Defensive Faceoffs

Defensive Zone Face-offs

      These face-offs very frequently occur, and the following negative events emanating from them, perhaps resulting in goals, can befall the defensive team:

1) The offensive center shoots on net directly from the drop of the puck, or he shoots immediately after he outbattles his counterpart and skates past the opposing center toward the net in order to make another play.

2) The offensive center wins the face-off, and the puck travels to the point for a direct shot on net with the possibilities of a screen, deflection, and/or rebound.

3) Immediately after the official drops the puck, it is directed to the offensive forward positioned at the top of the face-off circle or to the wing from the boards who moves into this position, and a shot is quickly taken on net, perhaps through a screen.

      In order to eliminate or at least to minimize these dangerous situations, the following suggestions should be implemented for all defensive zone face-offs:

1) Every player must understand his responsibilities and react properly based upon wherever the puck may go immediately after the face-off.

2) All defensive players must assume that the face-off will be lost, anticipate the drop of the puck, and be moving to fulfill their defensive obligations. If the referee blows the whistle for early movement, no harm has been done, and the players should skate back to their positions while always viewing the puck.

3) Unless he is desperate or highly certain that he will win the face-off, the defensive center should play “not to lose” it by concentrating on the opponent’s stick instead of the puck.

4) If the face-off is lost, the defensive center must be certain that the opposing center can do nothing constructive in the ensuing immediate play - after which the center and all teammates should blend into their normal coverage.

     In addition to the directives stated above, the defensive team needs to be aware of the positioning of each opponent and select its coverage from various options. The following should be remembered: 

1) Next to the opposing wing stationed closest to the goaltender, the defensive team must position at least two players - one of whom, usually a defenseman, remains locked after the face-off to neutralize this wing and to guard the front of the net, while the other moves to cover the remaining wing positioned at the top of the face-off circle (or who will skate to this position from the boards) or to cover whichever point might receive the puck. If the defensive forward believes that he will be blocked from releasing into his assignment, there must be a signal with verification for his nearby teammate and himself to exchange roles. Also, during this coverage, the other defensive wing by the boards should be moving to duplicate his fellow wing’s coverage in case the latter is trapped. When one wing notices that another player has skated to a point man who possesses the puck, the former should veer toward the other point.

2) Another possibility for coverage is to align three players (both wings and a defenseman) outside the face-off circle in front of the net so that the proper defense can be achieved when the two forwards move into their responsibilities, as previously stated.

3) The only defensive player not yet mentioned is the other defenseman who can be positioned: a) in front of the goal with his partner and one wing, while the other wing is at the boards b) at the boards even with the face-off dot, prepared to drop back if the puck goes into the corner c) between the goaltender and the center in case the opposing center or wing in front of the net create concern d) between the goal-line and the face-off circle, directly behind the center and prepared to move to wherever trouble might occur.