The idea came to me after working remotely with an NHL head coach during the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs.
During my pre-scouting and in-game play analysis, I noticed that successful teams actively used the back of the net to open up the attack zone. They make a living in the “trapezoid” area, the only area under the goal line where a goalkeeper can play the puck, hence the name “trap targets”.
The best teams use it as a strategy to relieve pressure, and to make the defensive team run and create chaos or mismatch.
The best crimes, like fire, long for oxygen. They want space.
Defensive teams seem to share more defensive scheming in the playoffs. They usually aim to stifle the offense. They put it around the front of their net. Teams don’t usually have to worry about playing behind the net. Unless you’re Trevor Zegras, it’s hard to score straight from the “trap.”
But the best teams found a way to create an attack from within the trapezoid area.
As part of the study, I determined how the disc entered the “trap” region, and then how many seconds after the disc exited the “trap” region it entered the network. It can only be considered a “trap target” if the ball is in the net within nine seconds of play in that area.
The results were interesting. I tracked the first two weeks of this regular season. During this period, a quarter of the 493 goals scored in equal power were “trap targets.” Furthermore, 25 percent of all 5-by-5 targets were scored using the puck in the trapezoid area.
These numbers have actually increased so far in the playoffs.
During the first four games of all eight first-round series, 29 percent of the 117 equal-strength goals were “trap targets”.
Twenty of those goals were in the net within five seconds of being in a trapezoid. He scored another 14 goals within nine seconds.
Teams used the trapezoid to go from low to high, and pass the disc to the defending man on point, to create 14 of those “trap targets” of equal strength. It supported my theory that using the trapezoid could not only open up the entire area against strong defensive teams, but it could be used to engage all five players on the ice in play.
It also makes it more difficult for the goalkeeper. Reading the play behind the net is difficult for many goalkeepers, as they are unable to easily clear the play and cannot predict where the play will be. Many of them get down on one knee or into the reverse VH position when the disc is below the goal line, which also adds movement to the workload.
Here are some video examples of recent “trap targets,” proof that “getting deep pucks” isn’t just a boring cliché but often leads to an effective attack – particularly during playoffs:
Hedman-Driven Through “The Trap”
Victor Hedman pinches and makes a shot, then uses the trapezoid to surround Nikita Kucherov’s weak side, where he waits with plenty of space. Stephen Stamkos then gets lost from defensive coverage and opens up once in a while in front of a moving screen on the grid from Hedman, who started the play.
Kaprizov uses the “trap” three times
The trapezoid is used three times during this sequence. Wild wins the offensive standoff and Jared Spurgeon finds Kirill Kaprizov, who loses behind the net. This creates a first registration opportunity. Spurgeon retrieves the disc again, who puts it back down behind the net to Kaprizov, who executes it and returns it back to Ryan Hartman. They activate “D” well. Spurgeon recovers the slide through the trapezoid and finds Kaprizov. It’s hard for the blues to know who’s supposed to cover who in this situation.
Kapanin makes Shesterkin move
Evgeni Malkin remains a K’Andre Miller fanatic, stealing it and sending it to Kasperi Kapnin, who shows us his skills with a trick pass to the first post of Malkin’s goal.
Bukhnevich finds blues member Kiro
Pavel Buchnevich and the Blues realize they need to lay down and chase the disc, retrieve the disc, and skate through the trapezoid with a course pass that opens the hole to find Jordan Kerro. Wilderness loses its coverage.
Former QMJHL coach John Goins He has 28 years of coaching experience, from the lowliest of junior hockey all the way to working as a special advisor for an NHL team during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He is the most winning coach in AAA history with the LAC Saint Louis Lions and has helped develop over 25 players to be selected for the NHL Draft. He has also worked as an individual skills development coach with future Hockey Hall of Famer Hilary Knight, as well as NHL players such as Jonathan Drouin and Mike Matheson.
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