How To NOT Lose Your Defensive Zone Faceoffs

It is difficult to control a hockey game if your team has less puck possession than your opponent. Puck possession begins with the drop of the puck at a face-off (intermission, whistle, or goal) and if there’s one time you don’t want to lose a face-off clean, it’s in your own zone.

The San Jose Sharks learned this lesson the hard way in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final when Joel Ward lost a D-zone draw cleanly to Sidney Crosby in OT during Game 2. In case you don’t remember, here’s what happened…

 

Centremen aren’t expected to win every face-off in their D-zone, that’s near impossible.

What they are expected to do is not lose the draw cleanly, or rather, draw the draw. What I mean by this is tie up the other team’s centreman so it becomes a loose puck battle between the other players and possession is up for grabs.

Here are a few things to consider when lining up for a D-zone faceoff.

Technique

The only thing that should be going through a centreman’s head is don’t lose this draw. They must do everything in their power to not let their opponent get clean possession of the puck. Here are several different techniques that a centreman in his D-zone can use to not lose the face-off:

  1. Use your stick to jam your opponent’s stick so they aren’t able to make contact with the puck.
  2. Once engaged, use your skate to kick the puck to a teammate.
  3. Be faster than your opponent and win the puck back to your defensemen with your stick (backhand is typically stronger than forehand for draws).

Support

Before going into the face-off circle, the centreman must let their teammates know exactly what they are doing so the wingers & defensemen can act accordingly. A majority of draws are won by the supporting cast of players around the centre so everyone must be ready to jump on a loose no matter where it ends up. Jonathan Toews’ face-off percentage would not be at 60.3% without the help of his linemates.

Responsibilities

In the rare event that the draw is won cleanly by the D-zone centreman, there are a few different ways we can safely get the puck out of our zone.

  1. If there’s no pressure, skate the puck out
  2. If there’s heavy pressure forcing you up the boards, glass and out
  3. If there’s heavy strong-side pressure, use the weak-side (see below)

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Not if, but when a D-zone face-off is lost cleanly (we all know it will happen multiple times a game), your players must be prepared with their defensive responsibility.

  1. Centreman (C) stays with the other centre. Don’t get caught watching the puck!
  2. Strong-side winger (L) busts through the circle looking for a loose puck and covers the strong-side D. Be prepared to block a shot!
  3. Weak-side winger (R) busts out to cover the weak-side D. If there’s a D-to-D pass, be prepared to block a shot !
  4. Net-front D looks for any loose pucks then covers the net-front winger. Box-out that player so your goalie can see the point shot!
  5. Board-side D looks for any loose pucks and maintains D-side position on board-side winger. Don’t get beat back to the front of the net by this player!

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