Montreal’s Subban and Markov are NHL’s best defensive pair

December 7, 2013

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Montreal blueliner P.K. Subban won the Norris Trophy as the National Hockey League’s best defenseman last year playing mostly with Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon. However, that hasn’t stopped everyone from debating whether or not he should be on Team Canada for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. What shouldn’t be debated is that he and new defensive partner Andrei Markov now form the league’s best defensive pairing.

Subban and Markov only shared 73 minutes of ice time during even strength last year, but they made the most of it, helping Montreal outscore opponents 6-1. This season they have shared almost 400 minutes and each skate more than four minutes per game on the power play. In addition, ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Habs see more than 54 percent of shots in their favor. When they are on the bench those same linemates drop down to 48 percent. And it should be noted these aren’t soft minutes, as Subban and Markov are often matched against the opposition’s top scoring line. Here’s an example from a late November game against Toronto, courtesy of ShiftChart.com.




Subban and Markov don’t just tilt the ice, they help light the lamp. This dynamic defensive duo are among the top 10 blueline scoring leaders, with Subban at 24 points and Markov 18. They have been on the ice for 51 and 52, respectively, of the 80 goals the Habs have scored this season. The only NHL skater who has been on the ice for more goals by his team is Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (55). Not even goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin comes close (37). The next best defensive player is Duncan Keith of Chicago (48).

Rank Player Pos. Team GP GF GA
1 Sidney Crosby C Penguins 30 55 27
2 Andrei Markov D Canadiens 30 52 25
3 P.K. Subban D Canadiens 30 51 25
4 Chris Kunitz L Penguins 30 50 16
5 Evgeni Malkin C Penguins 29 49 24
T-6 Alexander Steen C Blues 27 48 22
T-6 Duncan Keith D Blackhawks 31 48 32
T-8 Joe Thornton C Sharks 29 47 24
T-8 Corey Perry R Ducks 31 47 24
T-8 Oliver Ekman-Larsson D Coyotes 29 47 34

Source: Extraskater.com, as of Friday December, 6 2013.

Markov, now 34 years old, is in the last year of a three-year, $17,250,000 deal and Subban, 24 years old, is in the final year of a two-year, $5,750,000 contract he signed with the Canadiens during the 2012-13 NHL season. If Montreal wants to keep them together, it will likely break the bank. And that, too, is something that shouldn’t be debated.

greenberg
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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