Against the New York Islanders, the Carolina Hurricanes are stacked on D in a potential first round matchup. Should the Canes draw the Pittsburg Penguins* in the first round of the play-offs, the defensive pairings are a little less lopsided, but Carolina still owns the day. Carolina’s strength on defense continues to show the new style of offensive minded hockey being ushered into the NHL, and subsequently the forward thinking of the Hurricanes to continually focus on scoring potential deep on the defensive bench.
Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin are the old reliable. In tight spots, Jaccob Slavin as been stellar for the Hurricanes despite a spell off the ice around the All-Star Break. Choosing his scoring wisely and making, as Tripp Tracy says, “timely” defensive plays has been Slavin’s key contribution for this year. Going into the play-offs, look for him to have a key goal or a big play on defense that sets up a scoring play when the Hurricanes need it most.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Kris Letang are Pittsburg’s best offensive D-Line. Individually Letang is the most prolific of the defensemen on the team. Ten goals and 14 assists put’s him 8th on the team in goals and 6th in assists. Joseph is somewhat effective on the power play with three assist.
Hurricanes Second Line
Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce have been playing together most of the season so their stability is a big asset. On defense, Brett Pesce has been critical for the Hurricanes. His offensive numbers are consistent with his career numbers if not slightly higher. Brady Skjei is quickly moving from a defensive leaning D-man into an offensive powerhouse. His 15 goals are the 4th highest on the team, and the most for anyone on the defensive squad.
Penguins Second Line
Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel are a newer defensive pairing for the Pens. Ruhwedel has fewer than 50 games on the season with Pittsburg and his stats reflect that, thought he barely has more points that Hurricanes Defenseman Dylan Coghlan. Dumoulin is -5 for the year with 19 points, but compared to Rhuwedel’s 4 he looks Billy Madison.
Hurricanes Third Line
Shayne Gostisbehere and Jalen Chatfield will have plenty of games together to get sorted out by the time the play-offs roll around. Chatfield has been consistent all year long, and the addition of Gostisbehere has titled this line even more offensively. Shayne Gostisbehere will pull Jalen Chatfield even farther along in his offensive game, but Chatfield could teach Gostisbehere at thing or two about mistake free hockey as well. Showing some bias, this might be my favorite defensive pairing in Carolina’s playbook.
Penguins Third Line
Mark Friedman and Taylor Fedun have a combined 16 games with the Penguins as of this writing. That is certainly enough to building a chemistry, but still very much in the “treading water” phase. Friedman has the numbers of a third line defenseman in both the AHL and the NHL. Fedun is not much better in either league but has more experience in both than Friedman.
Defensive pairings tend to be much more stable than bluelines, unless on a Rod Brind’Amour team so these matchups would likely be what both Carolina and Pittsburg put on the ice in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburg is still, at this point, likely to be at home eating plain crackers when the clocks strike midnight BUT there is a chance. Even if they do squeak into the first round, Carolina stands a good chance, at least as fair as the defensive pairings are concerned, of sending the Penguins home with enough time to cook dinner and watch the second round.
*As always, I use the simplest stats I can find. Goals and assists. Call me old fashioned, simple minded, or both but these are really the only ones that matter.