Importance of defensive pairings

Do pairs need to be consistent for a team to compete for a Stanley Cup title?

Updated: November 6, 2013, 2:42 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider

Seabrook/KeithBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesChemistry between Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith helped Chicago win the 2013 Stanley Cup.

When we looked at line chemistry among forwards last week, there were some interesting trends. Specifically, being able to get some stability up front tends to put your team in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup, while injuries and losing streaks often cause a coach to tinker, which more often than not leads to disarray. But what about on the defensive side of things?

Before he left for Minnesota, Ryan Suter teamed with Shea Weber to make up one of the most stable and productive defensive pairs in recent memory, skating for the Predators. They spent almost 80 percent of their even-strength time together and helped steer 52.2 percent of shot attempts in Nashville's favor during the 2010-11 season. However, it wasn't enough to get past the second round of the playoffs.

In 2009-10, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith shared just 66 percent of their even-strength time together but were able to tilt the ice (54.4 percent of shots in the Blackhawks' favor), helping Chicago win its first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

It is often said that championships are built on defense. After all, if the other team can't score, it can't win. But do the defensive pairs need to be consistent?


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Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.