Defensemen: Playing the 2v1 Rush

Being in a 2v1 situation can be a nightmare as a defender, especially in important games. This article addresses how to play the 2v1 correctly and how it impacts the play.

The Basics

The basic idea of a 2v1 is to limit the puck carrier’s options. This can be done several ways. As with a 1v1, the most important step is to match their speed and position yourself to see both players. While playing aggressively and “stepping up” to try to steal a puck may be the right approach some of the time, it’s usually not the best play and especially on a 2v1 where the puck carrier may have various options to chip the puck forward for another player to gain a breakaway.

Preventing the Pass

It is common to hear the advice “take away the pass” or “let the goaltender have the shot” as advice on a 2v1.  This advice is not wrong, but it’s important to understand when and how to do this.  Your first priority is to take away the pass, but it should not be your only goal. 

You don’t want to simply allow a skater to have a clean breakaway on the goaltender.  

Do this by ensuring that you have a stick in the passing lane and are positioned roughly between the puck carrier and passer.  This may vary depending on the situation and the exact positioning between the players can vary significantly, so it’s something may have to decide on instinct, depending on the speed of the play and the angles of the attackers.

Attacking the Shooter

Once you are in position to prevent the pass, you need to become aware of your position relative to the net. As the shooter moves closer to the net, it’s important that your body position starts to make them feel pressure and prevents their ability to gain space in the middle of the ice, and make any lateral movements prior to the shot that can challenge the goaltender to move side-to-side.

Finally, the shooter will eventually be forced to commit to a shot. When this takes place, ideally, the defender will be able to contest the shot by getting a stick or body in the shooting lane. Ideally, this should be done without sacrificing the ability to block the pass, since some shooters will use a fake shot to open the passing lanes.

Putting it all Together

Putting this all together is a matter of timing and practice. A perfect execution cannot stop all goals, but it can be very effective against all but the best scorers. Timing the decision of when to take away the pass and when to commit to blocking the shot is key. Below, see Patrick Nemeth of the Colorado Avalanche execute the 2v1 flawlessly in a critical Stanley Cup playoff game in 2019.

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