Tips for Defensive Zone Coverage

1) Play defense whenever puck possession is doubtful or the opponent has control.

2) There is no need to cover TIGHTLY any opponent who is positioned outside the prime slot area, unless he begins to move into the slot. CONTAINMENT is the objective.

3) All defenders (at least three) not pursuing the puckcarrier should be positioned in their areas of coverage nearest the puck and should rotate as the puck changes position. These defenders should constantly “split their vision” or employ a “swivelhead” so that they can notice any changes and assess what they should do. Also, these defenders should always be inside the face-off dots. It is a critical minimum requirement for at least one defenseman and a forward (or two defensemen) always to cover a section of the slot - one stationed just outside the crease and the other likely positioned higher in the slot, depending upon where the attackers are. A third defensive forward should cover the far-side slot area. If only one player is pressuring the puck, a fourth defender should cover a far-side area near the net, thus forming a box with the others.

4) All defenders should always have their stick on the ice.

5) If the puck goes below the face-off dots toward the goal line, a defenseman and a forward (both not in pursuit) should form a barrier in the slot on that side of the ice so that any attacker emerging from that area must skate or pass high around that defending forward. Also, the far-side wing must come to the center of the slot between the dots and the top of the face-off circles.

6) A puckcarrier must never be allowed to enter the slot between the goal and the low defender or between the low defender (usually a defenseman) and the high defender forming a barrier on that side. The puckcarrier, himself, must be forced or be made to pass toward the blueline. If the puckcarrier skates past the high defender on the outside, he must not be allowed to turn toward the goal down the middle between this defender and the one who was the far side wing. The puckcarrier must constantly be funneled around all the defenders blocking entrance to the slot.   

7) When covering an attacker, always stay a “stick-length of protection” away from him and control his angle as he moves. Probe with your stick, and do not surrender your position between the goal and the attacker.

8) If you are skating toward the puckcarrier, your destination is not his body, but rather two yards in front of him. Stop when you reach this point so that you are under control and far less susceptible to fakes than you would be if you skated full speed seeking to reach his torso.

9) If you are a defender pursuing the puckcarrier outside the slot and are beaten, you should immediately sprint to the slot and assess the situation.

10) When an opponent shoots, all defenders should move toward the net so that chances are increased that the attackers will not control any rebound.

11) Remember the following for face-offs: a) assume that the opponent will win it b) our center must neutralize the opposing center if the draw is lost c) both wings must anticipate the dropping of the puck and instantly be skating toward the shooter at the top of the circle or veer to their respective point coverage, depending upon where the puck goes.

12) The minimum objective on defense is to clear the puck over the blue line, thus forcing the opposition to withdraw. If all else fails, ice the puck.

13) Being an effective shotblocker will greatly increase success in your defensive zone.