t in place in a structure that supports puck recovery and clear passing lanes to exit the zone strong side.  

A puck chipped in behind the D-pair is a loose puck which is a “pressure” trigger, so why is the only team pressuring up as a group the offensive team?

When the defending team fails to pressure up as a group strong side to support the puck recovery and exit play they end up working twice as hard chasing and defending which is often times more work. 

A loose puck is a pressure trigger for both teams not just the offensive team. Too often the response from the defending team is not a pressure response and the result is a lost opportunity to regain puck possession and control and exit the zone efficiently. 


Defending players must understand that a pressure response is required to achieve key objectives. The most important objectives:

  1. Puck recovery to obtain puck possession and control.
  2. Exit the zone strong side off the puck recovery. 
  3. Create a structure as a defensive group (Five in the Box) that supports 1 & 2.
  4. Outnumber on the puck to win the puck recovery battle and exit the zone.
  5. Spend as little time as possible chasing and defending the opponent and winning the puck possession and control game in the defensive zone.

Execution Keys

  1. Win the race to the loose puck.
  2. Outnumber on the loose puck recovery even if it means putting both defensemen on the puck. The first forward back into the zone can cover the net zone as well as a defensemen.
  3. Outnumber on the puck recovery battle to ensure recovery, retain puck possession and control and exit ability.
  4. Effective body, stick, puck play (speed and physicality), no fishing and reaching.
  5. All players must be in control of their stick and body and be in a strong hockey position in perfect balance.
  6. Set clean short passing lanes.
  7. Players skate full speed to their specific spots in the box and stop. Stops and starts in the tight space. 
  8. Quality touch passing and short passing skills in tight space.
  9. Every player in the box knows their role and how to execute. 
  10. Set the edges and contain the puck recovery battle.


Every team should have a strong side exit play off pucks chipped behind the D pair or off an offensive strategic dump-in recovery play by the opponent. A pressure offensive tactic must be defended with a pressure defensive tactic and response. 

You win the puck possession game and you win the hockey game. Teams with the best goals against record spend less time in their own end of the rink defending. 

Support you D pairing with a group tactic that takes the pressure off them and provides your team with the ability to recover these pucks and exit the zone strong side, you will be glad you added this ability to your game plan. 

Structure is absolutely essential to win the puck possession and control game in all three zones. Players need to know their roles with and without the puck individually and as important as a group. 

Defensemen Part of the Offensive Game Plan

Defensemen Key to the Offensive Game Plan

The days of the “Stay at Home Defensemen” should be a thing of the past. Teams today are looking to recruit athletic defensemen who are strong skaters with excellent technical hockey skills. Of course size matters and is part of the player profile but in today’s game speed and skills should trump a size requirement. 

Strategy and tactics have become such an important part of today’s game. Every coach is looking to take full advantage of the ice surface and the speed and skills of the athletes to create a winning formula. The Offensive Game Plan of the top teams these days includes the defensemen in the strategy and tactics of the game in all areas of the ice surface without restrictions. 

Teams that play fast understand that supporting the puck offensively and defensively in all three zones is critical to winning the puck possession game. You win the puck possession game and you win the hockey game. There is no better way to win the puck possession game than making full use of your resources on the ice surface to control the puck and advance the puck on the opponent’s net. Spend the least amount of time possible in your own end of the rink. 

Mobile Defensemen – Part of the Offensive Game Plan 

The following are examples of the things defensemen are being asked to do as part of the Offensive Game Plan to win the puck possession game and create scoring chances, such as but not limited to:

  1. Joining the Attack Rush with the forwards in the neutral zone.
  2. Coming down off the point into the offensive zone (OZ) to set a passing & shooting lane.
  3. Coming down off the point to obtain a loose puck in the corner, weak or strong side (deep into the OZ) to maintain puck possession and control. 
  4. Working the Give and Go play to get the puck back in all three zones of the rink to be part of advancing the puck on the opponent’s net.
  5. Coming down off the point on a face off win to take the puck down the wall below the goal line and advance the puck on net.
  6. Coming late deep into the OZ on the Attack Rush to set a passing and shooting lane. 
  7. Moving to open ice to create a passing lane in the OZ to support the puck carrier. 

The video below provides you with examples of some of the tasks defensemen are performing in today’s game to support the puck offensively. You’re encouraged to work with young players to support their development by helping them acquire these skills and abilities so they can play at the next level. 

The teaching and coaching of the “Rotation” concept ensures coverage for Defensemen and the success of their engagement in your Offensive Game Plan. 

The Youtube video provides examples of tactics performed by Defensemen in today’s game.