McDavid forcing NHL's Pacific clubs to load up on defense – FanRag Sports (blog)

Defense wins hockey games. Even now, when the NHL is built more on speed and skill than ever, that statement still rings true. Look no further than the 2016-17 Nashville Predators, who assembled one of the top blue lines in the league, then promptly rode that group to within two wins of a Stanley Cup title.

The Preds had to slow a couple of teams with high-end offensive talent on their way through the Western Conference, holding the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues to a combined 1.4 goals per game in the first two rounds. Nashville ran into another strong defense in the Conference final but knocked off the Anaheim Ducks in six games.

The Ducks had just used their impressive blue line to slow Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the second round. And, as it turns out, that’s something all Pacific Division teams must do if they plan on having much success going forward.

With McDavid signing an eight-year extension worth $12.5 million per season — and Leon Draisaitl due for a major raise in Edmonton this summer too — the Oilers seem primed for an extended stay in the playoffs. And much of their success will hinge on the explosive scoring abilities of that top duo, which means a high-end defense corps is going to be an absolute must for the other clubs in the Pacific now. And they know it.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at how Edmonton’s seven division rivals (including their new one) stack up along the blue line.

Calgary Flames

Put simply, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this — not just in the Pacific, but the entire NHL. The Flames had shaky goaltending all of last season yet still finished in the top

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