Todd Cordell: A Look At The NHL’s Best Forward/Defense Duos

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Earlier this summer I looked at the league’s best forward duos so, with plenty of time remaining in the off-season, I figured I’d do the same for forward/defense duos.

Jonathan Toews/Duncan Keith, Anze Kopitar/Drew Doughty and Patrice Bergeron/Zdeno Chara are some elite duos many could argue are the best of their kind.

Being the curious person that I am, I decided to look at some numbers from 2013-14 to see a) which duo of the three is the best; b) which duo in the league was the best in 13-14, and; c) if there were any pairs flying under the radar that dominated play at a similar level.

Taking into account goals for percentage (the percentage of goals scored by team X when duo X is on the ice) and shot attempt percentage (i.e. Corsi, the percentage of shot attempts generated towards the opposing team’s net) I hand picked what I feel to be some elite duos, and tabled them all to see which ones were the best of the best.

Unsurprisingly, there are a few duos most wouldn’t consider to be elite that more than held their own compared to some of the biggest names in hockey. Note: Duos must have played at least 400 minutes together last season…All numbers via HockeyAnalysis.com…anything over 100 combined is quite good, so Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban shouldn’t be looked at poorly.

There is a ton of data there, so I’ll note some highlights:

– Sidney Crosby and Matt Niskanen were clearly unbelievably good together last season. Any time a team scores 75% of the goals with players X and Y on the ice it’s incredible, especially when they were able to do so over the course of 400+ minutes.

– Speaking of Niskanen, he was very good last season but his strong numbers in possession, points and goals for% were likely inflated by playing with the world’s best player for 1/3 of his 5 vs 5 ice. I expect him to be good in Washington, but I don’t think he’s going to replicate last season’s success.

– Of all the duos tabled, only one won’t be together next season: Crosby and Niskanen. All others remain in tact.

– That Winnipeg potted 3-of-4 goals scored with Blake Wheeler and Tobias Enstrom on the ice was pretty surprising, especially given only 51% of shot attempts headed towards the opposing goal. Expect that goals for% to decrease quite a bit in 2014-15, especially if their shot attempt for% doesn’t increase.

– It wasn’t exactly shocking to see Patrice Bergeron/Zdeno Chara, Jonathan Toews/Duncan Keith, and Anze Kopitar/Drew Doughty first, second and third in terms of generating the highest percentage of shot attempts. If you polled the public on the three best forward/duos in the league, I bet those would be the names that come up the most.

– Since this is a Devils blog, I’d be ignorant not to point out the success Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky had last season. I found that particularly interesting, given that Andy Greene is a) the best defenseman on the Devils; b) played about the same amount with Jagr as Zidlicky did; and c) posted the best possession numbers of all Devils blue liners.

– Mikael Backlund and Mark Giordano were exceptional together in 13-14. Curious to see if they can replicate their success over a potentially larger sample size next season, especially given they’ll likely face the best of the best on a nightly basis.

– Who would have pegged Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell as one of the league’s better duos at filling the net and driving possession? I like both players more than most, but was caught a little off guard there. Devils posts Guessing the forwards Mattias Tedenby signs two-year deal in Sweden Is Reid Boucher NHL ready? On the league’s best offensive penalty killers On Metro Division goaltending Jackets posts Chilly As Ever Sonny Milano will join OHL’s Plymouth Whalers Paying Enforcers

————————————————————————— Email: NHLToddCordell@Gmail.com

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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