Brought to you by former Cornell standout and assistant coach Topher Scott of the Hockey Think Tank.
In this NHL Video Breakdown, Topher discusses how NHL teams create offense by anticipating the play and getting behind their opponent’s defense.
Anticipation or Cheating?
One of the best things about the game of hockey is it’s always changing.
Coaches and players are always trying to find an advantage that can separate themselves or their teams from the competition. The best in the game are always evolving, always thinking about how they can think about the game differently.
One of those ways that we are seeing much more of in today’s game is “getting behind the other team’s defense.”
When I was growing up, players that went behind the other team’s “D” many times were coined as “cherry pickers” and not committed to playing a team game. Well, in a lot of ways, that is changing in today’s game.
A major part of that change has to do with how teams are playing defensively, especially when their team is in the offensive zone.
You see many teams pinching their defense on the breakout or getting right up on the opposing wingers on the wall when the puck is in a battle in the corner. That mindset makes it very difficult to make passes to the wingers because they are typically covered.
So what many teams have done, is rather than just having the winger stay in his normal defensive positioning, they have the winger blow the zone to put the opposition’s defense on their heels. Because D are so aggressive and on their toes with their gaps, it counters that approach and dictates their own pace of the game.
You’ll see this happen in other instances as well.
For example, when a player goes out to block a shot and the shot gets by them…rather than put on the breaks and get back to the slot, they will keep going forward in hopes that the D block it, get the puck, and can find them for a breakaway.
I’m not sure that would fly a decade ago!
Another place where flying a guy and trying to get them behind the opponent’s defense is right after a turnover. You’ll see teams turn it over, and all of the sudden a winger from the team that now has possession is pushing it. You see indirect or flip passes into areas for the streaking winger to catch the opposing team sleeping.
What used to be coined as a selfish play in flying the zone has now become a popular tactic for many teams.
It pushes the pace, allows you to dictate action, and can be valuable offensively for a team that’s struggling to get anything going in transition. There is certainly some risk to this way of thinking as now that player isn’t in a good spot defensively, but still, many teams are finding ways to put this in their systems and structure.
What used to be cheating…has now commonly become known as anticipating the play.
Find more great hockey coaching, tips, and insight from Topher Scott at the Hockey Think Tank website, Podcast, YouTube, and Facebook.