Ranking the 5 best defense and goaltending combos

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As the saying goes, "Defense wins championships," and five squads stand above the rest with the best blue lines and netminders that the NHL has to offer. Here are the five best combinations of defense and goaltending entering the 2018-19 campaign:

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

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Left Defense Right Defense
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Ryan Murray David Savard
Gabriel Carlsson Markus Nutivaara
  • You'd be hard pressed to find a team with a more dominant top pairing than the Columbus Blue Jackets, who called on the duo of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones for more than 22 minutes a night last season. The middle pairing also offers some intrigue in former second overall pick Ryan Murray and underrated right-hand shot David Savard. Depth will be a challenge for Columbus, with two youngsters holding down the bottom pair. Dean Kukan and Scott Harrington will also push for minutes.
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo
  • The future of Sergei Bobrovsky, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season, remains one of the major question marks hanging over the Blue Jackets as the campaign opens. The Russian goaltender has made it known that he's not interested in negotiating midseason, furthering the issue. While the two-time Vezina Trophy winner is crucial to the Blue Jackets' success, could the team turn to budding netminder Joonas Korpisalo more often this season in preparation of a possible future without Bobrovsky?

4. Winnipeg Jets

Left Defense Right Defense
Josh Morrissey Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot Dustin Byfuglien
Dmitry Kulikov Tyler Myers
  • More and more, coaches are stressing a balance of left- and right-handed defenders on the blue line, but the mix is a little off when it comes to the Winnipeg Jets. The team boasts three top-level caliber defenders in Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tyler Myers on its right side, but there's something to be desired on the left behind young rearguard Josh Morrissey. Luckily, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has left plenty of cap space, so adding a top-four left shot could be a possibility. Meanwhile, expect Joe Morrow and Tucker Poolman to also see frequent looks this season.
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Connor Hellebuyck
Laurent Brossoit
  • After a so-so 2016-17 season, Connor Hellebuyck looked to be relegated to second-stringer following Steve Mason's addition as a free agent. But when the latter struggled, the former ran with the top job, losing just 11 of his 67 games and earning a Vezina Trophy nomination. The Jets netminder will need to be just as effective this season, particularly with new backup Laurent Brossoit an unlikely option to fill in for more than spot duty. Should Brossoit struggle as the No. 2, Winnipeg could turn to farmhand Eric Comrie.

3. San Jose Sharks

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Left Defense Right Defense
Joakim Ryan Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic Justin Braun
  • Given Brent Burns and star addition Erik Karlsson are both right-handed, they're unlikely to pair together - save for the powerplay. That's not necessarily a bad thing for coach Peter DeBoer. With both defensemen capable of holding down big minutes, there's a good chance either will be on the ice for up to 50 minutes a game – good luck to the opposition. That's not to overlook Marc-Edouard Vlasic, one of the game's most effective defensive blue-liners. For depth, the Sharks will call on seventh defenseman Tim Heed.
Martin Jones
Aaron Dell
  • The results are there for Martin Jones, if not underwhelming. The Sharks netminder hasn't cracked a .920 save percentage across three seasons as San Jose's starter. Jones' .915 save percentage finished a pedestrian 13th league-wide among netminders who suited up for at least 50 games in 2017-18. Look for his numbers to see an uptick this season, especially with another top defenseman now clearing pucks away from his crease. Aaron Dell has emerged as a reliable backup.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Left Defense Right Defense
Victor Hedman Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn Mikhail Sergachev
  • While the Tampa Bay Lightning were unsuccessful in acquiring Karlsson, it's hard not to see their blue line as the deepest in the Eastern Conference, even without the former Ottawa Senators captain. It begins with reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman, who took home the award for the first time last season. There's also deadline addition Ryan McDonagh, who has since inked a seven-year extension and will anchor the middle pairing. Mikhail Sergachev impressed as a rookie in 2017-18, as his 40 points finished second among freshmen rearguards. The Lightning will turn to Slater Koekkoek for depth with Jake Dotchin's future undetermined.
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Andrei Vasilevskiy
Louis Domingue
  • Last year was a tale of two seasons for Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. Despite posting 44 wins in 65 games, more than half came before January, when Vasilevskiy sported a .935 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average. However, in the season's second half, the Russian netminder's GAA spiked to 3.20, while his save rate slipped to a mediocre .905. He'll need to find consistency throughout 2018-19 if the Lightning are to live up to their billing as a strong Stanley Cup favorite. Louis Domingue stabilized in a backup role after being added from the Arizona Coyotes last season.

1. Nashville Predators

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Left Defense Right Defense
Roman Josi Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin Yannick Weber
  • Here it is – the NHL's most impressive blue line. Headlined by the underrated Roman Josi and recently extended Ryan Ellis. There's also defensive stalwart Mattias Ekholm and the exciting P.K. Subban. Once again, the Nashville Predators are a Stanley Cup favorite who will prove to be a handful for the opposition when coach Peter Laviolette calls on either of his top two pairings. There's also veteran blue-liner Dan Hamhuis, who is back in Nashville for a second stint. He can hold down a bottom pairing role, while Anthony Bitetto can also sub in when needed.
Pekka Rinne
Juuse Saros
  • It took 10 seasons, but Pekka Rinne finally laid claim to the Vezina Trophy last season on the back of a 42-win campaign. With the 35-year-old entering the 2018-19 campaign on the final year of his contract, he'll be looking to guide the Predators to the franchise's first Stanley Cup. While Rinne is no doubt on the back nine of his career, the Predators are in safe hands with budding Finnish goaltender Juuse Saros, who could see more action this season as the club readies for an eventual future without Rinne.
Ranking the 5 best defense and goaltending combos
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