SEVEN TIPS TO HELP YOUR TEAM CREATE MORE OFFENSE
By Enio Sacilotto
Every hockey player and teams at all levels love to have the puck on their stick, play offence and score goals. Playing with the puck is what makes hockey a fun sport to play. This article offers you seven simple tips to help players and coaches with their offensive game. A short video clip accompanies each tip.
In a recent interview Martin St. Louis (see video below), head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, went from coaching youth hockey to the NHL. He said, “hockey is hockey, NHL players are the finished product, while youth players are developing, the principles are the same!”. Players and coaches can apply these tips from the U10 level up to professional hockey.
- DEFEND TO GO ON OFFENSE – The trend in hockey today is to be a puck-possession team. The goal is to play with the puck in the offensive zone as much as possible. When your team loses the puck, all five skaters must transition from offence to defence as quickly as possible and work to get the puck back. Defensemen must defend the rush with a good gap, and forwards must track back, get a stick on the puck, body on body, and create a turnover in the high offensive zone or neutral zone.
- GET THE PUCK MOVING UP THE ICE QUICKLY – Defensemen need to make the first pass to the forwards to get the team offence going. Sometimes this first pass is not available. Defensemen need to get their feet up the ice (north) quickly. So, defensemen, when there is room on the ice, carry the puck, look for a pass or carry the puck through the neutral zone to get the offence going, then join the rush for a four-man attack.
- COMMUNICATION – On and off the ice is difficult, especially with youth. On the ice, teams need to develop verbal cues to help with communication. Players need to be “their teammate’s eyes,” and verbal communication should be loud. Players need to encourage each other and discuss on-ice situations on the bench. With good communication, teams will be able to help each other find ways to generate offence.
- TRACK YOUR REBOUNDS – This is a fundamental and straightforward concept. After you shoot, fight to get to the net and stop in front, always looking for a rebound. I often watch training sessions at all levels where the players do shooting drills, and after their shot, they make a skating loop into the corner.
- FIND PRIME SCORING AREAS (QUIET AREAS) IN THE OFFENSE ZONE TO SHOOT FROM – In the offensive zone below the circles and in between the dots are the prime areas to shoot from to score. When no shot or pass is available, place the puck in quiet areas like behind the net, goal line, and corners. If everyone is aware that this is where the puck will go, your team can maintain possession and look for a prime area shot.
- OFZ FORECHECK TO CREATE OFFENSE – After a shot that misses the net or the goalie leaves a rebound, the players’ mindset is to get the puck back quickly. The closest player to the puck angles the opponent, uses a stick-on puck, a stick lift, or plays the body. Other players need to work to get above the puck and support where needed. The best mindset to create offence is shoot – recover puck – shoot – recover puck – shoot in 8-second shifts.
- WHEN SHORTHANDED GO FOR OFFENSE AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY – When you are on the penalty kill, the power play is thinking offence and is trying to score goals. This awful situation is when the power play is at its most vulnerable defensively. The best time is to pressure the PP when they have the puck up high on the point. If the penalty killer gets in the lane or has good stick-on puck positioning, he may be able to steal the puck or block a shot and create an offensive opportunity. The second PK forward can join the rush, and you may generate some two-on-ones. This principle applies to five on five; when your high forward can block a shot by the opposing defensemen, and the puck deflects forward, think breakaway!
Although these tips are simple, remember that the simple little details can make a big difference in creating offence and having a positive outcome in your game! Add these little details to your game and watch your offensive production grow!