Looking at a Potential Defensive System for the Chicago Blackhawks
By Jeremiah Lee
With the Chicago Blackhawks owning a lackluster defense for the last couple of seasons, changes need to be made to the system, not so much the players.
In the last two seasons, the man-to-man defense system Jeremy Colliton deploys has not been doing well for the Chicago Blackhawks. There is always a missed assignment which usually leads to a high-danger scoring chance of which Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner would have bailed them out.
Unfortunately for the Chicago Blackhawks, they have neither goalie in net for next season, relying on unproven “prospects” (are 26-year-olds still considered prospects?) instead. If they want to avoid an abysmal Goals Against Average, they HAVE TO deploy a zone defense to ease Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban into the league. Here’s why.
Man to Man Defense
If done correctly, the man defense system works very well. You are assigned a player and you stick with him the entire time, as much as possible. Here is why the Chicago Blackhawks should NOT use this anymore.
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With this current system, the ‘Hawks have had so many high-danger scoring chances because they leave a giant space of open ice, usually in the slot, where most goals are scored anyway. Not to mention they leave players like Nathan Mackinnon and Connor McDavid wide open (other than the play-in round) with this strategy. The middle of the ice is not covered and leaves the goalies scrambling to make a save.
If done correctly, and with the right players, the opponents do not have a clear shot on the net and have trouble finding open space. Maybe running a zone with two forwards, usually the wingers, to play zone in the slot when the puck is down low on the boards, but this doesn’t seem to work either. The Blackhawks do not have the right players for this system in any variation, missing assignments, and getting beat to the net more often than not.
Zone Coverage Defense
I think the Chicago Blackhawks should run a zone defense, much like when Coach Q was still in charge. With this system, the ‘Hawks would not give up multiple high-danger scoring chances in a single game, but they also had stud defensemen to run this system properly.
The Blackhawks do not have the same quality defenders now as they did before, but knowing someone is always covering a certain section of the ice should be reassuring to both the team and the fans. I’m sure I’m not the only one who panicked when they see the slot wide open and a missed assignment making a beeline towards the net. A zone defense should make a difference here.
F1 covers the left, top side of the ice, with F2 covering the right. The center covers the slot and rotates as needed. The two D cover the bottom sections, left side D covering from the left faceoff circle down, and right side D covering the right faceoff circle down.
Each player is responsible for a “wedge” of ice with this system, which makes it easier to keep track of the opposition. As the puck cycles in the zone, the players collapse and spread out to cover their area when needed.
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The zone defense does have its flaws, which was visible when Coach Q deployed this system, but that was also with a lacking defense core. It still covered each area of the ice, which is what this team needs. With little to no open ice, the opposing offense will not find a boatload of high-danger scoring chances on a nightly basis and help ease the new goaltending tandem into the league.