How to Beat the Trap


We all know and hate the trap. But most fans don’t know exactly what it is, how to recognize it, and most importantly, how to get past it. So here’s a basic explanation of the beast.

What is it:

  • A defensive system used to create turnovers in the neutral zone
  • Zone coverage, not man to man

How to recognize it:

  • One forechecker, follows the puck wherever it goes
  • 3-4 players standing on defensive blue line, somewhat converging on the puck carrier
  • If 3 on blue line, 1 person either along the right or left boards near red line
  • All players looking to turn the puck over in the neutral zone and also stacking the blue line

How to beat it (Note: this is simplified. If it were really this easy, NJ wouldn’t have won anything, neither would have Dallas):

The trap fundamentally works by acting as a clog.  Players clog skating and passing lanes, making puck movement difficult.  There are two ways to beat it, but only one of them that I believe is most effective.

1. Long passes: I don’t like this, because you’re still trying to do something that the trap is designed to prevent.  Most teams break out of their zone by having a series of short passes to open players that are in motion so they can either carry the puck into the offensive zone, or dump it in. With the trap, there are so many bodies and sticks and skates in the way, that these short passes are usually intercept. Also, if a pass is slightly off the mark, it’s pretty much a turnover. A long pass is supposed to work a bit differently.  First, it eliminates the forechecker because he’s too far away to chase the person who is intended to receive the pass. Second, because the rest of the defenders are pretty much stationary, the person who gets the pass basically is supposed to get it and enter the zone. The problem I have is that the pass has to be perfect, and defenseman aren’t complete cones. they’re not completely still, and they’re not all the way back on the blue line. If you get the pass too close to them, then they can just move towards you and poke the puck away. If you get the puck too close to your own zone, then the forechecker can still get to you and the other defenders can still position themselves.

2. Skate the puck in alone: The problem with this is that it takes a pretty talented player with good stickhandling and some quick feet. The bigger the buy, the better. You basically want a guy to get selfish, take the puck somewhere in his zone, and take it by himself. He’s got to have some speed once he gets the puck though, in order to avoid the forechecker. Once that is done, he has to skate from center ice, diagonally towards the blue line.  This generally isolates one defender, because if others chase they will leave passing lanes open. Once the defender is isolated, here’s where the skill comes in.  The puck carrier has to beat the guy, and enter the zone. Once the puck is there, the team can revert to any offensive strategy that they normally have.  They key is to get the puck in.

Now you may be wondering why you can’t dump the puck in.  Well you can, but I don’t think it’s very effective.  First, there’s a ton of guys in the way, blocking the puck.  So if you plan on firing it in hard, you also need forecheckers skating hard towards the blue line.  If a puck is blocked, those guys are caught, and you have an odd man rush the other way. Exactly what a trapping team wants to do.  Now what if the puck does get into the zone?  Well if the puck is shot in too hard, the goalie gets to it and clears it out, a la Brodeur. Against the trap, goalies have a bit more time because teams get away with a little bit of interference because there are so many people in the neutral zone.  Next, if the puck is too light, a goalie can just come and out and play it, or a defender will probably get there first.  A dump in has to be perfectly shot so that it stays in the corner. Because of all the pressure on the puck, I’m against the dump in because it’s a bit too hard to place it into the perfect area.

Thanks for reading!

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