A pair of defensemen known for their defensive capabilities whose objective is to limit the impact of the opposing team's top offensive forwards on the game. A shutdown pair is usually matched up to the opposing team's number one line and is expected to "shut them down" so that they do not score goals or record any points.
The two defensemen that form the shutdown pair are not necessarily the two most skilled defensemen on a team. They are usually players known for their safe defensive play and players who stay in their own zone. Defensemen forming the shutdown pair must sacrifice offensive play and are not expected to "join the rush" too much when their team is attacking. Shutdown defensemen are expected to play physical hockey, but they must remain disciplined by not taking penalties. They should shadow the forward they are covering if defending man-to-man, and they should clear the net in front of their goaltender to give him a clear view of the action in front of him.