Switching Lanes: An Offensive Hockey Tactic

switching lanes offensive hockey tactic

This video addresses the offensive hockey tactic: Switching Lanes.  It goes against old school North American mantras. It will challenge these classics: “Stay in Your Lane, North South Hockey, Dump it, and Get it Deep.”

Switching Lanes: Why We Like It:

Force defenseman to make decisions:

Switching lanes on the offensive attack forces the defenders to communicate.  They must decide to switch coverage, or stay with their men.  Indecision in this moment allows the offensive players a chance to capitalize.  Furthermore, a shooting opportunity or passing lane can emerge.  Forcing communication between defenseman increases their challenge.

Double your outlets:

Get off the wall through the middle of the ice in the neutral zone.  The puck carrier doubles his/her options to distribute the puck left or right.  Old school hockey mandated the wingers stay in their lanes.  Lugging the puck up the wing in a straight line allows the defending team to: cut the ice in half, angle to the boards, force a dump, create a turnover, or force a low percentage pass.  Who wouldn’t want twice as many options, while at the same time make yourself much harder to angle?

Open up the wide lanes:

It forces both defenseman to gravitate to the middle of the ice and hence entices both of them to commit to the puck carrier.  If I, as a forward, switch lanes from wide to middle, and drive directly at the gap between the two defenseman, they will feel obliged to merge and prevent me from ‘splitting the D.’  They fall right into my trap as I draw them in.  I can then either distribute the puck left or right to an overlapping forward who has tons of speed outside, or chip the puck through to a soft areas in behind one defenseman or the other.  This is a deadly Detroit Red Wings style of offensive zone entry.

Prevent back checkers from containing you:

Bringing the puck through the middle prevents the defensive team from being able to ‘cut the ice in half’ on the backcheck.

Activate an overlap:

Subsequently, the overlap of the centerman into the outside lane once again forces the defensemen to decide if they will switch, or stay man on man.  They should make this decision depending where in the neutral zone or offensive zone the overlap happens.  NOTE to defenseman: The tighter your gap, and the deeper into your own zone you are, the more likely you are to stay man on man.  NOTE to forwards: If you can sense that one defenseman is covering you, then drive directly at the other.  You’ll really force them to communicate, giving you a chance to prey on their hesitation or bad decision!

A lot of this post dealt with play rushing the puck up the ice.  In How to Play Hockey, we have an entire sub-module dedicated to concrete offensive attack options once you’ve gained the blue line and entered the offensive zone.  To learn these attack options you’ll have to start the course RISK FREE FOR 30 DAYS content at www.howtoplayhockey.ca.


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