Blackhawks’ converted centers adjusting to defensive responsibilities

When playing center, Blackhawks forward MacKenzie Entwistle has a wider range of defensive responsibilities.

AP Photo/Matt Marton

TEMPE, Ariz. — Being a center in Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson’s box-plus-one defensive zone coverage scheme requires reading and reacting quickly as plays evolve.

“You have to get side-to-side and low-to-high fast,” Richardson said. “You’re like that little ball that bounces around that square. You have to be supportive everywhere and jump on things.”

The other four players on the ice have more specifically defined roles to fill and “zones” to cover, as the system name implies.

The Hawks’ wingers cover their respective sides of the zone and move up when the puck also moves up to opposing defensemen along the blue line. The Hawks’ defensemen protect the front of the net and, when they see an opportunity, are supposed to be the first players to pin opposing forwards along the boards to try to jar the puck loose.

But the center has to provide support to any of the wingers or defensemen whenever needed.

If a defenseman has pinned an opponent with the puck, the center needs to be the second man in to “scoop” the puck up and orchestrate a zone exit.

And if the puck has moved up high and the opponent is running a “three-high” or “four-high” offensive formation — as are all the rage around the NHL — the center needs to cover the extra man that the wingers can’t cover.

“There definitely is a lot more responsibility [playing center] than playing wing,” MacKenzie Entwistle said. “If you’re the first guy back in the zone, then you’re going to play low…[and] then you look for a …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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