When it comes to evaluating what both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks offer on the blueline, both teams are miles ahead most as they each boast two of the most formidable defensive units in hockey.
This season, the Sharks totaled 2851 shots, good enough for first-overall, which averages to just under 35 shots per game. San Jose's defensive unit contributed to 781 of those shots, averaging 9.5 per contest. Conversely, the Sharks' defensemen were just as solid on the other side of the puck, allowing a total of 2281 shots against (approximately 28 per game) which was good enough for sixth-overall.
For the Kings, their 2595 shots for (just under 32 per outing) ranked them seventh-overall with 762 of those coming from the D-men for an average of 9.3 per game. On the other side, the Kings were more efficient, allowing 2149 total shots (approximately 26 per game) ranking them second-overall behind only the New Jersey Devils.
Individually, the Sharks have an elite defenseman in Marc-Eduoard Vlasic who may not not put the most impressive numbers but is capable of being a threat to the opposition in other facets of the game. Look for the Canadian Olympian to have an impact in this series. Dan Boyle is a great puck-mover and, along with Matt Irwin, is known to do some damage on the power play. Scott Hannan and Brad Stuart may not make a ton of noise but their stay-at-home styles certainly do complement an already-deep defensive unit in San Jose.
With all that said, the Kings certainly don't have anything to be threatened by. With all due respect to the Sharks, the silver-and-black have their own daunting group on the back end, each providing a little something different en route to success.
Another Canadian Olympian from February is Drew Doughty. Vlasic's Sochi teammate has already established himself as among the game's elite defenseman but had his best all-round season this past year since 2009-10 when he was nominated for the Norris Trophy. If the last two postseasons and the Olympics (where he won gold) were any indication, Drew Doughty's game only gets better when the stakes are higher. Don't expect anything different from No. 8 this time around.
Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr both supply the Kings with a solid, textbook-defensive game. For Mitchell, this will be his first postseason since 2012 but both he and Regehr, in addition to Matt Greene, can also supply a heavy physical game, making it tough for the opposition to cross the blue line much less crash the net.
Alec Martinez spent the latter part of his season turning up his offensive game while Jake Muzzin and Slava Voynov, each defensive liabilities at times, have gotten better as the season went on. Voynov has an offensive upside while Muzzin's 6'4 frame can be used to his advantage just like his heavy shot. Being paired with Drew Doughty certainly doesn't hurt either.
When it comes down to it, the defensive units for both teams is, for all intents and purposes, a battle between the best of the best. You can be sure that that what happens on the back end in the series will play a major role in determining which teams garners more success.