Going into game 5 of the Dallas Stars—Edmonton Oilers Western Conference final series, the Oilers have an impressive penalty-killing record, having killed 28 consecutive penalties. They are leading the NHL 2024 playoffs with a 92.3 percent efficiency.

While avoiding penalties altogether is ideal, they are inevitable in hockey. Therefore, teams must be well-prepared with an effective penalty-killing plan.

The Oilers employ a high-pressure, calculated penalty-killing system. Here, we’ll examine the 1) Oilers’ 1-3 Neutral Zone Defense, how they play the 2) three-point pressure system and the 3) “push down” or “trap down” system in the defensive zone.

In the first clip, the Oilers are in the 1-3 formation in the neutral zone. They aim to steer the puck to the outside and pressure before the blueline, forcing the dump. If the opponents get the entry, the objective is to pressure the power play, force the power play low, deny the high cross-ice pass, and make it as uncomfortable as possible. In the second graphic of the clip, the power play gets the puck high, and the high penalty killers switch and continue with the pressure, with good stick work to deny the cross-ice D-to-D pass and force the power play to go low. This is called “push down” or “trap down” pressure. Once committed low, the penalty kill applies “three-point pressure.”  The Oilers win the puck, and it is 200-foot clear.  Note that the puck is cleared on the player’s forehand.  Players are strongest on their forehand, so they should always attempt to be on their forehand to ensure a 200-foot clear.

In the second clip, we see the neutral zone 1-3 formation again, and the Oilers hold the bluelines with good sticks. The puck ends up in the Oiler’s corner, and they immediately go into three-point pressure. When the Oilers are in three points, player one seals the bottom, player two engages in the battle to win the puck, and player three seals the top. Player four holds the middle. In this example, player three, sealing the top, comes up with the puck and sends it 200 feet on his forehand.

In the third clip, the Oilers go into 3-point pressure, and the Canucks win the puck. The Oilers quickly adjust and get into their defensive PK routes. In this clip, Darnel Nurse gets into the shooting lane, and the puck is loose in the corner. Nurse quickly pressures, taking the passing lane away, wins the puck, and clears it down the ice for a 200-foot clear on his forehand.

Critical points for the three-point pressure system:

1) Three-point pressure is calculated; specific “trigger” points exist, such as off a lousy pass, loose, bouncing, or rolling puck, bobbled puck, loose puck off a defensive zone power play entry, off a shot or rebound into the corner, rim entry or dump in, face of a loss, or when the opponent is facing the wall.

2) “One go—all go”—Three-point pressure works when all players are working together and on the same page. Therefore, all four players on the ice must run their respective routes simultaneously.

3) Communication – On-ice, loud, vocal communication makes 3-point pressure execution much more effortless.

4) Sprinting – hockey is about playing fast with speed.  Players must sprint their routes to apply pressure – taking time and space away.

5) Preparation and Trust—When a team is prepared, all the players know what to do, their roles, and their routes. They must trust each other to do their respective jobs.

The fourth clip shows two examples of the “push down” or “trap down.” In the first part of the clip, the Edmonton player “pushes” or steers the puck carrier to go low along the wall. Notice the detail in his stick positioning; he takes away the high D-to-D pass. Once the player is down, the defenseman steps out in the shooting lane, taking away the passing lane with his stick in the middle. The weak side forward closes the middle and takes any seam passes away. The puck gets moved back to the top in the following clip sequence. Notice how the Edmonton forwards switch and force the pushdown; the puck is advanced low, the Oilers begin their three-point pressure, and the puck is cleared 200 feet on the forehand.


Kevin Bieksa from Sportsnet and Coach and Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness explain the “trap down” the Oilers use.

In this clip, Connor Brown discusses the push-down or trap-down system, how the players trust each other to run their routes, and how they attempt to hold the blue line.

Effective penalty killing can decide the outcome of a game for your team. Having a structured system, reviewing videos, and practising often will ensure success!


Enio Sacilotto is President of International Hockey Camps and operates the Mental Edge High-Performance Training. Enio has 42 years of coaching experience (professional hockey in Europe and the Victoria Royals (WHL)). Currently, he coaches at the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy, is the Croatian National Men’s hockey team coach and is the Associate Coach with the Grandview Steelers. If you have questions or are interested in his services, contact Enio at or call 604 255 4747. Website: