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Series Preview: Ducks Defensemen

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Other than one former Canuck, you might not know a lot about this corps. They're not the flashy, dynamic offensive group that win the individual trophies these days, but they don't give up many goals. Most coaches would take the latter of those two options.

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They're sneaky good, they have decent depth, and have parts that can be changed around for different looks. Combine that with a stay-at-home style from most of them, and they're the exact opposite of Nashville's defensemen in terms of style.

But there's a lot to like about this group. The Ducks are very much built like an old-school hockey team with big hulking Canadian forwards, a shutdown line, and a group of well-coached defensemen.

Just for comparison's sake, here's a look at the Ducks' defensive pairings throughout the season:

That's pretty colorful, no? Especially compared to the Nashville version of this chart.

As mentioned, opposite strategies between the Ducks and Preds when it comes to their defense. But that doesn't mean these guys aren't talented. These guys contributed mightily to the Ducks winning the Jennings Trophy. But what what they do best is allow their offense to play their game.

That sounds great, seeing that they support an offense featuring Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler. But remind yourselves that this team only had 127 goals during even strength play, a net minus for the year, and the fewest among playoff teams and the 5th fewest in the league.

But that power play though....

Their defensemen do have particular roles, just like most defense corps do.

That's a standard ol' usage chart. Cam Fowler is the guy playing beside Ryan Kesler, no matter who his partner is. If Kevin Bieksa is healthy, he will likely be Fowler's partner. And looking their their pairings, their defense is deployed in a very balanced fashion. Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, and Fowler usually play on separate pairings. Hampus Lindholm played mostly with Josh Manson this year. Vatanen played with Clayton Stoner and Simon Depres for the majority of his ice time.

If you're looking for offense from the defensemen...Manson and Vatanen have 14 points during 5v5 play, and they're the leading scorers about the defensemen. Vatanen, Fowler, and Lindholm have a combined 11 power play goals. Shea Weber has 14.

That's the primary difference between the Ducks and Preds; the Ducks have three solid pairs (no matter the personnel), the Preds have one elite pair, one very good pair, and a typical third pair.

What all of this means:

The Ducks are very much a throwback team. They hit you, they play defense, they get good goaltending from multiple sources, and they're opportunistic. Their defense stays back more than other elite teams in the Western Conference, but that's not because of a lack of talent. Their offensive strengths aren't as dangerous as the Blackhawks, Blues, Stars, and even the Kings. But they get the job done in different fashions.

There isn't a real recipe to beat this defense corps, nor is their a real worry of this group destroying the Predators. This series will be won or lost with line matching, goaltending, and special teams.