Ranking postseason defenseman groups
April, 15, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesJay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo anchor the top defensive group competing in the playoffs.With the playoff matchups set and the countdown to the playoffs underway, we’re ranking the top playoff teams by position. On Monday, the forward groups were ranked. Today, here’s the ranking of the 16 playoff defenseman groups:
1. St. Louis Blues
Goals against per game (GA/G): 2.29 (No. 3)
Penalty kill (PK): 85.7 percent (No. 2)
Points from defensemen: 182
Shots against per game (SA/G): 26.4
A full season together for Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester gives the Blues a legitimate shutdown pair that was still figuring out how to play together when the playoffs arrived last spring. Pietrangelo has had a season worthy of Norris Trophy consideration. The duo is still a little light on playoff experience, which is a concern; the two have played a total of 20 postseason games, or 18 fewer than Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.
Having those two and trusted veterans like Barret Jackman and Roman Polak allows coach Ken Hitchcock to get favorable matchups for Kevin Shattenkirk, a talented offensive defenseman who consistently puts up St. Louis’ best possession numbers.
2. Los Angeles Kings
GA/G: 2.05 (No. 1)
PK: 83.1 percent (No. 11)
Points from defensemen: 149
The defense has a mix of strong offensive puck movers such as Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Voynov, along with defensive veterans Willie Mitchell, Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene.
Like everything Kings general manager Dean Lombardi builds, this defense was put together with a purpose, and if it remains healthy, it’s as good as any in hockey. Doughty is a game-changer whose puck-retrieval skills and ability to quickly transition to offense should help negate a strong possession team like the San Jose Sharks.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
GA/G: 2.58 (No. 12)
PK: 81.4 percent (No. 19)
Points from defensemen: 193
The one-two punch of pairs Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook along with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya is a huge weapon for coach Joel Quenneville.
Chicago’s second pair can play with any forward line, allowing Quenneville a chance to get Keith and Seabrook on the ice in moments where they can change the game.