In order to score goals, you need to get the puck into the offensive zone first, and that usually means getting it OUT of your own zone. In this article I have compiled a list of resources to help you learn better defensive zone coverage. This includes a collection of valuable pictures and videos from the hockey community. We cover the responsibilities of the wingers, centermen, and defensemen in the defensive zone.
The Fundamentals of Defensive Zone Coverage
The image below (from the Blue Seat Blog) is a great introduction to covering the defensive zone. What every player should understand is that everyone has a job. Too often we see a player who should be in the high support zone or net zone being sucked closer and closer to the hit zone. This leaves vulnerabilities in our coverage and gives players on the other team extra chances while also extending the time we have to play defense.
My rule for the defensive zone – Understand your job, and do it well. The image below will help you understand the fundamentals of defensive coverage. As the puck moves, the players jobs will change, and at times players can rotate and switch jobs, but keep your head on a swivel and check to make sure we don’t have 2 or 3 players doing the same job!
One last tip – Just because you are in the right spot, does not mean you are doing the right thing! Once you are in position, you now have to perform a task (lift a stick, contain the puck carrier, take away a passing lane, etc). Be active while playing your position.
Defensive Zone Coverage for Wingers
The image below is from a more detailed breakdown into the wingers positioning in the defensive zone.
This image is only showing the duties of the strong side winger, but also discusses different styles of wingers (a fast skater via good ice skate, or slower skater). The strong side refers to the side of the ice the puck is on. It is very important that the strong side winger is covering their point and when our team gets the puck is in position to assist in the breakout. For more information on playing wing you may enjoy the responsibilities of a winger in hockey and a more detailed look at the wingers job in the defensive zone. We have also included a great video below from our friends at Hockey Share.
Quick tips for the wingers in the defensive zone
Keep your head on a swivel and know where your point man is
When the other team has the puck, get in passing lanes to take away your check as an option
When on the strong side play hard on the puck, battle to make sure that puck clears the zone
Make sure you are in position for breakout passes with your stick on the ice and aware of the position of your players and the other players for a clean breakout
Don’t get sucked out of position, trust your team mates and be ready to do your job when the puck comes into your zone
Centermans role in the Defensive Zone
As a centerman your main duty is to offer support. You are the guy that helps out if a defencemen gets beat, or if there is an opportunity to win a battle by quickly jumping into the play. You should think of yourself as a 3rd defencemen.
Your common responsibilities are to support the defense, jump in and help when help is needed, block passing lanes, and support the breakout. At times you will rotate jobs with the defencemen depending on the situation. Hockey Share comes through again with a great video explaining the centermens job in more detail
Defensemen Positioning in the Defensive zone
The image above explains the various jobs of the defensemen in the defensive zone. The most basic idea of playing defense is keep the puck away from the front of the net. You can do this by containing players to the outside, and blocking passing lanes into the center. A simple rule is to stay between the opponent with the puck and your net, if you can do this you will always be in good defensive position (just don’t give them too much time and space)
Here is the last video from Hockey Share explaining defensive zone coverage for defensemen
Looking for more videos on improving your defense?
We have already released a few videos to help you play better defense, in our defense 101 video we talk about using the markings to improve your positioning, and in our 1 on 1 video we show you how to play defense on a 1 on 1.
Breakouts are the final part to defensive zone coverage. This means that we have successfully gotten possession of the puck and are ready to break out of our zone. Covering this topic in detail may draw this article on a little bit too long so I will leave you with a post on the 5 breakout plays every hockey player should know. I will re-visit this topic at a later date here on The Hockey Movement with some more insight.And of course you can subscribe to receive updates on articles like this via email in the box to the right.