I Had MY man……

This week Travis Kauffman came up with a good topic to cover. D zone coverage as it pertains to dmen.
This is a little tricky to cover because so much of this is relates to what system your team and coach are running so there can be some subtle differences to what your responsibilities are and what you should do in each situation.
There are things that pertain to dzone coverage that are universal to all things though. This is the dirty, ugly part of the game, but no doubt the most important when it comes to playing d. There is simply no secret or easy way out when it comes to this. Playing strong d and good dzone coverage is hard work. Playing against highly skilled forwards who’s job is to make you look bad is tough. The most effective way to combat them is to out-work them. That is the great part of hockey. Sometimes and very often the more skilled players get beat by someone willing to outwork them.
“If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it.”Al Arbor

That is a very simplified way to be successful when talking about dzone coverage. Let’s break it down a bit further and without getting into systems and things, here are 6 areas that I have identified that all dmen who are good in their own end have and focus on.

1. Be willing to make it uncomfortable for the opposition. 
Let’s face it guys. Hockey is a very tough sport. Even if you are not a killer back there, you must make it ‘uncomfortable’ on the forwards you are defending. You have to finish your check. Hack, whack and do the little things that will make forwards wish they were playing against the other sets of dmen. Now don’t be stupid. Penalties can happen but stupid penalties can’t…….Just let the forwards know that it is going to be a long night when they are out there against you. If you can get them thinking about anything else than scoring, you are doing your job. Wayne Gretzky once described playing against Kjell Samuellson from the Flyers, who was a great defender, “like playing in Seaweed…….”because he was constantly hanging on him. Another quote to think about was from legendary coach Fred Shero who said, “Take the most direct path to the puck and arrive in ill humor.”

2.      Take away time and space. Have quick feet. Good dmen are focused on taking away offensive players time and or space. When you close in quickly on a player you reduce their time and ability to make a play. When you take away their space, you do the same thing. So always focus on getting to the player as quickly as you can. Focus on that all the time when you are in your own end. Know your man and take away his time and space! That is why foot speed is probably one of the biggest assets any dman can have and should always work on.
3.      Stay on Defensive side and stay in Control. When you hear coaches or people talk about running around in our own end this is what this means. If you always remain on the defensive side of your opposition, chances are you won’t be scored on. Think about it. Rarely is a goal scored by your man if you are between him and the net. I touched on earlier about taking away time and space but you have to do this under control. Close fast but don’t force yourself off balance or approach on a bad angle that causes problems. When things get crazy, get yourself under control, relax and get back to being focused on the basics.
4.      Know where your Dman partner is, always. The great defensemen always are aware of where their partner is. Especially when they are in their own end. They can sense where he is. If your d partner is in trouble or gets beat, you can bail him out, if you are in trouble or get beat, he can bail you out. Chances are, 98% of the time, one of you will be in front of the net. If he is in a corner or behind the goal line defending, there is almost a 100% chance that you should not be……One of the things you will always hear coaches say is, “Head on a swivel…” You have to always be looking all over the zone and know where guys are. Don’t just focus in on one man. Develop a sense of looking and scanning the entire zone.
5.      Force the play up the wall. Dmen should always be trying to angle the play up the wall away from the corners and ultimately away from the net. Why? Think about it like this, there is more help from the forwards when you push the play up that way. Your Centerman can help, your winger can collapse down a bit and once again, time and space are taken away from the offensive player. When the play is down in the corner or behind the net, defenders can get beat, fall down or get confused in coverage and bad things happen. Get it up and away from your net.
6.      Be willing to block shots. We talked about this a few weeks ago and there are some good examples on this in one of the earlier posts. Someone is always going to get beat. That happens. When it does you better be willing to block a shot to save the day. It’s not fun but it has to be done!!
Hope this helps and if you have any questions drop me a line! Here some more pretty good videos.
By the way, everyone HATES when after being scored on someone says, “I had MY man….” Don’t do it……   J

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