FanPost

A Look at the NHL's Top 19 teams' Defensive Pairings (Boston to Minnesota alphabetically)

After looking at the forward combinations in my last article, I continued my search to determine where the Winnipeg Jets fall short of the NHL's best by looking at the top 19 teams' defensive pairings to see how they performed in goals for/against.
I'm expecting this part of the review to be fairly ugly for Winnipeg, since it seems they spend huge chunks of games stuck in the defensive zone. Guessing that I'll see that having the 17th best offense in the NHL isn't enough to cover the warts on the Jets D core.

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The information I am using was gathered prior to Tuesday's nights game and includes defensive pairings with a minimum of 100 minutes of play at 5 on 5. Each team will have it's d-men sorted by minutes played, from most to least. Pairings that get better than 70% of actual goals will highlighted like this, while duos that get between 60-69% will be noted like so, and groups that get less than 50% of 5 on 5 goals will be indicated in italics.

Defensive Pairings (Minutes played 5 on 5 / Goal Diff % / Goals For / Goals Against)

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BOSTON:

Grzelcyk/Carlo (525.8 mins / 56.8 G% / 21 GF / 16 GA)

Forbort/Clifton (455.2 mins / 51.3 G% / 20 GF / 19 GA)

Grzelcyk/McAvoy (384.8 mins / 75 G% / 27 GF / 9 GA)

Reilly/McAvoy (360.5 mins / 58.6 G% / 17 GF / 12 GA)

Reilly/Carlo (358.7 mins / 53.1 G% / 17 GF / 15 GA)

Forbort/McAvoy (305.9 mins / 31.6 G% / 6 GF / 13 GA)

Reilly/Clifton (180.9 mins / 55.6 G% / 5 GF / 4 GA)

Forbort/Carlo (127.6 mins / 63.6 G% / 7 GF / 4 GA)

Vaakanainen/McAvoy (101.4 mins / 44.4 G% / 4 GF / 5 GA)

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We saw in the first article that the Bruins were able to put out 3 successful forward lines (66.7 to 71.4% Goal Diff) and the above shows that they have the personnel to field a solid defensive core too. Boston have a couple options to ice 3 strong pairings to give them a shot at making a run in the playoffs:

Grzelcyk/Carlo (56.8 G%)

Reilly/McAvoy (58.6 G%)

Forbort/Clifton (51.3 G%)

or

Grzelcyk/McAvoy (75 G%)

Forbort/Carlo (63.6 G%)

Reilly/Clifton (55.6 G%)

Newly acquired Lindholm hasn't played enough to be included in the review, so that will give the coaching staff further options (Lindholm/McAvoy - 89.9 mins / 62.5% xG / 72.7% G / 8 GF / 3 GA). Beantown has a way of stepping up come playoff time, but this will be the first time without their long-time goaltender Rask. They will have to use that special Bruin mix of agitation & talent to their advantage if they want to knock off the top Eastern Conference teams.

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CALGARY:

Hanafin/Andersson (1159.9 mins / 58.5 G% / 62 GF / 44 GA)

Kylington/Tanev (969.6 mins / 62.5 G% / 50 GF / 30 GA)

Zadorov/Gudbranson (881.5 mins / 53.8 G% / 35 GF / 30 GA)

Zadorov/Tanev (104.6 mins / 33.3 G% / 2 GF / 4 GA)

Valimaki/Gudbranson (104.2 mins / 66.7 G% / 4 GF / 2 GA)

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Calgary have 2 very good top 6 forward lines (70.1 to 72.7% Goal Diff) and when you match that with the top 3 pairings on the list, you see why the Flames are one of the better Western Conference teams.

Hanafin/Andersson (58.5 G%)

Kylington/Tanev (62.5 G%)

Zadorov/Gudbranson (53.8 G%)

With Valimaki's success playing with Gudbranson, it appears Coach Sutter also has an option for the 3rd pairing during their quest to bring the Cup back to Calgary. I can recall watching players like Fleury, Nieuwendyk, & Vernon winning it all, can this be the team to do it again? Might be the last chance with this group, as I can't see how they can afford to re-sign Gaudreau after the season he's having.

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CAROLINA:

Skjei/Pesce (995.7 mins / 55.6 G% / 50 GF / 40 GA)

Slavin/DeAngelo (625.7 mins / 65.6 G% / 40 GF / 21 GA)

Slavin/Bear (384.3 mins / 59.4 G% / 19 GF / 13 GA)

Cole/Smith (295 mins / 55.6 G% / 10 GF / 8 GA)

Cole/Bear (237.6 mins / 45 G% / 9 GF / 11 GA)

Slavin/Cole (172.9 mins / 55.6 G% / 10 GF / 8 GA)

Cole/DeAngelo (135.9 mins / 78.6 G% / 11 GF / 3 GA)

Cole/Chatfield (106 mins / 50 G% / 2 GF / 2 GA)

Skjei/DeAngelo (101.9 mins / 77.8 G% / 7 GF / 2 GA)

