Courtesy of Hertz

Drive to the Net: Clogging neutral zone is a bore, but it can be beaten

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Nick Bonino and Marc-Andre Fleury confer at practice. — DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Hockey's neutral-zone trap isn't nearly as much about checking as it is about cheese.

The cheese that just sits there on that slab of wood, tempting the mouse.

"They're just sitting there, waiting for you," Brian Dumoulin was telling me Tuesday after the Penguins' practice at the Lemieux Sports Complex. "They know what you want to do. They know you can't do it. And they're waiting for you to skate right into it."

See, that's the trap.

There's a strategic element, obviously, but there's also the psychological. The opponent doesn't attack. The opponent merely waits, already having plotted out all of the puck-possessing side's possible approaches up ice, already having a plan for each. And the aggressor has no choice, really, but to navigate the minefield, anyway.

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