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Хоккейное мастерство

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Offensive opportunities are created by players away from the puck finding open space and using speed to put pressure on the defense. The ability to enter the zone wide and create an offensive triangle is a basic of offensive play that remains relevant today.

Coaches need to be aware of defensive tendencies, as well as changes in the rules of the game, to make sure their offensive philosophy and tactics are suited for the modern game. Regarding the latter, as attacking players can no longer be held up by defenders for fear of tighter interference calls, puck carriers have the option of “chipping” pucks into the zone and attacking the puck with greater speed than before.

Hockey games are won by winning a series of small battles. Accordingly, using small area games at practices will prepare teams for game- day battles that can lead to better puck control and improved offensive play.

For one, the defenseman must surround the puck by getting his feet around it while moving it quickly to his forehand, regardless of whether he collects it from along the boards or in open ice. A defenseman must also look back over his shoulder, or shoulder check, to determine if oncoming pressure is being applied by the forechecking team. Last, a defenseman must use the net as an obstacle to fend off the opposing forechecker. These are three skills important for a defenseman’s success, and he hasn’t even attempted to pass the puck yet.

SPEED

Speed is the essence of hockey. It is never more important than in the composition of a good offensive attack. Although I implied that good defensive posture and positioning are the antithesis of offensive opportunities, the transition from good defensive positioning to offense is greatly aided by the spreading of defenders, which is one of the fundamentals of good defensive zone coverage. The resulting staggered charge of attacking players coming from that defensive zone coverage can be most advantageous to a successful rush up the ice. Spreading out the offensive attackers reduces the ability of the defenders to channel, funnel, or trap the offense into a confined area of the ice. Therefore, good offense can indeed be launched from good defense.

The basic hockey skill of outright skating speed is an offensive weapon that can force any defense to back off even more. However, it is not the speed of the players but more fundamentally the speed of the puck that can break down defenses. This was a critical concept adopted by the great Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov, regarded as the founding father of Soviet hockey. As he was developing his Red Army teams behind the secrecy provided by the Cold War’s Iron Curtain, he noted in his book Road to Olympus, “We shall have to build up our so-called ‘first attack’ because the speed of developing an attack (or counterattack) is equal to the speed of the puck in motion. And by accurately passing to each other, our forwards manage to outplay their opponents, thereby giving themselves numerical superiority in the enemy zone” (1969, 155).

OFFENSIVE GAME TACTICS

Much of the resurrection of more creative offensive thinking in hockey was facilitated by the NHL lockout season of 2004-2005. Coaches such as Dave King, current St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, and others devoted their unexpected free time to studying the game from several in-depth angles not available to them during a regular working season. Former Phoenix Coyotes associate coach and current director of player personnel for the Chicago Blackhawks, Barry Smith, has studied the tactics and philosophy of hockey as it is taught in the Czech Republic, conferring with renowned national coach Dr. Ludek Bukac. Smith came away with several suggestions for how the North American game can reinject the excitement into a sport that has seemingly lost its underpinnings of offensive creativity.

The following ideas warrant consideration regarding the offensive aspect of the game:

  • Confine practice drills to smaller areas of the ice. Conduct several simultaneous drills using perhaps one-third of the allotted rink space rather than full-ice drills.
  • Place more emphasis on high-tempo speed drills.
  • Shorten the duration of each drill. Have bursts of practice that contain finite, skill-specific drills such as a skating-only emphasis, passing-only emphasis, and puckhandling-only emphasis instead of the multiple-skill full-ice drills that currently consume so much valuable practice time.
  • Practice inverse-ratio activities (2v1, 3v2, 4v3, and so on) to accelerate skill development under adverse conditions. Controlled scrimmages can be conducted under these conditions as well; the team with the manpower advantage is not allowed to employ any of the traditional setup formations similar to power play situations. For example, once the team with the additional player gains the offensive zone, that team is limited to only two passes before a shot must be taken.
  • Abandon the traditional notion of set positions. Allow players to interchange positions. Allow even the fifth player to join the offense in this interchange.
  • Employ an offensive coordinator. The role of the offensive coordinator is tantamount to overcoaching such fundamentals as keeping the feet moving, moving the puck quicker, making yourself a passing option, maintaining speed, and so on.


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