Breakouts and Stretch Breakouts - 11 Plays
Sample Play- Double Wingers Stretch Centre to Middle Nzone
On their failed aggressive 2 – 1- 2 forecheck or broken cycle when our D gets the puck with time and space around the bottom of our faceoff circle, our 2 wingers can fly the zone fast and drive their D back to their blueline. Our centre reads the time and space our D has and skates hard to the red line creating a passing lane to him from our D. If one of their forwards does not get back to cover our centre it’s a 3 on 2 for us. If there is no passing lane our D just alley-oops or passes indirect off the boards to one of our 2 wingers at the boards who may deflect the puck into their zone or pass back to our centre coming fast up the middle
3 on 2s – 16 Plays
To Winger Wide Around Defenceman, Angles to Net - Our centre passes the puck to our winger and our winger goes wide around their defenceman and tries to go in on goal on an angle. Their defenceman will try to poke check our winger and will turn to chase him and if their defenceman cannot knock the puck off our stick or catch our winger their defenceman will bother our winger as much as possible. He will stretch his stick out as wide as possible towards our winger holding it with both hands just above our winger’s shin pads firmly so our winger’s movement is slowed a little. Our winger should lean net side on their defenceman, knee and leg out wide to get leverage on him and drive to the net.
FINISH THE CHECK
So many teams give up the neutral zone by playing the puck trying to stick check in stead of body checking their player and finiahing the check so that he loses control of the puck or makes a bad pass. This will allow one of our players to pick up the loose puck. If we do that consistently our players will anticipate this will happen and position themselves to gain puck control.
We want our forwards to be body checking effectively in the neutral zone not our defencemen most of the time because if our defenceman misses the check or their forward passes off, an odd man rush or worse may result unless one of our forwards is back checking hard.
If all of our forwards are in the neutral zone with their forwards, our left winger takes the left side of the ice and covers their forward there, the centre man the centre, and the right winger the right side bottling them up completely.
If two forwards are in the neutral zone divide the ice in half.
If one forward only is there body check their player with the puck wherever he is in the neutral zone.
Their forwards will be trying to move fast probably in open spaces so when our forward lines their player up for a body check our player’s focus should be on the centre of their player’s chest for the body check and taking a good angle to him. No puck watching. This will help prevent our player from reacting to shoulder or head fakes, side-to-side puck movements, between our player skates puck movements, or between our players stick and skates puck movements.
Remember too to anticipate their passes and take the ice away from them before they move into open areas and cover their passing lanes.
DON’T LOOK AT THE PUCK, JUST TAKE THE BODY
TELL YOURSELF HE IS NOT GOING TO GET BY YOU AND DO IT!
Even if you can’t execute a completely clean body check, make sure you somehow get your stick under his so that he loses control of the puck. Maintain your speed as you go into him, with your skates wide apart for stability so you will not just bounce off or be deflected off by his aggressive bracing action. Finish the check.
You don’t have to hammer him to make this work effectively. You don’t even have to knock him off his skates, just knock him off the puck or stop his forward progress. In fact if you do body check him too hard you may hurt yourself more than him or wear yourself down as the game goes along, or get an undeserved penalty. Be smart.
This “take the body” tactic will be particularly effective in stopping their short passes in the neutral zone. After doing this for a while to their players, they will start to become very aware that our body check will be coming. They will as they say be on their heels, leaning back anticipating the check. They will be unable to play effective hockey this way. A probable result will be they will start messing up making and receiving passes unless they are very used to the neutral zone “take the body” tactic.
By the way, to beat this tactic when applied against us, win the red line, shoot the puck into their zone and go get it.
Most times the skill differences between two teams are not very great and little things decide the outcome of a game, especially in the playoffs.
Little things can be “physical” skills related to natural talent, like better or faster skating or more accurate shooting or passing, or simply “mental” skills related to things like desire, trying harder and intensity.
We all have limited “physical” ability and work with what we have to play better.