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We found that the Hurricanes' coaching staff had the luxury of playing 3 (possibly 4) forward lines that tilted the goal count in their team's favour when on the ice (50 to 73.3% Goal Diff). They get to combine that with 2 good options for the defensive core too:

Skjei/Pesce (55.6 G%)

Slavin/DeAngelo (65.6 G%)

Cole/Smith (55.6 G%)

or

Skjei/Pesce (55.6 G%)

Cole/DeAngelo (78.6 G%)

Slavin/Bear (59.4 G%)

The depth that Carolina displays should at least give them a shot of getting through a tough Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

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COLORADO:

Toews/Makar (808.4 mins / 71.2 G% / 52 GF / 21 GA)

Girard/E. Johnson (280 mins / 56.3 G% / 9 GF / 7 GA)

J. Johnson/E. Johnson (250.7 mins / 57.1 G% / 12 GF / 9 GA)

Girard/J. Johnson (223.9 mins / 47.4 G% / 9 GF / 10 GA)

Girard/Makar (207.9 mins / 52 G% / 13 GF / 12 GA)

Murray/E. Johnson (149.1 mins / 50 G% / 7 GF / 7 GA)

Toews/Girard (143 mins / 75 G% / 12 GF / 4 GA)

Murray/J. Johnson (135.4 mins / 40 G% / 2 GF / 3 GA)

Byram/Makar (130.8 mins / 76.9 G% / 10 GF / 3 GA)

MacDermid/E. Johnson (124.6 mins / 71.4 G% / 5 GF / 2 GA)

Girard/Byram (124.4 mins / 40 G% / 4 GF / 6 GA)

J. Johnson/Makar (122.7 mins / 50 G% / 3 GF / 3 GA)

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In the article about forwards, we noticed that the Avalanche could put out 2 very good top 6 units (66.7 to 75% Goal Diff), but struggled to get offense from the bottom six. The information above shows that they can make up for those lost goals with some talented defensemen, especially their top icetime pairing of Toews & Makar. Don't watch enough Colorado games to know if they are still rolling with the top 2 pairings on the list and trying to find a 3rd pairing with Byram. Based on a smaller sample size, this lineup could possibly dominate opponents:

Toews/Girard (75 G%)

Byram/Makar (76.9 G%)

MacDermid/E. Johnson (71.4 G%)

The Colorado Avalanche will try to rely on their high-powered offense to take them out of the Central Division and into the Western Conference Finals. GM Joe Sakic is running out of relatively inexpensive MacKinnon contract years (1 left after this season), can they put a run together before he's making over $10M/year.

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DALLAS:

Suter/Heiskanen (712.5 mins / 57.8 G% / 26 GF / 19 GA)

Lindell/Klingberg (479.7 mins / 42.9 G% / 18 GF / 24 GA)

Heiskanen/Lindell (421.5 mins / 63 G% / 17 GF / 10 GA)

Suter/Klingberg (399.3 mins / 51.3 G% / 20 GF / 19 GA)

Lindell/Hakanpaa (244.7 mins / 46.2 G% / 6 GF / 7 GA)

Sekera/Hakanpaa (203.7 mins / 58.8 G% / 10 GF / 7 GA)

Suter/Hakanpaa (202.7 mins / 47.4 G% / 9 GF / 10 GA)

Hanley/Hakanpaa (193.9 mins / 42.9 G% / 6 GF / 8 GA)

Harley/Klingberg (171.8 mins / 50 G% / 9 GF / 9 GA)

Harley/Hakanpaa (147.9 mins / 40 G% / 4 GF / 6 GA)

Hanley/Klingberg (132.6 mins / 27.3 G% / 3 GF / 8 GA)

When the Stars are at their best, they can run 3 forward lines that put up 51.7 to 59% goal differentials. Dallas has had numerous combinations on the defensive end this season, but they should have no problem forming them into a solid grouping, such as:

Heiskanen/Lindell (63 G%)

Suter/Klingberg (51.3 G%)

Sekera/Hakanpaa (58.8 G%)

The number of goal differentials under 50% on the above list is likely a sign explaining why the Dallas Stars are still fighting for a wild-card spot. They do have the inside track and if they get into the "show" and combine it with some hot goaltending, who knows how far they could end up going?

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EDMONTON:

Nurse/Bouchard (529.3 mins / 41 G% / 16 GF / 23 GA)

Keith/Ceci (507.8 mins / 46.5 G% / 20 GF / 23 GA)

Nurse/Ceci (478.6 mins / 59.5 G% / 25 GF / 17 GA)

Keith/Bouchard (348.1 mins / 54.8 G% / 17 GF / 14 GA)

Nurse/Barrie (305.1 mins / 53.8 G% / 14 GF / 12 GA)

Russell/Barrie (191.2 mins / 58.8% G% / 10 GF / 7 GA)

Kulak/Barrie (149 mins / 73.3 G% / 11 GF / 4 GA)

The Oilers were shown to have the ability to ice 3 solid forward lines (58.3 to 75% Goal Diff). While the 2 D pairings with the most minutes ended up on the wrong side of the Goal Diff, Coach Woodcroft can arrange them into what could be a good defensive core.

