Defense with Jeff: Part 3 of 6

Hello past and present Mules!

I am going to be sending out 6 different articles on what I teach every summer and what I feel are the most important concepts to this very challenging position. I refer to defenseman as MULES. We just pull the cart, no glory just guts and hard work.

I have been teaching defense camps for over 20 years now. Teaching the youth of the Nation on my 13-week summer tour is my passion and has been such an honor and pleasure each and every summer. It is such a thrill to see my kids progress through the course of the week and see significant changes in their defensive game.

Part 2 of this series revolves around Breakouts and joining the rush. Since defense is not the most glamourous position and one that really doesn’t get the credit it is properly due I took tremendous pride in my breakouts and became very efficient at it.  Many things have to happen in order to get success and efficiency in your breakouts.

  1. As stated in my last article on GAP control, you need to have tremendous gap control as the forwards are coming against you so that you can get them to dump the puck in and not give them enough room to carry puck in the zone. A dump in by the opposing forward is a victory and in most cases should ensure you possession of the puck. The goalie should either stop the puck or you or your d partner will get first dibs on that wrapped puck.
  2. When the puck is dumped in you need to have tremendous communication from your goaltender, your d partner and you yourself. Goalies and your d partner have the best view of where the puck is going and what type of pressure (forecheck) is coming at you. You need to tell your partner what to do with the puck as he/she is approaching it. Rim the puck, d to d, reverse, right up, HEADS UP if a forechecker is coming hard on you. Getting these vocal signals will give you that split second advantage you need to make the right decision with the breakout.
  3. As you pivot for the puck you need to go hard for the puck, on an angle to protect yourself and prepare to protect the puck, yourself and brace any oncoming pressure or check from your opponent.
  4. When you get to the puck you absolutely need to be moving your feet, while protecting the puck and using your body to shield the puck from your opponent. You need to create as much separation as quickly as possible.
  5. UTILIZING THE NET: when you get the puck try to get behind the net and use that as the ultimate shield. You can either cut back, go right up on either side of the net but it is a tremendous tool that kids don’t use nearly enough.
  6. If you’re going d to d it has to be a good pass. A bad pass or a bad off the boards angle is a turn over. Take the extra split second and put the puck on your d partners stick. If your’re making a direct pass to winger make sure its hard and on the tape. You must have your head up to be able to do any of these passes. I work a lot on this at my D camps in the summer. If you’re making a reverse pass to your partner, center or winger make sure you suck in one or two forecheckers to give your teammate some extra time. You always want to try and beat one if not two forecheckers with a break out pass. Many times especially at the higher levels you need to administer a saucer pass. As a pro I used saucer passes 75% of the time as the opponents came so quickly on me and their stick positioning was always in the passing lane so I had to do a aerial or saucer pass to get puck to my forwards.
  7. No need to be a one-man breakout. MOVE THE PUCK AND PUT THE PUCK IN YOUR FORWARDS HANDS!  I can’t stress that enough. Forwards are typically the skilled players so give them the puck and let them do their job and create offense.
  8. Once you give the breakout pass the fun just begins. This is when you jump up on the play and become a 4th attacker.  I almost always beat my forwards up the ice to join in on the attack and get a drop pass from winger or center entering the offensive zone. This is how I created the majority of my offense (points)
  9. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! Utilize your practice time and try to perfect your breakout passes. Every time you have a breakout in practice treat it like its game 7 stanley cup. Demand this of yourself. My Penguins coach Kevin Constantine would pull me off the ice in practice if I made a bad breakout pass. I learned very quickly what he was trying to do. He knew that if we could execute these passes 90% of the time it would translate into game success.
  10. If you don’t have a clear pass or it is a mad scramble in your end you can flip the puck into the neutral zone (safe zone) I became so good at this move. If I wasn’t sure what to do with the puck I flipped it into the neutral zone. Of course you can go off the glass or ice it but then it’s a face off in your end.
  11. Reliability! If you want more playing time and want to play the last minute of a game becoming the master of breaking the puck out is essential.
  12. Take pride your breakouts, its not always going to be a perfect pass but majority of the time it can be a rewarding play and one that usually results in a offensive opportunity for you team. You might not always get the assist but you get the praise of your teammates and coaching staff.

Hoping to see you all this Christmas, Feb Vacation or this Summer on my 13-week tour. Believe it or not many locations are half full and BU is near capacity already.



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