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St. Louis Blues: Fully reloaded

Ken Hitchcock reveals how his aggressive neutral-zone system traps the opposition. Just don’t call it a trap.

Read more on the Blues in ESPN the Magazine's Rivalry Issue (On newsstands now!!!!!)

Keep it above the red line

“Our system isn’t a trap -- it’s a really aggressive reload. But you end up trapping people because they’re overwhelmed and forcing pucks through traffic. When I coached Dallas, our five-man gap was on our side of the red line. In today’s game, it has to be on the offensive side of the red line.”

Take away ice

“The key to our backcheck is to have all our guys on the half of the ice the puck is on. Then our opponents can’t use 85 feet; they can use only 40. You take away any width to their attack. We don’t shift over into lanes. Our forwards have to work hard to cover over the puckcarrier.”

Positions don't matter

“Once we force the turnover, we cease to be position players. The guy closest to the puck is 1, the next is 2, then 3 and 4 -- whether they’re forwards or defensemen. It’s risky because the D can get caught up ice. But when it works, we can create odd-man rushes from turnovers.”

Make one quick pass

“With the puck, we spread it back out. We say things like ‘quick up’ and ‘five hard strides.’ We make a ‘quick up’ to a forward, be it an eight-foot pass or a 20-foot pass. One pass, and the rest of the guys take ‘five hard strides’ to catch up. No dumping the puck.”

Defensive speed wins

“The fastest teams now play fast defensively, not offensively. They overwhelm you with their work on D, and they hang on to the puck on offense. To win, you need defensive speed and offensive patience.”

-- as told to Lindsay Berra