Hockey 101: Defensive Zone Positioning- Defensemen

This is one of a series called Hockey 101, addressing the basics of hockey positioning and systems appropriate for a beginner to intermediate player and their team.

Even Strength Defensive Zone Positioning

D-man zone responsibilities

The basics of defensive zone positioning for defensemen are very simple.

  1. When the puck is in your corner, fight for it
  2. When the puck is in the other corner, fight to own the front of the net
  3. When the puck is up high, cover the forwards near the net, keep the net front clear.
  4. When not engaged in the corner, control the players closest to the net on your side or in front.
  5. There should always be at least one defenseman in front of the net when the puck is in the zone. 

There are exceptions to this, but these are good rules to start with. 

Positions to avoid:

  1. Don’t chase behind the net (usually)
  2. Don’t chase above the dots (usually)
  3. Don’t screen your goalie unless it’s required to engage an open attacker.

Puck Moves Across (Don’t chase)

A common mistake is to chase the puck too much.  When the puck moves to the opposite side, normally, you shouldn’t chase much across the mid-line, especially when the puck goes behind the net.  A defenseman that chases behind the net can easily get caught out of position.  Communicate with your partner.

When the puck is moved behind the net from the corner, the defender follows to the net.

If he tries to chase behind the net , the forward may use the net as a pick and get a clean shot or create an outnumbered attack in the crease.  This is especially true if you’re trailing the puck carrier.

Instead, he takes up his place in front of the net and his partner engages the puck carrier as he comes around the net.

Situations when you might chase across the mid-line:

  • When the defenseman is playing the puck carrier’s body along the boards
  • When the puck is loose or the puck carrier has a poor handle on the puck
  • When your partner is not available to pick up the player on the other side

In a scramble or in a broken play, retreat to your side of the net and take away the space of the opponent closest to your post.


More Defensive Stuff

For more details check out the following posts:

2 Replies to “Hockey 101: Defensive Zone Positioning- Defensemen

  1. I am a beginner, and seem to have a natural preference for playing D. The combination of bullet points, diagram, and animation are all really helpful in outlining the position’s key responsibilities. Thanks!

    During a couple of my last drop-in games, I keep ending up in a similar scenario (with the exact same opponent): I (as RD) am defending against a puck-carrying RW. I successfully force the RW to move out to the boards by body positioning, and into the corner. My position is always between the RW and the net, but, due to our relative skill levels/speeds (RW is better), my natural point of interception would have been just after the corner (i.e. with the RW continuing on a path behind the net). Due to the speed we were skating (both racing) and the fact that the RW is right on the boards, I ease off at the last moment because I worry about either running them into the boards, or tripping them. I’m not necessarily making it easy for them, as they still need to flatten against the boards to get past, but I make sure to move my stick out of their path. The RW inevitably continues, wraps around the net, and scores. This could have been prevented if there was another D-person in front (or on the LHS) of the net, but many times there isn’t.

    This same scenario played out a number of times, and I think it is a learned behavior between myself and this particular RW; they know that I will ease off at the last minute, in the same position (just after the corner), and I know that they’re likely relying on me doing so, which allows them to continue to skate aggressively. Due to that, I’m hesitant to suddenly *not* withdraw my stick (i.e. keep it out to try and intercept the puck), or to physically put myself directly next to the boards in their path and force them to stop/change direction at the last moment. I’d like to think that if I were playing against someone of my own skill level, my positioning would have been enough to pressure them into dumping/passing the puck 😉 However, the RW is a considerably more experienced player than I am, and they just carry it through.

    Short of relying on another D-person to prevent the wraparound goal.., is there anything else I can do to better protect my zone, and/or force this RW to pass the puck, rather than carry it behind the net? Thanks in advance for any advice!

    1. First, you’re right, pinning them in the corner or behind the net is the best play. Especially against a higher skill opponent, you NEED to use your body to do that. Get in their way. If you aren’t in position to use the body and your partner is out of position, you might try, instead of chasing behind the net, cross in front of your goaltender and try to intercept the wraparound.

      It can also be helpful to the goaltender if you’re really certain he’s going to the other side, you call call out “coming around” to the goalie and hopefully they can make it to cover the far post in time.

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