Playing as a 5-man unit is beautiful hockey
A few years back I read a comment by former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about the team’s preparation for an important home game against St. Louis.
He said the Wings needed to play as a five-man unit, up and down the ice. That’s when they had the most success.
That five-man unit approach is something I have preached for many years. It made me feel good to hear a professional coach acknowledge it.
So what exactly does it mean to play as a five-man unit? Quite simply, it means to move up and down the ice in a traditional three forward and two defensemen alignment. That gives any team the chance to play at its highest level.
Let’s break it down.
On offense, if all five players are acting as one unit, players can change positions at a moment’s notice. A defenseman can jump into the play and act as a forward, allowing some amazing puck movement to occur.
Just think of the Red Wings’ Russian Five of the mid-1990s. When on the ice, they skated as one unit, moving in and among each other regardless of the zone in awesome harmony and with a real, identifiable sense of purpose. That was beautiful and effective hockey as it was meant to be played.
Such a harmonious unit executes defense even better. Five players positioned strategically – all within clear eyesight and earshot of each other – allows for the communication that’s required to allow switch-offs at a split-second notice.
What results is a smothering of the opposition, a blanketing effect that can shut down any high-powered scoring machine. If your goal is to win with defense, this is the way to do it.
Always remember that, when your team has the biscuit, it is actually playing offense and defense simultaneously. What a concept. What a bonus!
Best of luck.
You should also consider the “five-person unit” theme as it relates to a power play breakout. Why on earth would you want to stretch the defense with a north-south “bomb-breakout pass” to gain entry when you can crash in unison with five players? That sort of trickery rarely results in sound possession or an effective odd-man rush. Quite the contrary.
So stick to the most intelligent and tenacious five competitors you have and let them enter with the simplicity of the five-player unit mindset. It will pay huge dividends – trust me on this one.
Paul T. Lubanski is president of Wilderness Xtreme Sports. He can be contacted at 248-762-6998.