Day 9 – Defensive Keys

This is the ninth day of our team’s virtual training camp. Each day, there will be a short assignment for you to do to get ready for our season. These assignments are mandatory for players and coaches. Parents are also encouraged to participate.

Today we’re going to talk about some basic defensive tactics and skills. But first…

Yesterday’s Assignment Answer:

Math question: How much more likely are you to hit the net if you aim just over the goalies pads and inside the post than if you aim for the top corner? Express your answer as a percentage increase. Assume that your shot is only accurate to within two feet (as shown in the diagrams below). 

If we aim for the top corner with a shot accurate within two feet, we will hit the net 4 out of 9 times (count the green blocks in the left diagram) = 0.444.

If we aim just over the goalies pad and inside the post with the same accuracy, we will hit the net 6 out of 9 times (count the green blocks in the right diagram) = 0.666 (ignoring rounding)

To calculate the percentage increase:

First: Work out the difference (increase) between the two numbers you are comparing.

Increase = (New Number – Original Number)
Increase = (0.666 – 0.444) = 0.222

Then:  Divide the increase by the original number and multiply the answer by 100.

% Increase = Increase ÷ Original Number × 100
% Increase = 0.222 ÷ 0.444 × 100 = 0.5 x 100 = 50%

Therefore, you are 50% more likely are you to hit the net if you aim just over the goalies pads and inside the post than if you aim for the top corner.  Changing your aiming point, particularly from further away when your accuracy is decreased, can make a huge difference in the goals you will score.

(For more information on calculating percentage changes, see:

Defense Is Easy???

Having good goaltending helps. No sleepies!

I am a huge believer in playing fun, offense first hockey. Teaching offensive creativity and tactics and putting them to use in a game is fun. That said, the first step to playing offence is getting the puck and protecting our net.

We’ll be working a lot more on turning defense into offense as the season progresses. For today, I’m just going to introduce some basic defensive concepts. When and how they are used will come later.

Defend in ALL 3 Zones!

The best way to play defense is to keep the other team out of our zone. The harder we work in the offensive and neutral zone to keep the puck out of our zone the more effective we will be.

8 Keys For Good Defensive Play

These are all things that we will practice.

1. Use Your EYES. Remember, we should be constantly reading and anticipating the play and then MOVING at full speed. Keep your head up and eyes constantly scanning. Some coaches call this having your “head on a swivel“.

Constantly scanning the ice with our eyes.

2. Protect the puck. When we have the puck, we don’t have to play defense. Create a Line of Protection between the puck, your body and your opponent.

Line of Protection

3. Pressure the puck carrier. When we don’t have the puck, hunt relentlessly as a team like a pack of wolves.

4. Hunt from above the puck. Stay between our net and the player/puck when you are checking.

5. Active stick at all times. Away from the puck, use your stick (and feet) to block passing lanes.

6. When checking… Stick to puck. Body on body. Being “in the neighbourhood” isn’t good enough. Try to break your opponent’s Line of Protection by getting into their hands.

Breaking the Line of Protection

7. No sloths! ALWAYS come back at full speed. We want to eliminate odd man rushes against with good back pressure. Outnumber… then overwhelm.

8. Keep your gaps tight. Ideally we’d like to be no more than one stick length away from our blue line in.

Defensive Zone Coverages

5-Card Zone

The 5-Card Zone formation is our basic go-to defensive structure. We call it “5-Card” because our players take the same formation as the suit on the Fives from a deck of cards.

When in doubt, return to your 5-Card position.

Always come back to the 5-Card position in front of our net. Whenever you’re not sure where you are supposed to be, go return to your 5-Card position.

This is a sagging zone coverage designed to protect the area where most goals are scored. Remember, 80% or more goals are scored within one stick length of the crease. The idea is never to be out-manned in this area.

Man-to-Man (Sagging)

Another formation that we’ll be seeing a lot of this year is “Man-to-Man“. You’ll see this type of coverage very commonly used in 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 situations.

In Man-to-Man, everyone has a partner.

Think of Man-to-Man like dancing… Everyone has a partner. Find a man and stay between them and our net.

Our particular version of Man-to-Man is known as a “sagging coverage. We’re not as concerned about tightly covering players who are farther from the net. We’ll trade off giving these players some extra space in exchange for being able to help out or switch off closer to our net. Again, we want to be sure that we are protecting close to our net where most goals are scored.

Today’s Assignment:

  1. Which of the Keys for Defensive Play do you think is the most important in the Neutral Zone? Discuss your answer with your parents.
  2. Think about how we would modify our 5-Card if we’re playing 4-on-4 or 3-on-3?
  3. What is wrong with a “3-Card“? Post the answer to the team WhatsApp group.