By Evan Tabachnick
Being down a man can be a lot less daunting if you have done at least a bit of preparation for the situation. Everyone on the team will have to agree on the system for it to be able to work. The good news is there are a few tried-and-true methods that are utilized at all levels of play that yield a good deal of success.
The Diamond penalty kill is named for its shape. It places one man (ideally, your best available defensive forward) between the two point men or—if you’re defending against an Umbrella power play setup—directly in front of and shadowing the middle man along the blue line. There will be one player between each faceoff dot/top of the circle, and the fourth player defends the front of the net. The Diamond is best matched against the Umbrella power play, the reason that the Umbrella utilizes hard shots from the perimeter while the Diamond PK places defenders in the way of these shooters, cutting off their shooting and passing lanes. One pitfall of the Diamond is that it allows “seam” (slot) passes or “Z” passes to slip between the defending players. This occurs when a pass is sent from the point to the opposite corner, usually resulting in a one-timer. The good news is that these shots are usually not taken from the best angles and are often easily saved by the goaltender.
The Box penalty kill relies heavily on the skills mentioned above, namely, disrupting passes. It works particularly well against the Box power play, and is quite vulnerable against an Umbrella power play and should not be used when it is clear that the opponent sets up in this formation. It involves two players pressuring the point men and the other two down low to cut off passes and routes to the net. A Box penalty kill is easily collapsible (all four players converging towards the center of the ice) and this is a good strategy to use when the opposing team is taking many of their shots from the blue line. The reason for this is that the box leaves a big gap in the center of the ice and it’s a good idea to close this gap when needed, rather than allowing players to walk down the middle of the ice for a clean shot on goal.