Want to win more games? Reduce goals against.

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Coach has been a member since December 15th 2011, and has created 2 posts from scratch.

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Reducing Odd Man Rushes

An odd man rush is when the attackers outnumber the defenders. It usually occurs after a turnover, and involves a change in direction of the play (if you’re getting outnumbered as soon as the other team breaks out you need to back this whole process up and address how you respond to their breakout, but that’s a different post).

Imagine your team is attacking, and all three forwards cross the opposing team’s blue line. They have 2 D-men back, and one of their forwards, but the other two are lagging on the back check. Your puck carrier loses the puck somehow – his pass is intercepted, he takes a shot that goes wide, or he gets checked. What happens now?

First, your team is facing away from the direction that the puck is now travelling, and their team is facing toward the direction its going – your end! They have to skate forward while some of your forwards have to turn around and try to catch up.

If all three of your forwards are deep they are essentially going to be out of the play. The opposition forwards who were floating back will pick up any puck chipped or passed ahead by their D-men and your two D-men will be outnumbered. The more often this happens the more often the opposition gets a scoring chance, and the more often that happens the more often they’ll score. Goals are hard to come by. You can’t give them away or dig yourself a hole. If you keep other teams under 3 goals per game, and in a perfect world, under 2 goals a game, you’ll increase the number of your wins.

The solution is simple. There are going to be puck possession changes in the other end. We all know this. They aren’t a surprise. Even if they only come off shots and rebounds they are going to happen. Therefore, prepare for them. Anticipate them.

Keep at least one forward high while the other two go deep (sometimes you’ll keep two forwards high, but start with one). Staying high means that one forward stays between their blue line and the top of the face off circles. It also means that he keeps his eyes open for a turnover, and if it happens he picks up the third man on the opposition as it attacks your end. Your D-men will cover the first two attackers. Your high forward will cover the third. No odd man rush. One less scoring chance for them.

Simple. Logical. No magic.

How do you effectively implement this tactic? You can’t have one guy step up and act as the coach and tell other guys to do it. Nobody likes that.

You can tell the forwards it needs to be done, but tell the lines that its up to them to figure out who’s going to do what role. That way nobody points fingers at any individual. If you give up an odd man rush you can just yell out “Hey, no odd man rushes you guys! Keep someone high!”. The more guys on the team that are willing to yell that out the less often, obviously, it will need to be yelled out.

You can also have the D-men tell the forwards “Hey, keep one of you guys high. We’re kind of [shitty/crappy/old/slow] so we need help with that third guy”. I have never seen a forward argue with a D-man who says that, and I have seen them start back checking afterwards.

If you get this part of the game sorted out on a basic level you can improve it by having the two forwards who go deep buy into the system.

After the turnover in puck possession the forward from your team who is closest to the puck pressures the puck carrier as much as he can. No fly bys. He has to go straight at the puck carrier and make him either pass or make a move. You want the pass, which is why your forward has to go right at the puck carrier. Eyes on the center of the chest kind of thing. The quicker you make him pass the less chance that the pass will be a good one.

Your second deep forward goes to the first obvious pass receiver to take that pass away. The more obvious this looks the better, because if the puck carrier sees this he’ll look for a second option. If your first deep forward is pressuring him he won’t have much time to find the second option, and there is an increased chance that he’ll dump it up the middle.

Guess who should be cruising around there anticipating a turnover? Exactly – your high forward. If they rush the pass and you take their first option away you’ll often have them dump it up the middle or off the boards. Up the middle and your high guy has a shot at keeping it in. Up the boards and your D-men can pinch to keep it in. The worst case scenario is that you force their D-man to just get it out of their end.
No pass, no odd man rush, and it all starts with keeping one forward high.

Better Beer League Hockey

Everybody knows how to play hockey. After all, its our national sport, right?

So, if everybody on your team knows howto play hockey, then why are you losing so many games?

Chances are that there are lots of individual reasons, but they all fall under the same heading – you’re not playing a team game.

Before we look at the solution let’s remember a few things:

- This is beer league.

- There are no scouts in the stands.

- Half the fun is drinking beer after the game.

So, with that said, let’s look at the problem. A typical beer league team plays 25-30 games during the regular season. A concrete example is a Div. 4 team that played 28 games over the winter. They came in 7th in a field of eight with 11 wins, 14 losses and 2 ties. 87 goals for. 106 against.

They say that offense wins games and defense wins championships, but who’s kidding who? A 7th place team has a long way to go before they can talk about championships. They’re lucky that everyone makes the playoffs. A realistic goal is, well, more realistic.

Crunch the numbers. 87 for, 106 against. That’s a difference of 19 goals over 28 games. That’s less than 1 goal per game.

87 goals over 28 games is 3.1 goals a game. We all know that a team that scores three goals a game should win most games.

106 goals over 28 games isn’t much more – 3.78 goals against per game, on average. Of course, we all know that a goalie with a 3.78 GAA hasn’t got a ton to crow about.

And we all know that on losing teams goals are very hard to come by.

The solution should be pretty obvious by now. If, on average, a team scores 3 goals a game but lets in 4, on average they’re going to lose.

If, however, they continue to score 3 goals a game but let in, on average, less than three, then on average, they’re going to win.

How hard is it to trim of one goal against per game? Not tough. Here’s how:

Play 5 on 5 in both ends.

Reduce odd man rushes against.

Don’t seagull.

Cover the points.

Introduce the center to the D-men.

Don’t change when the play’s going back to your end.