Though the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues might make their own credible claim, the Los Angeles Kings probably possess the league's best defense corps.
Or at least that's probably true when head coach Darryl Sutter optimally deploys his six best defenesmen.
This season the optimal way of deploying Los Angeles' defenders has included partnering up ace top-pairing defender Drew Doughty with promising young puck-mover Jake Muzzin. The Muzzin and Doughty pairing have played 328 even-strength minutes for the Kings so far this season, and in those minutes Los Angeles has outscored their opponents two-to-one while controlling 58.5% of shot attempts (a ludicrous number).
So what is it that makes Doughty and Muzzin such a dynamic pair? Well if you trust the numbers and Doughty's own account of things, it's their pairing's uncanny ability to minimize the amount of time the Kings spend in their own end of the rink.
"When we’re both on, we’re not going to have any chances against," Doughty told John Hoven this week. "We're going to be in the offensive zone, we’re going to be creating chances because we’re so good at moving the puck together and so good at getting by guys on their forecheck. We never spend time in our zone."
While Doughty is a generational talent and is obviously driving the bus for the Kings, Muzzin's presence flanking Doughty acts like nitrous in Los Angeles' engine. For example, Doughty's second most frequent defensive partner this season is Robyn Regher. Regehr and Doughty have spent nearly 230 minutes together at even-strength this season, and the Kings have actually been outscored in those minutes.
So it's no wonder that Doughty lobbied Kings coaches at training camp to allow him to play alongside Muzzin permanently. "When he’s playing physical and when he’s on the ball, he’s tough to get around," Doughty said of his defense partner. "He’s a big body, has a good, long stick - he’s a great player."