NHL's 12 Best Shutdown Defensemen
The offense gets to make the flashy plays and goalies make the game-saving stops. However, as the old saying goes, defense wins championships.
In order to prevent the opposition's top stars from inflicting damage, teams need defensemen that can negate that offense. True shutdown defensemen can eliminate other teams' top lines from making an impact in a game.
These guys likely won't be drafted in the first round, but you will definitely take notice of them once they're sacrificing their bodies to help their respective teams.
Let's take a look at the league's top 12 shutdown defenders.
Dan Girardi (New York Rangers)
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The New York Rangers' rearguard is a top shot blocker and hitter in the NHL. Last season, Girardi tallied a league-leading 236 blocked shots and added 195 hits.
Truly willing to sacrifice his body for the team, these are the kind of players every team needs to have a solid offense.
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)
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The Detroit Red Wings' veteran Swedish defenseman won't make the flashiest or most hard-nosed plays, but you can bet he'll certainly make the right ones.
At age 41, entering his 20th NHL season, Lidstrom has won seven Norris Trophies and four Stanley Cups, all with Detroit.
Until last season, the all-star defenseman had been a plus player for 19 straight seasons, with an impressive career rating of plus-429.
He's a player that succeeds by playing positionally-sound hockey. All up-and-comers should take notes.
Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers)
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Chris Pronger, whether you love him or hate him, has consistently been a top NHL defenseman.
The two-time gold medal winner and 2007 Stanley Cup winner had a career year in 2000 when he took home the Norris Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy, as the league's best defender and as the league's MVP, respectively.
You will certainly find Pronger getting top minutes against every team's top line, especially in the postseason.
Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles Kings)
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Rob Scuderi was a huge reason the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. His tough-natured game made things a lot easier on the Penguins' offense and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Now with Los Angeles, Scuderi hopes to bring the same style and success to the Kings.
Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames)
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Mark Giordano was named an alternate captain in Calgary this season for a reason. His game is an exemplary one for all aspiring gritty defenders.
Giordano, at 28, had 140 hits last season. In addition, he had 193 blocked shots, good for third in the league.
You can expect the Toronto, Ontario native to play a minimum 20 minutes each game; the Flames need every minute they can get out their valuable defenseman.
Hal Gill (Montreal Canadiens)
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Given Hal Gill's six-foot-seven, 241-pound stature, you might think he would be leading the league in hits and blocked shots.
That isn't the case, however, though he was 25th in blocked shots last year.
Gill's big body presence makes it incredibly tough for forwards to establish themselves in front of Carey Price, an invaluable tool for the Habs.
Anton Volchenkov (New Jersey Devils)
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Over the last few seasons, Anton Volchenkov has truly established himself into a shutdown defenseman.
In 2009-10, his last season in Ottawa, where he had spent his entire career, Volchenkov sacrificed his body to save the Senators' netminders from 172 potential saves. Additionally, he added 152 body checks.
Last season, his first in New Jersey, he also broke the 100-unit plateau for both blocked shots and hits.
And standing in at six-foot-one and 221 pounds, Volchenkov has a solid fram that makes him tough to deal with in the corners and in front of the net.
Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
The mammoth known as Zdeno Chara has been a mainstay on the blue line his entire career, but namely once he arrived in Ottawa.
Now, the 34-year-old defender has a Stanley Cup under his belt, as he recently led the Boston Bruins to glory this past June.
His six-foot-nine, 269-pound frame makes him nearly an immovable object, whether it be in front of the net or in the corners.
It's no wonder that the opposition's top line struggles to get around him.
Robyn Regehr (Buffalo Sabres)
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Here's a little-known, fun fact: Robyn Regehr was actually born in Brazil, and didn't move to Canada until he was seven years old.
Every time I hear his name, it takes me back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Regehr was the major workhorse for the Flames in that incredible run, which saw Calgary defeat three division-winners en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
Against those division-winners, Regehr faced all of their top guns, and defended them successfully.
Now in Buffalo, the Sabres are hoping he will repeat that performance to give them that blue line boost they could use in the playoffs.
Zybenek Michalek (Pittsburgh Penguins)
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Quietly, Zybenek Michalek has established himself as one of the league's top defensive defensemen.
Playing his entire career up through the 2009-10 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, Michalek was a big reason on the back end that the Coyotes began to make the playoffs.
His signing with the Penguins last year was one of the most underrated signings of that summer; he will be a force for them for years to come.
Doug Murray (San Jose Sharks)
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Doug Murray just might be the most punishing defender in the game today. His menacing demeanor, stocky build and will to compete make him one of the toughest players in the league to go up against.
Murray is, literally, a huge reason the San Jose Sharks have made the playoffs so many years in a row now. His consistent, dominant presence makes working down low a living nightmare for the opposition.
Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks)
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Since joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005-06, Brent Seabrook has been a minus player only once, his first season in the league.
While his teammate, Duncan Keith, may get most of the attention on the blue line, Seabrook has established himself into quite the effective defensive mogul.
Since they started tracking the stat in 2009-10, Seabrook compiled back-to-back seasons in which he had over 200 hits and 150 blocked shots, stats that speak volumes about his dedication to winning.
Just last season, he showed he has some offensive flair, too, scoring 48 points in 82 games.
You can find him alongside Keith shutting down the league's finest forwards.
Honorable Mentions: Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins), Dennis Seidenberg (Boston Bruins) and Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks)