Strategy Guide
NHL 09: How You Can Keep Playing Aggressive Hockey Post-Patch

One of the major criticisms facing NHL 09's recently released patch is how it has allegedly turned the game into a "pansy" representation of the sport, which favors slow, deliberate strategy over the aggressive type of play that dominated the game prior to the second patch.

This article is out to prove those criticisms wrong by showing that, on the contrary, the game still does reward aggressive tactics -- it simply no longer rewards the type of overaggressive tactics that would be blatant penalties at any level of hockey.

So here are a few tips to help gamers keep the pressure on opponents while avoiding the parade to the penalty box.

In the Offensive Zone

One feature that many players have overlooked since its introduction in patch number one is the ability to keep your stick down on the ice when racing in for rebounds and putback shots.

Rebounds can be attempted by holding down the vision-control button (defaults to the left trigger on the 360) and pressing the right stick up like you normally would when preparing a one-timer shot.

Now that the major glitch goals have been fixed, rebounds are a crucial aspect of scoring in patch number two, which means players should start to develop the habit of holding in the left trigger anytime they are skating free in the offensive zone. This simple gameplay tweak will boost your team's scoring opportunities and keep you from incurring any accidental interference penalties during an attempted rebound.

Rebounds are one of the easiest, and for some reason, least-utilized methods of scoring against A.I. goaltenders.
Image: Daylife.com

Rebounds can also be used against the many goaltenders you will meet online who are a little too anxious to pass the puck through traffic after a save.

Simply camp out in the passing lanes, wait for the goalie to kick the puck out towards your stick and make the goalie pay with a quick putback before he even has a chance to recover.

In the Defensive Zone

Patch number two has certainly been a rude awakening for the NHL 09 players who thought that randomly mashing the various "attack" buttons was the proper way to play defense.

So what should the proper strategy be now that the patch has eliminated "hit everything that moves" tactics as a viable option on defense?

Rules of Checking

1. Do not hit anyone who does not have the puck. Hitting a player who is not a part of the play is the easiest way to get an interference penalty. The only exception is when an opposing player is in front of your net. When someone is near your crease, check away.

2. Do not rush into an opposing player from behind. Checking from behind is being enforced now as a two-minute minor.

3. Count your strides. Taking three or more strides when lining up a hit will likely result in a charging penalty.

4. Be careful around the boards. Specifically, try not to rush into players at an angle that will throw them violently into the boards. If you do not follow this guideline, you will probably get called for a boarding penalty.

The poke check, not the body check, should be your go-to defensive move in NHL 09.
Image: npchockeypics.wordpress.com

Rules of Poke Checking

1. Only poke at the puck when you are in front of it. Poking from the side/behind will result in a tripping penalty more times than not.

2. Do not poke players who are about to shoot/pass. The poke takes longer to execute than those actions, and by the time the offensive player has gotten rid of the puck, your poke will often hit nothing but his legs.

Rules of Stick Lifting

1. Only stick lift players who are in directly front of you. Otherwise, stick lifting from the side/back is an instant slashing/high sticking penalty on many occasions.

Learn to Value Positional Defense and Shot Blocking

A little-known facet of NHL 09’s defensive system is the automatic portion of it. If your player’s defensive awareness rating is high enough, you can often simply position your player in the path of a puck to deflect or intercept it -- no buttons needed.

However, when using players with lower awareness ratings, or for the times when you simply do not want to leave the block/deflection up to chance, defenders can also lay their stick (defaults to the left bumper on the Xbox 360) or their entire body (left bumper + right bumper) down on the ice in the spot where they think the puck is headed.

Good, Aggressive Defense: As Simple As Picking the Right Move at the Right Time

With all of these tools at a defender’s disposal, you may find that, contrary to public opinion, it is actually quite easy to play an aggressive style of defense in NHL 09. The only difference after patch number two is that now you cannot do anything illegal to wrestle the puck away from the offense.

And, as a bonus, if you follow these guidelines, you will be spending plenty of time on the power play and no time in the penalty box.

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