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  • Writer's pictureRick Traugott

How Forechecking Boosts Team Speed

“The Art of the Dump-in” crossed my LinkedIn feed this week. It is an article written by John Cullen who does a lot of work with hockey players in the Hamilton area and really understands how to develop young athletes.

Coach Cullen shares some great tips on how to dump the puck in properly. He argues that there are two golden rules: never hit the defending team in the shin pads and don’t let the puck end up behind the opposition’s net. He then goes on to outline three ways to dump it in: The Soft Dump, The Cross Dump and The Rim. You can read his LinkedIn post here.

Interestingly, Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner talked about this very subject a few weeks ago (10/24/15). He highlights the Calgary Flames dumping the puck in when they had their goalie pulled late in the game. You can see his comments at the 3:59 mark and clicking here.

I would like to add to their comments. A golden rule for me on a dump in is to not let the goalie touch the puck. I tell my players that if the goalie touches the puck you might as well be shooting it into a black hole - you will never see it again. Goalies handle the puck well enough that they will either get it to a defenceman, smother the puck or fire it out of the zone themselves.

Further, there are excellent times and reasons to dump the puck in:

1) A dump in from the red line gains your team almost 100 feet of ice in a fraction of a second. You can’t skate the puck 100 feet in that little time.

2) A lone player coming down on a 1 on 2 or a 1 on 3 rush has the odds against them for getting to the net. If the player dumps the puck into the corner then it will typically become a 1 on 1 battle on the forecheck - much better odds.

3) When my teams have a late lead, I want the opposition to have to come 190 feet to score rather than giving the puck up in neutral ice and giving them a shorter path to our net.

4) Mixing up dumping in the puck and strong offensive zone entry simply keeps the opposition guessing. If defencemen know your team doesn’t dump the puck in they will be more inclined to step up on the rush. If the puck gets dumped in frequently then the defencemen have to hedge a little more into the zone anticipating a possible dump in. This will undoubtedly create more space for your forwards.

But, the effectiveness of dumping the puck is directly related to how well your players forecheck. I am a big believer that a lot of your team speed and momentum is generated on the forecheck and that games can be won and lost in the effort of chasing down the puck in the offensive zone. I will often tell my players that they MUST dump the puck in on their first two shifts when they cross the red line. The effort in sustained forechecking, the time spent in the offensive zone and the speed of play only contributes to team speed right off the bat.

My primary forecheck that I use is very simple and straight forward. I call it the 1-2-3 forecheck - not because of the number of players but in regards to first, second and third player into the zone.

The first and third players into the zone have easy jobs. The first into the zone simply goes right after the puck carrier. The idea is to either force a bad pass or to get to the players before they can get rid of the puck. But, the first forechecker’s job is NOT to get the puck - simply to put huge pressure on the puck carrier. The third player into the zone just needs to be in the high slot, for two reasons: cover a quick breakout and not give up a 3 on 2 coming back to our end, and to be in a good scoring position if we recover the puck.

The second player into the zone has the only “thinking” job - find and get the puck back. This player needs to read the play - body position, outlet pass players, the first forechecker - in order to retrieve the puck. I tell this player that often you have to guess where the puck is going and sometimes you might be wrong. That’s OK. The idea is to be pressuring the opposition into making hasty plays and coughing the puck up.

Good forechecking is set up with good dump ins. Team speed can be dictated by good forechecking. Both Coach Cullen and Don Cherry talk about the new statistical and strategic trend of puck possession. Don’t get fooled into thinking that great dump ins and forechecking are not hugely valuable assets for a team. Sometimes giving the puck up can be to your advantage.

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