Ranking the Five Best Defensive Pairings in Boston Bruins History

Michael Smith@@smithmichael8 Contributor IIIJuly 18, 2013

Ranking the Five Best Defensive Pairings in Boston Bruins History

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    The Boston Bruins have had some of the best defensemen in league history.

    In fact, while some teams have been known for their forwards (Gretzky's Oilers and Bossy's Islanders), most of the iconic Bruins have been defensemen.

    But over the team's 89-year history, which defensive pairings have been the best? 

    Here's a look at the five best in franchise history.

Doug Mohns and Fernie Flaman

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    Fernie Flaman was a tough, physical defenseman who played two different stints with the Bruins. His defensive partner for several years in the 1950's, Doug Mohns, was a speedy and skilled skater who scored 710 points in his career.

    They led Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1957 and '58, but lost both times to archrival Montreal.

    Mohns used his speed and skill to become one of the league's best breakout passers, and Flaman held the  line while Mohns moved around the offensive zone. (Mohns also played forward, especially later in his career with the Blackhawks.) 

    A 1990 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Flaman led the league in penalty minutes in 1953-54 and served as captain of the Bruins for several seasons. 

    They come in No. 5 on the list for leading Boston to two Stanley Cup Finals appearances during a time when Toronto and Montreal dominated the rest of the league. (From 1956-64, there was only one year when another team—Chicago—won the Cup.)

Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg

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    Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have the pleasure of being the only active pairing to make this list, and with a Stanley Cup win in 2011 to their credit, they're very much deserving of the No. 4 spot in the rankings.

    After signing with the Bruins in 2006, Chara was named team captain and has led them ever since. He won the Norris Trophy in 2009 and played in five All-Star contests since joining the lineup.

    Seidenberg was dealt from Florida to Boston at the trading deadline in 2010 and has been a force ever since.

    While they have been split up a couple times by Claude Julien during lineup juggles, the two Europeans have been paired together for the majority of the past three and a half seasons.

    After making it all the way to the Final once again this season, they will continue to be Boston's No. 1 pairing in the future. If they can add another Cup victory to their resumes, they may have a shot at moving up in a future rendition of this list.

Ray Bourque and Don Sweeney

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    Before you start freaking out that Ray Bourque isn't No 2. on this list, remember that it's about pairings.

    There's no doubt that Bourque is the second greatest defenseman in Bruins history behind Bobby Orr. He played almost 21 full seasons for Boston from 1979-2000 before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche and winning a Stanley Cup a year later.

    He won the Norris Trophy five times, and eclipsed the 80-point mark nine times in his career.

    In the late eighties, he was eventually teamed up with Don Sweeney, and the two helped lead the B's to the Stanley Cup Final in 1990 where they fell to Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers. (Bourque led them to the Final two years earlier before Sweeney joined the club.)

    Throughout the nineties, the two were one of the most solid pairings in the NHL even as Bourque aged and the franchise faded from contention.

    Sweeney played over 1,000 games for the black and gold, and he and Bourque led the Bruins to the playoffs in each of Sweeney's first eight years in the league.

    The only knock on this pairing is they didn't play together for a long time and never won a Cup. But Bourque is a Hall of Famer for a reason, and not winning a championship wasn't his fault. Losing to the Edmonton Oilers twice in the Stanley Cup Final is nothing to be ashamed of.

Eddie Shore and Lionel Hitchman

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    Eddie Shore and Lionel Hitchman were blue line partners for seven straight seasons from 1927 through 1934 when Hitchman retired.

    Their longevity together, along with their accolades, is why they're ranked ahead of Bourque and Sweeney.

    Can you imagine any defensive pairing today staying together for seven years? (I'm looking at you, Seabrook and Keith.)

    In fact, the 1998 book Total Hockey called the pairing one of the greatest in league history.

    Hitchman was team captain when Boston won its first Stanley Cup championship in 1929 when they defeated the New York Rangers two games to none.

    Shore won the Hart Trophy four times, which is third all time behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. He also has a trophy named after him in the American Hockey League.

    In addition to his up-tempo style of play, Shore was known for his bruising style and enforcement, and was always among the league leaders in penalty minutes and fights. Hitchman was known to be a stay-at-home defenseman, which made their pairing so effective.

    Both players have their numbers retired by the Bruins.

Bobby Orr and Dallas Smith

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    You knew that Bobby Orr was going to be on the last slide.

    He won eight consecutive Norris trophies as the NHL's top defenseman and three Hart Trophies as the league MVP. He led the B's to two Stanley Cups, with the iconic photo to the left shows him scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues in 1970.

    His smooth skating and offensive prowess was never seen by a defenseman before he came into the league. He was the most dominant player of his generation, but knee injuries cut his career short. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when he was only 31 years old.

    Starting in 1967, Orr's defensive partner was Dallas Smith, who had finally broken into the league after spending several years in the minors.

    Together, they enjoyed years of toying with the league.

    Smith led the league in plus-minus in 1967-68, the first season the stat was tracked. Smith finished a plus-94 in 1970-71, which is the fourth highest plus-minus in history. His partner finished with the still-standing NHL record of plus-124.

    The two won two cups together, in '70 and '72, and were by the far the best pairing in franchise history. (One can argue that any average defensemen paired with Orr would be the greatest, and certainly Orr made Smith better than anyone else could have. But Smith was solid on his own.)

    Smith made four All-Star Games as a Bruin, and according to 1972summitseries.com, was invited to play for Team Canada at the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets, but had to decline to work on his family farm in Manitoba.