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2 Tips To Beat a Defenseman 1 on 1 | NHL Video Breakdown by Topher Scott

Brought to you by former Cornell standout and assistant coach Topher Scott of the Hockey Think Tank.

Beating a defenseman on a 1 on 1 off the rush can be one of the most exciting plays in hockey… or frustrating.

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There are fewer plays in a hockey game that get coaches fired up more than rush play on entries.  Consistent blue line turnovers can give coaches heartburn at a greater capacity than your spiciest of foods. 

So for players, it’s important to understand a couple little habits and nuances that can help your play on the rush.

Here are two tips to beat a defenseman on a 1 on 1:

1. Change of Speed and Direction

Nothing can get a defenseman off their angle or deter their ability to match your speed than when you change speed or direction. 

Crossing over to threaten the middle is a big one that can get the defenseman to crossover (a big no-no defensively on 1v1s).  That little change of direction can cause some pause in the defenseman’s game and screw up their footwork.

Change of speed is HUGE. Defensemen are always trying to have a good gap and match your speed as you come up the ice, so the more you can alter yours, the more difficult it is for them to play you honestly.

In the video above, I showcase two clips, one of Alex Debrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks and one of Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks, both of which do a great job of changing speeds.  They slow down causing the defender to have to slow down (and become more flat-footed) and then they turn on the jets wide to beat them and eventually score. 

Awesome plays by awesome players.

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2. Deception

The second great habit to use on your rush play deals with deception.  Let’s go back to Debrincat and Manson on the plays mentioned above…

You’ll notice that both players’ eyes are looking towards the middle of the ice before they change speeds and beat the defenseman wide.  These little subtle looks cause a pause in the defender as it puts another option in their head for what the players might do.

If the players just looked up ice, the defender would know they’re taking the puck wide.  But the eyes towards the middle keeps them honest.

Manson also uses great deception with his skating.  Granted, it’s 3v3 overtime so there’s much more space available, but he opens up his hips to make it seem like he’s going to pass towards the middle.  This causes the defender again some pause about a possible decision…giving that little hesitation that Manson needs to burn past him on the outside.

Rush play is crucial for a player’s game and for a team’s ability to win hockey games.  Hopefully these tips can help you out on the ice!

Find more great hockey coaching, tips, and insight from Topher Scott at the Hockey Think Tank website, Podcast, YouTube, and Facebook.

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