The Blueprint of a Defensive Zone Puck Retrieval & Exit – Part 2: After Touching The Puck

How players can improve their chances of a successful puck retrieval and exit

In part one (you can read here), I went over some details that create a competitive advantage for players breaking out of their own zone before touching the puck. Now, let’s move onto after touching the puck.

Deception

First thing is that deception (fakes) can be used before, and after touching the puck.

Generally speaking, the three main ways to add deception into your game include:

  • Head

  • Stick

  • Feet

Dwayne Blais, a Hockey Canada Certified Skills Coach & Skills Coach of the Washington Capitals explains this in detail in the video below if you’re not familiar with these concepts.

Using deception after touching the puck has been used more widely over the years, however deception before touching the puck is just as impactful, and has gained in popularity as of late.

In this clip you can see NSH59 use deception with his feet prior to touching the puck. Before he touches the puck, notice how he turns his feet to the left so they’re parallel with the end boards in an attempt to get F1 to believe he will skate up the strong side of the ice (where most of the players are). Quickly and smoothly, he then gives his feet a quick 180 degree turn, and picks up the puck with a substantial amount of open ice which he just created for himself and skates up the weak side (where less players are):

Find & Attack Middle Ice

When you get the puck and are exiting, try to get off the wall and find ice between the dots (middle ice) if available, take it as it’s a hot commodity and it opens up the ice to improve passing and skating options. NYI2 exemplifies this perfectly here before using a deceptive no-look backhand pass to one of his two passing options: to create a successful controlled entry:

Beat F1

Below average play: Don’t suck in any players and pass the puck to make it a teammates problem. Play goes from a 5v5 to 4v5

Average play: Suck F1 into you and advance the puck. Play goes from a 5v5 to a 4v4

Above average play: Beat F1 and advance the puck. Play goes from a 5v5 to a 5v4

Superstar play: Beat F1 and suck F2 into you before advancing the puck. Play goes from a 5v5 to a 5v4 to a 4v3

As you can see here Cale Makar breaks out and beats F1 & F2 cleanly before his own blue line, which creates a brief 4v3, as his D-partner lags behind en route to make a change:

Become F4

More players available on the breakout is always an advantage. Defenceman jumping past their check, activating & joining the rush as F4 will further assist in more controlled exits, which will lead to more controlled entries.

So whether you’re the defenceman breaking out with the puck or not, look for a way to activate and join the rush.

Elite possession drivers and consensus top-pair defensemen such as Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Mark Giordano and Jeff Petry not only have technical abilities and tactical instincts to actively participate in their team’s transition, but they also have a rare physical gift to be able to sprint, recover, then sprint again for 25+ minutes each game. - Jack Han

Here is a quick clip that shows Roman Josi jumping past his check, activating & joining the rush as F4.


Now that the dump-and-chase era is coming to an end, the game has evolved more into a place-and-chase game. The days are over where players will mindlessly chip in pucks into the OZ, whereas players are now taking calculated approaches as to which kind of dump, and the exact location will offer the highest chances to retrieve the puck. This only means that defenceman will have to retrieve pucks under greater amounts of stress, and there is no better time to learn and perfect the fundamentals of a retrieval & exit than now.

Now, we do not want to create robots out of our players, however these are steps that may be taken to drastically improve the chances of a successful controlled exit. If one of the listed steps isn’t possible, simply move onto the next step.


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