In hockey, let’s face it – the defenseman doesn’t get nearly the attention they deserve for their contribution to the ebb and flow of a hockey game. But like all of the HockeyShot advice, if you follow it in a game setting, you have a great opportunity to grab your share of the glory.
There are a lot of unsung heroes in the sporting world:
The back catcher in baseball
The offensive linemen in football
The curling sweeper (try getting yelled at, all the time!)
The guard in basketball
Being a “stay at home” defenseman, or a “journeyman” defenseman sounds pretty lunch bucket, but give “1 on 1 Defense” a try and it sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Just like it sounds, you’re going down the ice, one on one.
Here are some common 1 on 1 defensive styles:
Body on Body
When you are skating backwards, towards your own end, you will want to have your stick in front of you, with the blade on the ice. You want to be able to have the stick mobile enough so you can block passes along the ice, or to steer the opposing player where you want him to go, ideally towards the “outer rink” against the boards.
You want your shoulder closest to the boards lined up with the puck carrier’s shoulder closest to the center or the rink. By doing this, you will be able to make a move on the player and push him towards the boards if he tries to get around you and make a run for the net. Pushing him towards the boards, and into the corners in your end cuts off his passing ability, puts the kibosh on his scoring chances, and generally gives you the opportunity to slow your opponent down and possibly rob him of the puck.
Send Your Opponent to Their Backhand
When you steer the opposing player towards the boards, it makes it nearly impossible to take a regular shot, and they have to resort to making a backhand pass or shot. For most players, their backhand is weaker, and has less accuracy. You’ll have a better chance of blocking the shot or pass, and steering the puck back towards the opposing goaltender.
You can also give them extra room towards the boards, which might make them say “Oh great! Space to deke around this amazing defender!” and when they skate for the opening, you simply say “Gotchya!” and steer the pesky forward right into the boards in front of his or her own team. If you are going to teach one opposing player to not try and deke you out, you might as well put on a clinic for the whole team, right?
Match Your Opponent's Speed
When you are in a 1 on 1 defensive skate backwards up the ice towards your end, you want to match the other guy’s speed as much as possible. You don’t want to be caught flat-footed with a deke and cause a break away. You also don’t want to go too fast and have a lot of space between and the rushing forward with the puck. About three stick lengths should do it, at least until you get to your blue line, as you can check out in our “Rink Markings” video. It’s all about…
This isn’t the gap control you need when you get your front teeth knocked out by a slap shot. This is where you control the space between you and the oncoming player. If they go left, you mirror them, and same if they go right. You can only do this effectively if you have a two or three stick distance with them. If you can smell their breath, you are too close, or they need dental work. If you are too far, they have too many opportunities to sidestep you and leave you dangled. When you cross your blue line, cut the distance between you down, and go for a nice poke check to knock the puck free.
Make sure you don’t over commit to the poke check, or the opposing rushing player can dipsy doodle around you and streak to the net. Just don’t let them get a sniper between the hash marks and go five hold on your netminder. The as you get over the blue line and the faceoff circle, push your opponent towards the boards, and introduce them to the advertising along the boards.
A good defense starts with a strong offense they say. It also entails being able to control your opponent so you leave them little chance but to carry the puck into the boards or the corners. There, you and your team mates can nudge them off the puck, and carry the puck back into their end, and behind their goalie, where it belongs.