Faceoffs may seem like a trivial component of a hockey game, but winning more faceoffs directly translates into more scoring chances.
This post will introduce you to an alternative to the standard faceoff alignment commonly used at high levels of play.
Problems with Traditional Faceoff Formations
Most beer league teams still use the basic center ice faceoff formation in all positions on the ice. While it works fine for center ice and the attacking zone, it is not a very good setup in the defensive zone.
There are alternatives, however. It is important to note that this alignment is only appropriate for a defensive zone faceoff, but I believe it is a much better arrangement.
In the traditional faceoff alignment, a few positions have to skate through other players to reach their assigned coverage area. In addition, none of those routes takes the player into an area where the puck is likely to be. Finally, a shift in the attackers position further challenges defending players to gain a positional advantage.
In the diagram (at the right), the attacking team has an area of uncontested ice after the faceoff (highlighted in grey). In addition, cleanly won faceoffs result in both the RW and RD having open space to get an uncontested shot from within this grey area before the defending player can reach them, or even try to block a shot, since they are coming from an off angle.
Alternative Defensive Zone Formation
An alternative lines up players with their coverage area, and the shooting lane.
In this formation, the wingers (who need to cover distance quickly after a faceoff) can jump more quickly because they have the same initial skating pattern regardless of whether or not the faceoff is won or lost, and they’re not asked to engage with other wingers in the event a puck battle ensues in a contested faceoff.
The following takes place in this formation
- Defensemen engage immediately with opposing wingers
- Wingers move immediately
- Wingers move directly at the opposing defensemen
- Wingers always remain in the shooting lane
- Strong side winger (LW in the example) moves through the soft spot to steal soft faceoff wins
- Both wingers gains speed for quick breakaway in case of a clean win.
The biggest challenge in this system is that it puts pressure on the strong side defenseman (LD in this example) to retrieve pucks in a faceoff win, so it’s not a good system if your defenders are weaker skaters on your team.
Set Play Breakaway
This setup is particularly good at exposing the potential for breakaway plays due to the wingers moving aggressively up the center part of the ice. In any kind of clean win (and sometimes even in a lost faceoff), one or both of the wingers are able to get a step on flat footed defenders at the point, potentially allowing for a number of breakaway plays. One of the most common is pictured in the diagram. Although it is possible in other faceoff formations, it is especially practical in this one due to the angle of attackers and defenders movement.