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.
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:
- Use your stick to jam your opponent’s stick so they aren’t able to make contact with the puck.
- Once engaged, use your skate to kick the puck to a teammate.
- Be faster than your opponent and win the puck back to your defensemen with your stick (backhand is typically stronger than forehand for draws).
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.
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.
- If there’s no pressure, skate the puck out
- If there’s heavy pressure forcing you up the boards, glass and out
- If there’s heavy strong-side pressure, use the weak-side (see below)
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.
- Centreman (C) stays with the other centre. Don’t get caught watching the puck!
- 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!
- 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 !
- 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!
- 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!