While goalies and defensemen obviously have the greater responsibility in preventing scoring, the best defensive forwards can make all the difference. For example, take last year's Eastern Conference Finals when the key to Boston's victory was how their solid defensive forwards helped to completely shut down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
While not every team is loaded with forwards who excel in their own zone like the Bruins, each franchise has one front-line player who stands above his teammates when it comes to handling defensive duties. Can some recent analytics help find them?
In the days of Bob Gainey we relied purely on reputation to find the league's top players. With today's analytics, which players defensive reputations will be confirmed and which new defensive gems can be found?
Most frequent opponents: stats.hockeyanalysis.com
Offensive zone starts, quality of competition: www.behindthenet.ca
Both sources draw directly from the NHL game files.
All other advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.