In the standard offensive hockey setup, three players are deep in the attacking zone, while the other two—usually defensemen—occupy “point” positions, on either side of the ice near the blue line. Of course, modern offensive tactics are more dynamic than this, with players often changing roles within a single attack, but this basic formation is still the most popular at all levels of hockey. While the forwards are digging in the corners or cycling the puck, the point players are offering support, always ready to drop back to defend a breakout by the other team.
There are three main offensive duties for a player at the point:
- To keep the puck in the attacking zone, by covering the boards, chasing down loose pucks, and breaking up outlet passes;
- To receive passes from the forwards or the other point to reset the offense or cause the defense to move side to side, which opens up lanes for making incisive passes to forwards; and
- To take hard shots on goal that can cut through screens, be redirected, and produce a goal or dangerous rebound.
Of course, hockey is a fast-moving sport, so a point player doesn’t simply stand inside the blue line and wait for something to happen. Instead, the two points work together to support the forwards and each other, constantly trying to get into position for a pass or a shot, while also maintaining a solid defensive back line should the opposing team gain possession of the puck.
Hockey Point Positioning Basics
In general, the two point players don’t stay on opposite sides of the ice. The point player on the strong side—the side of the ice where the puck is—guards the boards to keep the opposing team from clearing the puck, while the weak-side point player moves toward the middle of the ice. When the puck switches sides, the roles reverse.
The strong-side player might “pinch” by moving deeper into the zone along the boards to help a forward battling for possession or to pick up a loose puck. In that case, the weak-side point should come even farther across the ice and drop a little. That way, if the pinching player gets caught behind the puck on a turnover, the other point player is positioned to be the last line of defense until their backchecking teammates arrive.
Four Options for Playing the Puck
When the puck comes out to the point, the player has four basic choices:
- Pass to a forward,
- Pass to the other point,
- Dump the puck into the corner, or
If there is an open passing lane to an unmarked forward in a position to shoot, this is usually the best option—as well as a good opportunity to tally an assist. Another option is to send it in deep to the strong-side forward, allowing them to set up the play. If there are no open options, the point player can simply dump the puck back into the corner, for their teammates to fight for.
The big advantage of the cross-ice pass to the other point is that it causes the defense to move across the ice with the puck. This movement causes gaps to open between members of the defending team, which the point player can exploit to make passes to teammates in dangerous areas. The more the offense can cause the defense to move, the better the chances to get the puck to a player with an open shot.
Shooting from the Point
Once the player at the point decides to shoot, job number one is to get the puck on net. This gives teammates a chance to redirect or tip the puck on its way to goal. A change of direction is difficult for a goaltender to handle, and the puck often ends up in the back of the net as a result. Secondly, shots from the point are usually not high-percentage opportunities, but keeping the shot on goal increases the chances of a rebound that a teammate can put home.While the point positions are usually occupied by defensemen, these defensive specialists have important roles to play in the offensive scheme. If a point player masters the basics of positioning and moving the puck, they will become a vital cog in the offensive machine, helping the forwards to score more and perhaps racking up some goals and assists for themselves, too.