Nurse/Ceci (59.5 G%)

Keith/Bouchard (54.8 G%)

Kulak/Barrie (73.3 G%)

Edmonton will try to chase the playoff demons from their backs following last year's sweep by the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers surely have the offensive ability to make some noise in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Is another Battle of Alberta in the forecast?

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FLORIDA:

Weegar/Ekblad (925.1 mins / 61.8 G% / 55 GF / 34 GA)

Forsling/Gudas (749.3 mins / 66.7 G% / 38 GF / 19 GA)

Carlsson/Montour (283.4 mins / 44.8 G% / 13 GF / 16 GA)

Forsling/Montour (231.8 mins / 62.1 G% / 18 GF / 11 GA)

Chiarot/Weegar (139.1 mins / 50 G% / 7 GF / 7 GA)

Connauton/Montour (124.8 mins / 60 G% / 6 GF / 4 GA)

Forsling/Weegar (100.2 mins / 58.3 G% / 7 GF / 5 GA)

My forward review told us that the Panthers can run with 4 lines that get 76.9 to 50% of the goals scored at 5 on 5. When you combined that with many formidable options on the backend, the Florida coaching staff should feel confident heading into the playoffs. If you took the best performing duos out of the above group, it would look like this:

Weegar/Ekblad (61.8 G%)

Forsling/Gudas (66.7 G%)

Connauton/Montour (60 G%)

However, that doesn't include newly acquired Ben Chiarot, so this probably isn't the group the Panthers will field in the playoffs. You don't get to be battling for the top record in the NHL regular season by being easy to beat, so Florida is going to be a tough out in this year's post-season.

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LOS ANGELES:

Bjornfot/Durzi (599.3 mins / 36 G% / 18 GF / 32 GA)

Anderson/Doughty (587.9 mins / 51 G% / 26 GF / 25 GA)

Maatta/Roy (496.3 mins / 58.8 G% / 20 GF / 14 GA)

Anderson/Bjornfot (241.6 mins / 55.6 G% / 10 GF / 8 GA)

Edler/Roy (235.3 mins / 63.2 G% / 12 GF / 7 GA)

Maatta/Spence (230.3 mins / 47.6 G% / 10 GF / 11 GA)

Bjornfot/Roy (117.3 mins / 50 G% / 2 GF / 2 GA)

Edler/Stecher (108.4 mins / 50 G% / 4 GF / 4 GA)

When it comes to the Kings, the first thing that stands out is that the pairing with the most minutes played have lost the goals for/against fight by quite a big margin. Los Angeles fortunately have options to form 4 good forwards lines and that should help them if they can't find a 3rd pairing to play with these options:

Maatta/Roy (58.8 G%)

Anderson/Bjornfot (55.6 G%)

or

Anderson/Bjornfot (55.6 G%)

Edler/Roy (63.2 G%)

Making the Kings' coaching staff's job more difficult is the injury to Doughty, but they will need to find a suitable solution if they want to have playoff success (or at least hold off Vegas from catching them for the Pacific's final spot).

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MINNESOTA:

Brodin/Dumba (755.4 mins / 49 G% / 25 GF / 26 GA)

Goligoski/Spurgeon (501.4 mins / 70.2 G% / 33 GF / 14 GA)

Kulikov/Merrill (475.6 mins / 60 G% / 24 GF / 16 GA)

Brodin/Kulikov (235.5 mins / 60 G% / 12 GF / 8 GA)

Kulikov/Benn (205.7 mins / 44.4 G% / 8 GF / 10 GA)

Middleton/Spurgeon (183.8 mins / 62.5 G% / 10 GF / 6 GA)

Goligoski/Merrill (183.3 mins / 65.2 G% / 15 GF / 8 GA)

Kulikov/Goligoski (141.8 mins / 81.8 G% / 9 GF / 2 GA)

Merrill/Addison (126 mins / 53.3 G% / 8 GF / 7 GA)

Benn/Dumba (105.9 mins / 41.7 G% / 5 GF / 7 GA)

Goligoski/Benn (102.5 mins / 66.7 G% / 10 GF / 5 GA)

The Wild have become a top 5 Western Conference squad with the help of 3 top 9 forward lines that get 85.2 to 67.2% of goals scored. Minnesota's D core enhances the forward's success, with numerous pairings displaying a +60% goal differential. If you tried to put the best group together based on this list, it might look something like this:

Goligoski/Spurgeon (70.2 G%)

Kulikov/Merrill (60 G%)

Brodin/Kulikov (60 G%)

While that defensive set up has done well so far this season in significant minutes, it does leave Dumba out of the lineup. Regardless, the Wild should be a tough match-up for any team that meets them in the playoffs due to strong 2-way play.

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You can find the rest in the article in the FanPost titled A Look at the NHL's Top 19 teams' Defensive Pairings (Nashville to Winnipeg alphabetically).

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.