New to the game of hockey, or even just the video game, and need some help learning the X’s and O’s of the game? Well here is a quick crash course in the do’s and dont's of NHL 08. These tips should give anyone a solid base when playing the computer, or taking the battle online.
First things first, let’s start on the defensive side of the puck, because you can’t think offense without a good defensive game plan. Never clear the puck up the middle of the ice; it's not only turnover central, it will also leave your players out of position. This is one thing that is taught to you the first day of hockey as a kid. Plain and simple it’s a no no.
On D make sure to clear the front of the net out, the goalie can't stop what he can't see very well. Give the shot from the point (near the blue line) if they have nobody in front obscuring the goaltenders view, because perimeter shots are the least lethal to give up. Be sure to clog passing lanes and shooting lanes with bodies and sticks. Bad angle shots are the best kind to give up, and the easiest to stop. If they have to shoot from the boards and sides a lot then you are doing your job. Just do your best to tie up rebounds in front of the net and you are in good shape. You cannot afford to get beat to loose pucks and still expect to succeed.
If your goalie does make a save, remember that knowing when to play the puck and when to hold it for a face-off can save you lots of chaos. Don't go in the restricted zones behind the net (2 areas marked with lines behind the crease in the corners) with the goalie, as this is now a penalty if the puck is played by the keeper in there.
Getting back to defense, remember to not chase guys behind the net if nobody is there to cover the front with a defender. Hardly ever go behind the net if you are killing a penalty, unless you are guaranteed to get to the puck first. You don't chase people behind the net because smart players use the net as a screen or a pick to clear them from unwanted defenders, thus giving them time and space to create. Veteran players don't chase behind the net.
Of course if your opponent can use the net as an aid, so can you. If you have the puck and have people on you in your own zone, behind your net is a safe place to be. Use the cage as a screen to out-skate your opponent by going around it and forcing your opponent to take a tough angle to pursue you. If you trap a guy on the other team behind the net on a breakout coming up ice you already have an odd man rush the other way.
Speaking of breakouts, using defensemen to defensemen passing to start your breakout of the defense to offense transition can really help a team control the play. Doing this draws the other team to one side of the ice usually, creating passing lanes and space to carry the puck, if you please, when clearing the zone.
A final defensive note is that if you are getting bombarded with shots and can't clear the zone with passing, shoot it out. Take the chance with the face-off on the icing. At least it gives you a chance to set up again, rather than be caught out of position. You will not be allowed to change your lines however on an icing call anymore, so you may still be tired in these instances, but it beats giving up a costly goal. This is a desperation move, use it wisely.
When on offense you can't score if you don't shoot. If you can't make the pass across to the other forward coming down on the attack and he is going to the net, aim low and shoot for a kick out from the goalie and hopefully a juicy rebound. This is like an alternative pass for many attacking players and it is kind of like playing your bumpers for a bank-shot in billiards.
As for passing, hockey is a game of tape to tape passes, or killer turnovers. Percentage wise you should be pretty high -- 85% is alright. I like to pass a lot; in fact I pass too much most of the time. I like a team that can pass though. In a five minute period game I can pass an average of 150 times easily. If you feel more comfortable skating the puck around, then skate, if not, use your strengths by dumping and chasing, or passing your way into the zone.
The biggest mistake you can have is to make blind passes where you just hope it gets through. Use a saucer pass in the times that there are sticks obstructing the lane you are hoping to pass through (R1 button on PS3, RB on XBOX 360). A saucer pass lifts the puck over sticks and aims to fall back on the ice at your intended target's stick.
Power Play/Penalty Kill
On the power play a good cycle can make any team better than they already are. While great teams don't need to cycle as much, any team can take control of the play down low with a dominating and hustling style of cycling. For those that don't know, cycling is when you get the puck down low in the offensive zone and line up about two or three forwards, occasionally a d-man jumps in there too, and just rework the puck around the boards down low. Eventually the opposition has to back off of the pressuring team, thus giving the possessor of the puck some space while also giving the team a chance to setup a pass in front of the net or to the point.
On penalty kills, try to “stay at home”. Don't chase the puck. Staying at home means seeing what kill style you have for your team in the settings, and playing within that system. If they are in a box, stay in it. Like a postage stamp, only go to the ends of the circles, unless you can obtain the puck for sure. If you get a guy caught out of position on a penalty kill you are most likely done. A 5 on 4 becomes a 5 on 3 real quick and they will beat you with the open ice and passing. There are all kinds of penalty kill and powerplay formations, check your settings to see which one you prefer best. Different attacks require different kills, mess around in practice and learn what suits what best for your team’s strengths.
That's it for the basics, but once again remember that turnovers are killer in any sport. If you are going to make them be sure they are down low in the offensive zone. A turnover in the neutral zone or at the point on offense can lead to a bad rush coming back your way. And as always; when in doubt get the puck deep.
With some of these tips even the novice hockey player can compete. The groundwork has been laid, so be sure to impress your friends as your game finally has some semblance of real hockey.