It’s simple: To protect the puck is to keep the puck. To keep the puck is to ratchet up the pressure on the opposition, to increase their chances of making a mistake, and to extend your opportunity to make the play that scores the goal or sets up the scoring chance.
Puck protection = puck possession = scoring chances.
Every player on the ice can benefit from puck protection techniques.
Take forwards, for example. We know they all want to pull off a flashy dangle, drive hard to the middle, put the puck between the defender’s legs and go top shelf.
Instead of inviting a poke check, why not deke to the middle, use your speed to drive past him on the outside, put your body between him and the puck and then cut toward the slot?
Defensemen use the basics of puck protection all the time, as well. Got a forechecker bearing down on you while you’re behind the net? Use the basic body shield to buy enough time to make the clearing pass.
Of course, there’s more to it than turning your back to the opposition. Several puck protection techniques can come in handy.
Five (OK, Six) for Fighting
There are strategies you can learn, techniques to perfect and patterns to recognize that can enhance your ability to protect the puck. Here are some of our favorite puck-protection pointers:
Know the defense: Defensive players are taught, and the game tends to dictate, certain angles from which they will attack an offensive player. Anticipating those angles can prompt a turn toward the boards, a cutback or driving toward the net at an angle that puts your body between the defender and the puck.
Skate through contact: Get used to being bumped. Drill one-on-one or two-on-two, play small-area games, do anything you can think of to promote confidence and stability on skates.
Block out: Be aware of your blade edges as you get between the opponent and the puck. Your inside skate should be on its outside edge, and the outside skate on its inside edge. Keep a wide base and a deep knee bend for a low center of gravity. Use your edges to dig in to the ice to prevent the defender from dictating your path. Whether you have one hand or two on the stick, keep the stick rolled over (hooded over the puck).
One-hand it: Trying to control the puck can sometimes seem a defensive approach to playing offense. But just because the opposition is attacking you in an effort to extricate the puck doesn’t mean you can’t attack them right back — with a free hand. Practice handling the puck with either your top or bottom hand alone. The free hand can fend off a pesky opponent’s stick, or an arm can create additional space.
Serpentine: Basically, we’re talking about using cutbacks. Changing direction may be the most important part of protecting the puck. Turning away from the defender creates ice space into which you can escape.
Board-room politics: You don’t want to get trapped along the boards — but if you do, you can use them to buy enough time to move the puck along to a teammate. Push off with both hands, simultaneously hinging at the waist to create maximum clearance from the wall.
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.
This story was submitted by ProStockHockey