Covering the Points; A Small Step Toward Immense Success
March 23, 2009 by Big Tony
As playoff time approaches and teams are dissected to find out why one team will be another in a playoff series, or even why one team will make it to the playoffs over another, the dissecting begins. Players and coaches are analyzed under a microscope as the tangibles and intangibles are plugged into a formula that the “experts” concoct in their minds to determine the winners and losers. And there will be many things mentioned about the various teams but one thing I’ve noticed as a major difference between winners and losers is penalty killing. Specifically, it is the covering of the point men—or lack there of—that often times determines the success one team will have over another. Good teams tend to be a bit more aggressive—but not stupid—when on the penalty kill by putting pressure on point men making them break their rhythm. Oftentimes the point players would like to dictate tempo and pace by distributing the puck at their leisure to create scoring chances. As a result, one of the biggest keys to a successful penalty kill is breaking the rhythm of a power play and one great way to do that is to cover point players. Put pressure on the points, make a guy skate around more than he’d like to or take an extra pass when he hadn’t planned to. Sure sometimes that aggressive play can yield a goal for the other team but at least the pressure you put on them forces the team to make some really good plays. Many teams will fall back into somewhat of a shell as their defense collapses into a box formation out in front of the net. This approach allows the power play to take its time to set up very well and also causes an enormous amount of traffic in front of goalies who now have almost NO chance at stopping any pucks fired at them. This conservative “we hope not to lose” approach generally has the oppositely desired effect. Teams are going to score on the power play, it’s no secret; but by putting greater pressure on point players a team force a power play to work harder to score which wear them down in time and also frustrate them to the point where they try to do more than they are capable of which can result in short-handed opportunities. Generally speaking it is a small change but it’s one that can make a world of difference. So the next time you’re watching a game look to see how the penalty killing units work and I am almost certain you’ll notice players not covering the points.