The Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators begin their first round series tomorrow and leading up to Game One, I’ve been looking at how the teams compare in different areas. In today’s article, we’ll compare the defense groups.
Despite a very good group of defenders on paper, the Hurricanes weren’t without some defensive flaws this season. Though Carolina allowed the sixth-fewest shots per game of any team in the league this year, the team ranked 16th in the league in terms of expected goals against (according to NaturalStatTrick.com). Dougie Hamilton wasn’t always reliable and Jake Bean had some issues in his own end early on, while Brady Skjei wasn’t great either.
Overall though, we’re still looking at a pretty great defense group. Jaccob Slavin remains the team’s best all-around defender while Brett Pesce was very solid in his own end as well and added more offense than expected. Dougie Hamilton ranked fifth in the league in goals amongst defenders and seventh in points, while Jake Bean solidified his spot with the team, producing well despite a limited role. The Hurricanes did add Jani Hakanpaa to stabilize their bottom of the group too.
Nashville’s blue line is led by three key defenders in Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi. They all see a lot of minutes in all situations and were very effective despite the tough matchups they faced.
After the Predators’ top three defenders, however, their depth does trail off a bit. Dante Fabbro was effective in a smaller role, but then there were quite a few other defenders used by the Predators, including Matt Benning, Alexandre Carrier, Jeremy Davies, Erik Gudbranson and Ben Harpur, while Mark Borowiecki is out with an injury.
I think if we’re looking just at the top three defenders on each team, Nashville may have the edge but as a defense group overall, the Hurricanes have a bit more stability at the bottom of their group. Overall, I think the teams end up looking relatively similar defensively.
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Which team do you think has the better defense group?