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Proven techniques for forwards to beat the defensemen

Shea Weber

Beating a defensemen is one of the most important and useful skills you need to know as a forward. Using these 5 proven techniques, you’ll be able to gain an advantage over most defensemen.


Chip and Skate

This one is the easiest to get started, and it is as it’s described – approaching the defensemen along the boards, chipping it by the defender and skating around them, either on the goal side, or using the boards to your advantage. Whilst it is simple in theory, it takes practice and, as always, a good bit of luck to pull off.

Chip and skate
Catch the d flat-footed, or on their back!

Chip and skate is different from the dump and chase technique, where you dump the puck into the corner and then chase after it. The chip and skate is a small chip, sometimes using the boards to lift it over the defenders stick, skate or glove, to then catch them flat-footed and to then pull it in on goal, or take a quick shot.

One method that works really well is to skate hard and directly at the defensemen, this gets them concentrating on your body, rather than the puck, as they’re trained to do. Once you’re close enough, but far enough away not to be poke-checked, you can then hold up on a bit of speed, the defensemen will naturally slow down a bit, and you can then chip it, either through his legs, above his stick, using the boards or around them – do it quick and fast and then put on a burst of speed to catch the d-man flat footed. Most of the time, they’re a lot less manoeuvrable going backwards, than you are going forwards.

Getting them to Crossover

Get the defensemen to commit to a backwards crossover - giving you options to make a move
Get the defensemen to commit to a backwards crossover – giving you options to make a move

The main tip that defenders are taught (and that is taught in our Articles!) is to keep the attacker to the outside, keep the gap, match speed and play the body rather than the puck. But you as an attacker, have a great advantage; that advantage is the defender skating backwards has to cross-over to match your position. Think of it like this, a defensemen with both skates on the ice is going to be tough to beat, they’re manoeuvrable on both sides, and strong. Once they crossover though, they’re going to be weaker because they’ve already committed to a move and have one skate off the ice and body weight committed to the move. Now, with one skate off the ice, they’re like a pylon – they can’t change their direction easily. If you time it right, most of the time you’re going to beat them.

Think about it, if you make them think you’re going left and they crossover, immediately take it right, they’re caught mid-crossover and it will give you time and space to give yourself options, it maybe a pass to a team-mate, a shot on goal or an aggressive move closer to the goal.

As with any technique, it takes time to perfect. Practice and note what really works to get defensemen hooked, it might be a fake stop, it might be a shoulder or head dip. Once you have confidence in playing that move, it really gives you options and opportunities to play-make.

The Fake or Real Stop

Get the defensemen to bite on a fake or a real stop
Get the defensemen to bite on a fake or a real stop

The fake or real stop gives you two really strong options, and having options when playing, gives you scoring opportunities. You’re going hard into the offensive zone, and the defensemen in closing in fast – you’re out of their reach just now, but that distance is closing, you can either do a fake stop, for just a split second, distracting the defensemen into changing their angle, slowing or committing to a movement, and giving you time or space. Or you can do a real stop and give your line-mates chance to enter the zone to get into a passing position, or distract the defensemen enough to give you space to shoot, or dump the puck around the back of the goal.

If you or your team-mates have stopped before, then, naturally any reasonable defender, will know to close into you hard. So the trick is not to repeat and do what they expect. So if someone has stopped before, fake the next stop, then you can either chip it around them, or dump it in or take a quick shot and follow up the rebound. The fake stop is best used if you’ve got room and not in a position to be closely poke-checked.

Drag and Shoot

Toe drag around the defender defensemen
Toe drag around a slower defender to change the angle and shoot on goal or to make a play

Sometimes, when approaching the defensemen, there just isn’t the time, or the room to make a play, maybe it’s too much pressure from them, or a back-checker. Whatever it is, the next best option if you don’t have a pass to make is a shot on goal, and then a follow up to pickup any rebounds.

Defensemen are taught to take away your shooting lane with their sticks and you with their body, this technique helps you counter that strategy.

The drag and shoot can be extremely effective when mastered. To setup, keep the puck a little further out and sell that you’re going to shoot, can be a shoulder dip, maybe sell the movement a little more than you would to get the defensemen to bite. They may draw in their feet to block the shot, they may reach out to deflect the puck. Little do they know that’s exactly what you want them to do, commit. Now that they’ve committed, it’s easier to pull the puck into you to change the angle and shoot on goal for a fortunate goal by the defender screening the shot, or a juicy rebound to be picked up by a teammate.

Try and make it one smooth movement, if you fake, stop, then pull the puck into your body, the defensemen is going to have time to adjust, and react. The idea is to get him to commit, and as soon as they do, then pull in and shoot. The higher the level of play, the quicker this movement has to be to be effective, and to surprise the defender, and hopefully the goalie!