Best defense pairing in the Atlantic Division?
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In this edition of the hotstove, we share our thoughts on the best defense pairing in the Atlantic Division.
Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara.
They have played nearly 1,500 minutes together at 5v5 over the last two seasons. A lot of that time has been spent against opposing team's top players. They've handled it admirably, posting a 55.10 CF% and 55.48 xGF% while controlling upwards of 58% of the actual goals (71 for, 52 against). McAvoy is not the flashiest player, and Chara is not what he once was, but elite results are elite results.
Honorable mention goes to Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie. Though they obviously haven't played together yet, I think they'll primarily be partners – I don't see Mike Babcock putting Morgan Rielly with Barrie – and produce eye-opening results this season. I think Muzzin's strengths (stable defense, play-driving ability) and Barrie's strengths (skating, puck-rushing, offense) compliment each other nicely.
Rasmus Dahlin and Brandon Montour could be in the conversation as well if they end up playing together regularly. They were dominant last season, albeit over a 120 minute sample.
The best defenseman in the Atlantic Division - with apologies to the massively overrated Victor Hedman - is Morgan Rielly. He has been as good or better than Hedman for two seasons in a row and he did it while playing with one of the worst players in the NHL as his partner. If Morgan Rielly is gifted Tyson Barrie as his new partner, than this won't just be the best pairing in the Atlantic Division, it will be the best pairing in the NHL, except for the (stupidly) rare times when SJ pairs Burns and Karlsson. If Babcock is an idiot and does not make this pairing, then the best pairing will probably be Muzzin and Barrie.
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