But you can help your game tremendously by “mentally” deciding to be better than the other players on the other team. Many teams have won championships with players who were not the most talented, but instead had some or all of the following “mental”skills:
The Mentally Tough Player Model
• Never gives up, whether the team is winning or losing
• Tries, and skates as hard as he can all the time
• Has great desire to win the puck
• Anticipates where the puck is going
• Doesn’t miss passes because he is about to get checked
• Concentrates and stays 100% focused all the time
• Talks with his teammates on the ice when needed
• Listens to his teammates on and off the ice
• Is unselfish with the puck, passes to the open player – an assist or a great defensive play is as good as a goal
• Disciplines himself to play his position and follow the team’s systems and tactics
• Back checks and forechecks as hard as he can – no coasting
• Plays physical but doesn’t take penalties
• Plays with no fear of contact but protects himself
• No matter how physical the game he is never intimidated or afraid
• Cuts in on net with or without the puck in traffic
• Screens their goalie at the top of his crease just off the blue ice in heavy traffic taking the contact from their defenceman, refusing to be moved
• Gets the puck out of our end as he’s getting hit
• Doesn’t poke or sweep check in our end, takes the body and sticks his nose in there
• Doesn’t lose his cool and take stupid penalties
• Doesn’t hesitate to force the player on the other team to pass the puck faster than he wants to
• Tries harder when he makes mistakes
• Doesn’t blame or complain to the referee
• Decides his check on the other team is not going to score
• Decides their player when coming up the ice on his side is not going to get by him
• Thinks all the time what he’s supposed to do under pressure
• Decides he is going to win the puck battle in the corner or along the boards
• Comes ready to play every game and prepares himself physically and mentally to do so
• Is willing to learn and change to improve and to take the time to do it
“KNOWING” IS NOT “DOING”
How many times have you seen professional and amateur players make fundamental mistakes in games under pressure that they would never make normally. Everyone is different but a big reason for this happening is that people usually revert back to their basic instincts and ways of doing things (habits) as opposed to new ways, even if the new ways are better, when they are under pressure or are overly excited or intense.
Another reason is that some players don’t really believe the play or tactic is the best one for them or the team.
Some players are selfish and will take unnecessary risks to try to score or make a play.
In hockey, with the right fundamental split second decisions needed consistently, the idea that good habits will be the norm must come from constant reinforcement both on and off the ice as to what the fundamentals are and why they are best for the team’s success. These habits should become so second nature in certain situations that they automatically follow the other team’s pattern of behavior, that is, some of our player’s actions are in automatic reaction to the other team’s movements.
A good example of this would be automatic reaction of our defenceman who are at the other team’s blue line when the other team just gets clear possession of the puck at their hash marks and our three forwards are caught no higher than at the face off circle in their end. Our defencemen should immediately back off the blue line and not pinch trying to challenge their player with the puck and risk an odd man rush. This safe reaction of our defencemen should become second nature.
The coach’s leadership role in making this and other fundamentals second nature in certain situations is key, without stifling creativity in other situations. Other players on the team who are the leaders like the captain and the alternates need to support the club’s systems and tactics openly. The fundamentals need to become a topic of conversation in the dressing room, at off ice sessions, when the guys hang around, and on the bench.
Also, players should be asked to review the club’s systems or Play Book regularly. Participative off ice sessions should be held to see if players remember these tactics and systems. Videos should be used to point out the good and the bad and to make the reinforcement fun.
THE FUNDAMENTALS NEED TO BECOME SECOND NATURE
When clubs are winning and things are going pretty well, it is a very good time for a coach to expect a variance from basic fundamentals from players and the emergence of unreasonable risk taking. Coaches should anticipate this. In practice and in the “easy” games when we are winning by 3 or 4 goals, coaches need to continue to emphasize and point out mistakes in fundamentals that lead to defensive errors, in particular, even when the mistake did not result in a goal against us.
By not dealing with the unwanted variance from the system all the time, you will be reinforcing a potentially bad habit that may reappear at the most inopportune time like in overtime in an important game. And you can be sure the variance will result in a goal against then! Right!