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Defensive Zone Face-offs

Image Credit: http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/bonelloDepending on a variety of circumstances there will be several to many face-offs in your defensive zone. In ice hockey there are two face-off circles and for most roller hockey rinks there are two face-off circles and two face-off dots in the defensive zone. A goal can be scored within a second or two from the face-off, so as a goaltender it is crucial to know how to handle this game situation.

You might make a sweet glove save and hold onto the puck or your team ice’s the puck, but either way there is going to be a face-off a few feet away from you. The first thing you want to do is make sure you are square and angled properly in regards to the face-off dot. Being square and angled properly is one of the most fundamental components of being a good goaltender. When a goaltender is at the point right before a shot is taken they typically get into a very aggressive stance. This type of stance cannot be maintained for long periods of time, but gives the goaltender the best opportunity to react and make a save. Most of the goalies that I have seen in the NHL and at the amateur level I play at, get into the same aggressive stance for face-offs.

Image Credit ESPN Blog

Dwayne Roloson's Face-off Stance

Once in your stance it is important to look at how all the players are lining up for the face-off as well as which “handedness” the opposing players are. Say for example there is a face-off to the right circle and the Right Winger on the hash marks is a right handed shot. If the opposing center wins the face-off and pushes the puck to the Right Winger, he will be able to take a one-timer, wrist shot, or snap shot without any hesitation or pause. If you do not take this into account you will most likely get beat and have that red light on the back of your neck.

So what do you do in this situation? Do you cheat a little and angle yourself off the face-off circle and more towards the Winger? For one thing, you never cheat off your angles and squareness because it increases the odds you are going to get scored on. Because you are setup for the face-off in an aggressive stance you are in perfect position to make an explosive save movement in reaction to the puck being pushed over to the Right Winger. This all happens in under two seconds, but by keeping your eye laser focused on the puck you will know to react and make a save towards the Right Winger.

Another scenario is where the opposing Center wins the face-off and pushes the puck back to one of the defenseman at the point. Just like any other time the opposing team has the puck, keep your laser focus on the puck. With a face-off win to the point you have a microsecond more time to adjust and react to the play. Be aware that the puck can be won cleanly enough that it quickly goes back to the point for a one-timer. If you follow the puck and are in your aggressive stance, just make the necessary positional adjustments and make the save.

If your team wins the face-off it is still important to stay on guard and not relax completely. There is always a chance someone will bobble the puck or make a bad pass or a fore-checker will steal the puck. Once your team is 100% in safe possession of the puck you can relax to your normal stance and just follow the puck as it moves into the offensive zone.

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