A quick glance at the NHL standings will show you that the 2019-20 season has already started, and already there are a handful of 1-goal-difference games. While we have seen several overtime thrillers, there hasn’t been much of a sense of urgency to make up the difference. We have seen a couple of comebacks, in particular, the Blues’ rally against the Avalanche in late October.
But all kidding aside, let’s examine the format and how best to exploit it.
The Oddity Of 2 On 1
To recap, the NHL introduced 2-on-1 overtime in the 2017-18 season, and it was met with overwhelming praise and fan approval. At first glance, it looked like a win-win: two-players-per-side with a time limit; whoever scores the fastest wins. It also gave fans a new element of excitement to their game-viewing experience.
The problem is that a 2-on-1 situation isn’t really a fair fight. Two-on-one is often described as a “one-versus-one” situation, when in reality there are three players involved. In the initial phase of a 2-on-1, the third player is often positioned in the middle or in front of the net. This changes the dynamic of the action and makes it less one-sided.
One-on-one is unquestionably the most iconic fight scene in sports. But in reality, two-on-one is a bit like a fusion of one-on-one and knife-fighting, and it doesn’t always end with a fair and square battle. There’s also a certain degree of chaos that is introduced to the game when two players actively engage in a fight, regardless of whether it’s 2-on-1 or not.
The Timing Is Everything
When it comes to competition, nothing is more important than timing. And, in hockey, the timing of your attack is everything. Waiting for your opponent to catch their breath and retaliate makes all the difference in the world. Timing your blow in such a way that it maximizes its impact is the key to winning in hockey, and it’s as true in 2-on-1 as it is in 1-on-1.
The Advantage Of Position
In a typical 1-on-1 matchup, the player who has the puck has the advantage of position. They can move around a defender with the puck and set up a scoring opportunity. But when you are facing two attackers, this advantage becomes a double-edged sword. The situation is more dynamic, and it presents more opportunities for the defending player. If one of your teammates is in the front, you have the option of pulling them back to create a bit of a wall. Or you can go for a head-on attack and force the opponent to defend themselves in the air. (Hopefully, your teammates are better than the average bear at boxing-out, otherwise, you’re pretty much on your own.)
Let’s say your team is on the attack and you are being pursued by two opponents. One of them is taking the puck up the ice and the other is heading towards the net. Which approach should you take to defend your goal? Should you box them both in, using your fastest player as a pivot? Or should you try and draw them both into the middle, where your two other offensive players can swarm them and create a dangerous situation?
The answer depends on the situation and what strategy your coach has decided upon. If you have a fast enough attacker and the puck is in the right place, you can lure the defenders into the middle and create a 2-on-1 situation. If that’s the case, it’s usually best to box them both in and hit them with a quick counter-attack. This will, hopefully, make them both miss the puck and give you an opportunity to score. (If not, then you’re just wasting a lot of energy by running around with them. Better safe than sorry.)
When To Attack
Like with any game, the best time to carry out an attack is when your opponent is preoccupied with something else. When the puck is in the air, there’s always the possibility of a deflection or a breakaway. In the later stages of a 1-on-1, the defending player can often find themselves pulled out of position, leaving them open for an attack. A good attacker will always find a way to put the puck through even the most intricate of defenses.
In 2-on-1 situations, the defending player has the luxury of anticipating where their opponent will go with the puck, leaving them open for an attack. But this also means that they have to stay aware of their surroundings at all times. While there are certainly times and places for a stand-still, once the puck is in motion, nothing is more important than getting involved as quickly and as decisively as possible.