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The man-down, defensive-zone box
By Larry Bruyere

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When your team is a man down, you need to know how to play "the box" in defending your zone. Generally, there are two forwards playing in what is considered the high slot, and two defensemen playing the low slot area off both posts. The idea is to keep the offensive team's attacking players — with the extra skater — out of the box area.
In Diagram 1, typical player positions are shown in creating the box area.

You try to keep the attacking player or puck carrier out so as to avoid allowing that player to to get a prime shot from the kill zone. We don't want the puck in this area because shots from this area have a higher scoring percentage than shots from other areas. We're trying to keep the puck outside the box; let them maintain control or possession while they're killing our penalty.

Enlarging the Box
They can shoot from the high point, for example, from a bad angle outside the circle but we can maintain our slot area. If you notice the sweeping arc or circle that surrounds the box area, that's where the four players should be able to efficiently cover if sticks are kept on the ice. You always need to have sticks on the ice in order to effectively cut down those passing lanes. By sweeping the stick, you should be able to cover that sweeping area outside the box.

If you look at Diagram 2, again we have our two forwards, and generally they can stop and start on a dime, changing directions relatively quickly to cover these areas. We're not looking for finesse players, we're looking for players who can get from point A to B to get possession of the puck and get it down the ice. But ideally, the same area as the box is covered, and the arrows show generally how far out they'll go to imply attacking the puck. The key word is imply; we don't want the forwards chasing the puck out to the blue line or defenders chasing the puck behind the net. If they get caught, the box is broken down, and the puck is going to penetrate the box area. Consequently, somebody's going to get a high percentage shot. So we imply pressure to force the attacking team to pass the puck around the perimeter of the box area until the penalty is killed.

Making a Switch
If we do get possession, of course, the first item on the agenda is clear the zone. If the box breaks down and the forward ends up in a defenseman's area and a defenseman ends up in a forward's area, then it's imperative that they know each other's job to maintain the box's integrity.

In this situation, the goalie can be very effective by talking to his players on the ice. Because of the other team's additional attacker, the goalie needs to let people know what's happening behind them. The active and vocal goalie in a man-down situation helps keep you from feeling like you're really shorthanded.



This first appeared in the 07/1992 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2003, Hockey Player® LLC and Hockey Player Magazine®
Posted: Aug 17, 2002, 15:56
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