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Kitchen’s One-On-One Recipe

October 31, 2011 General 2 Comments

Kitchen’s one-on-one recipe
By Fred Pletsch
Nov 6, 2001, 07:00


Mike Kitchen. ©BBS

Offensive talents Wendel Clark and Mats Sundin garnered most of the headlines as the premier players involved in the 1994 draft day deal between Toronto and the then-Quebec Nordiques. But a player some consider to be the best defensive defenseman in the NHL also switched teams that day.

Sylvain Lefebvre, the 6’2”, 204-pound rearguard is as good as they get according to Toronto assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who said goodbye to Lefebvre that June day.

“He’s a guy you want out there protecting a lead,” says Kitchen. “Sylvain is a big, strong player with exceptional skating ability. (With Toronto) he always played against the other team’s big line because he could skate backwards with any forward as well as they could skate forward. And he really frustrated them because of his use of the stick and intelligent positional play.”


First things first

Kitchen, who crafted his own eight-year NHL career on the blueline with Colorado and New Jersey from 1976 through 1984, says it’s important for defensemen to adopt an attitude whereby they recognize their limitations.

“You have to think of defense before offense. Accept your role and think of team play first, and individual play second. Pay large attention to small details and always be aware of the situation (on the ice)—such as the time left in the game, the score, and (what players) you’re playing against.”

Containment of opposing forwards in one-on-one battles is one of the most important contributions a defenseman can make in his own end. Kitchen notes that you don’t always know what the referee is going to call in youth hockey, but that there are some basic defensive tenets from pro hockey that can be applied at lower levels.

“The one rule of thumb is that the only thing a guy can score with is his stick,” states Kitchen. “He can’t kick it in and he can’t direct it in with his hand or body. So if you can just come across at the right time and get his stick up, the guy is not going to score.”

Kitchen isn’t a fan of the World Wrestling Federation either, at least in front of the net.

“Don’t get tied up where you’re in a real wrestling match because it’s going to affect your goalie’s view of the puck. You don’t have to be jamming your stick between the guy’s legs and trying to spin him around. A lot of it is timing.

“Once you see that shot coming from the point or off the wing, get in there and lift your man’s stick.”

Kitchen also recommends getting the jump on would-be net crashers by establishing position first whenever possible.

“We did this successfully in the playoffs (in 1993) against Dino Ciccarelli of Detroit,” recalls Kitchen. “When we got there first he couldn’t act as a screen on Felix Potvin in front of the net. But if he got there first, we decided just to leave him—because Felix can look around two legs better than four. And we weren’t going to play WWF either. If we grabbed early positioning, great; if not, we just left him alone and tried to come across and get his stick at the right time.”


Work that D

One of Kitchen’s favorites for improving man-on-man containment is the one-on-one three-way drill. He diagrams it this way:

“On the whistle—and the forward can’t leave until he hears the whistle—Forward 1 will walk out of the corner (with a puck) and the defenseman in front of the net will challenge him and handle that one-on-one. Once the coach has decided that’s enough, the second whistle will sound and Forward 2 will walk out of the corner, and that same defenseman handles (the new) one-on-one. When the coach is satisfied that battle is done, the whistle sounds again and Forward 3 comes out of the corner, and the same defenseman who was handling Forward 2 challenges Forward 3 and tries to keep him outside of the goal.

“Then, on the fourth whistle, Forward 3 tries to tip a point shot from another defenseman who is at the blueline. The defenseman who was providing the net-front coverage must try to time his approach and lift the stick of Forward 3, not allowing him to tip the shot.

“Remember, the forwards coming from the corners all have puck possession, with Forward 3’s puck deemed dead once the fourth whistle blows, and both Forward 3 and the defenseman release to concentrate on the point shot.”

Every coach wants players with the skill of Mats Sundin and Wendel Clark in their lineup, but you need defensive stalwart types such as Sylvain Lefebvre to be successful, too.

Fred Pletsch is a veteran OHL and AHL broadcaster who currently covers the Cornwall Aces for CJFS radio.

This first appeared in the 10/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Bob Stubbs says:

    Great drill for the D to work on the defensive zone coverage skills, in particular, gap control. Young players have a tendency to give the attacking forward too much space, instead of taking away ice and then defending.

  2. Elouise says:

    Hmmm… Hotels are basically boring places just to sleep between travel. What could be interesting with this show? Oh Oh th&#8ere217;s dirt under the bed. Oh Oh sheets need changing. Oh Oh air conditioner doesn’t work. On and on… The restaurant show worked because people were involved. Everyone has had a bad restaurant eating experience and some great ones too. Sometimes it’s the chief, sometimes it’s the manager or wait staff. Many personalities are involved. But here as a Hotel show, I can’t imagine what Chief Ramsay can do to make this interesting. Good luck with it though.

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