Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Up the Boards

Rifling the puck up the boards is a great way to clear the puck from deep in your own end. Especially towards the end of a shift when your line is exhausted needs a line change.

Clearing the puck up the middle, on the other hand, can result in disaster if the other team gets to the puck while it's still inside the blue line. Whenever my brain shuts down and I screw up on this play, this guy on our team always yells “Never up the middle!!” at the top of his lungs. The lecture often continues after my shift if the other teams scores off my brilliant give-away.

Look For Better Options First

While clearing the puck up the boards is usually a safe play, it's not always the best play. Sometimes 2, or even 3 players from each team will bunch up on the same side of the ice. If you've just fought for the puck in your own corner and try to clear the puck through all that traffic, you're very likely to hit a leg or a stick. Then your team is right back to battling for puck possession again.

Instead, why not start skating with the puck behind your own net? If everyone is bunched up your side, there must be lots of room on the other side! When you run into a forechecker, you can then clear the puck up the far boards. With less traffic on the far side, you've got a better chance of clearing your own end.

Sending the puck up the boards can get your team out of trouble, but it's not exactly a stellar break-out play. Usually the other team ends up with the puck in the neutral zone, or you get an icing call. There's also a chance that the opposing defenseman may keep the puck in if you don't get much on it. Be sure to take a look around before you clear it. You may find an open teammate waiting for a pass.

Let's say you just picked up the puck from behind your own yet. If your winger is open on the half boards (where he's supposed to be), there's no sense loading up and whacking the puck past him. The better play is to simply pass him the puck and get a decent break-out started.

The key to knowing what options are available in your own end is to take a look first.
  • Usually you have more time than you think.
  • Don't just blindly fire it up the boards.
  • There may be a far better play waiting for you.

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